CHICAGO -- Eighty-eight games have been played by the White Sox during the 2016 campaign, and it already feels as if Robin Ventura's crew has gone through three different seasons.
The White Sox started at 23-10 and grabbed a commanding lead in the American League Central. They proceeded to lose 26 of their next 36, seemingly knocking them out of contention, and at the very least, leaving them chasing the Indians. But a 12-7 finish, including five straight series wins before losing two out of three to the Braves at home before the break, has given the White Sox postseason hope as they approach the second half.
"It was good, then it was bad, then it started getting good again," Ventura said. "It's that simple -- we were playing good baseball, then we didn't play good baseball, and now we're playing better baseball.
"For these guys, they put that out of their mind, and now you're just, you're continuing to go every day. Every day is a new day. Once you've lived through it, you can see that the sun comes up the next day and you get back after it."
WHAT WENT RIGHT Top position player prospect Tim Anderson provided a boost of energy overall since his arrival, let alone sparking the offense at the top of the order. … Defensively, Adam Eaton has been the best right fielder in the AL. … The defense and baserunning, as a whole, were greatly improved from the 2015 season. … Over his first nine starts, Chris Sale won nine times and had a 1.58 ERA. He earned a fifth straight All-Star appearance and started the game for the AL. … Todd Frazier has not only hit 25 home runs but hit them at important times. … Jose Quintana was added as an All-Star replacement for Danny Salazar on the Sunday before the break. … Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson proved to be a potent late-inning force for the White Sox. … The team turned three triple plays, which speaks to luck as much as skill, becoming the first team to do so in the same season since the A's and Red Sox in 1979.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Reliever Jake Petricka was lost for the season due to hip surgery, subtracting an important bullpen piece. … Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Melky Cabrera, Zach Putnam and Carlos Rodon were lost for significant periods of time due to injury. … Rodon had an uneven first half as the third starter behind Sale and Quintana. … While Frazier's power was there, his .213 average and .305 on-base percentage weren't at levels the White Sox expected. … Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins, who made contributions to the strong start, didn't make it through the first half with the team. … John Danks, the longest-tenured member of the team and a clubhouse leader, was designated for assignment after an 0-4 April with a 7.25 ERA. … The White Sox posted a 14-19 record against the AL Central, which included an 8-1 record against the last-place Twins.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Ventura's resilient charges survived an epic drop-off and have put themselves in position for postseason contention. They have work to do to catch Toronto and Boston at the top of the Wild Card picture, not to mention Cleveland in the AL Central. But healthy additions of Justin Morneau, Jackson and Avila, as well as the possible callup of top prospect Carson Fulmer to work in relief, could provide that added boost.
FIRST HALF TOP PLAYER (NON-PITCHER)
Eaton's offense was steady overall, especially with a .355 on-base percentage, and he seemed to thrive with a move to the lineup's two-hole. But his right field defense was MVP-caliber. Eaton sits tied for the Major League lead with Brandon Crawford at 19 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs, and has 13 outfield assists. His defense has been game-changing.
FIRST HALF TOP PITCHER
This honor officially goes to Sale until further notice. Although he had a bit of a mortal stretch with a 5.56 ERA over his last nine starts, Sale's body of work makes him the team's first-half MVP overall. He topped the Majors with 14 victories, sat No. 1 in the AL with 125 innings pitched and ranked in the Top 5 in WHIP and opponents' average against. He also emerged as the clubhouse leader for this team.
FIRST HALF TOP ROOKIE
A case could be made for Anderson being one of the team's top first-half offensive forces, even though he played 28 games. Anderson posted a .304 average with 14 multihit efforts, showed off a surprising amount of power and was solid defensively at shortstop. He was better than even advertised as the team's No. 2 prospect.