A shortened season could benefit the Chicago White Sox’s playoff chances. Here’s how.

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As unusual as it might sound, a 54-game season could be the best path to a 2020 division title for the Chicago White Sox.

A number of things would have to happen, of course, not the least of which is a decision to actually play Major League Baseball this year.

Assuming that happens — and that MLB decides to impose a schedule of 50-something games despite the threat of a union grievance — here’s how the Sox could make the best of a bad situation.


The schedule

Let’s say MLB goes with 54 games, and that 48 of those games are against the four division rivals with a home-and-home series against a nearby interleague rival.

The Sox have only one dominant team — the Minnesota Twins — in their division, while facing two rebuilding teams in the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. If they can hold their own against the Twins (6-6), they’ll probably need to go a combined 24-12 against the other three teams in the American League Central.

The City Series against the Cubs likely will be tough, but the Sox are always up for these games. Even with no fans in attendance, this year should be no different. Let’s say they beat the Cubs four out of six games. That leaves them with a 34-20 record and a .630 winning percentage. They went 25-29 in their final 54 games in 2019, so that would be a nine-game swing, which is doable. Would that be enough to beat out the Twins, who had a .623 winning percentage in 2019 and added slugger Josh Donaldson in the offseason? It’ll be difficult, but it’s possible.


The rotation

Guess who might be the No. 3 starter for the restart? Michael Kopech, who originally was slated to start the season in Triple-A Charlotte to strengthen his arm after missing 2019 following Tommy John surgery, should now be ready to join the rotation with three extra months of recovery time.

This isn’t written in stone, of course, but Kopech should be slotted No. 3 in the rotation, if healthy, behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. Dylan Cease can ease back into the No. 4 spot, and either Reynaldo Lopez or Gio Gonzalez would be the fifth starter, with the other possibly used as a swingman.

With a shorter spring training 2.0, it’s unlikely starters will be stretched out as much teams would like, so a multi-inning reliever to replace the starter in the fifth or sixth would be invaluable. No matter how the final two slots wind up, a threesome of Giolito, Keuchel and Kopech could be one of the best in the league.


The Luis Robert factor

While manager Rick Renteria said during spring training 1.0 it’s too soon for Robert to lead off, perhaps he’ll change his mind in a shortened season. Renteria said in February it would put too much pressure on Robert, and that Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson likely would switch off in the role.

“It’s not something I want to lock myself into,” Renteria said at the start of Cactus League play. “We have enough guys who have worked at the top of the order and have the experience up there. We want to make sure to give him an opportunity to transition, unless your eyes tell you something different that gives you the ability to be able to make some adjustments.”

After getting a good look at Robert’s ability to spark the offense in the spring, perhaps Renteria’s eyes will tell him something different when the season starts.


Bullpen depth

The addition of former Cubs workhorse Steve Cishek and the emergence of Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero give the Sox a solid group of set-up men for closer Alex Colome. If Kopech joins the rotation, either Gonzalez or Lopez can also join this group.

And if rehabbing Carlos Rodon and Dane Dunning can return by late August or September, the Sox could use one or both starters in relief roles to help preserve their arms, giving them even more late-inning options. In a short season in which every game matters more than ever, the teams with the best bullpen likely will be the ones with the best chance to win.



Back in the winter, which seems like years ago now, the only ones who looked at the White Sox as realistic playoff contenders were the White Sox.

“As soon as we started making moves, now (teams have) got to kind of look out for the White Sox,” new catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “It’s a new decade. A lot of things can happen.”

A lot of things have happened in 2020, most of which we’d rather forget. But maybe teams will have to look out for the White Sox, who don’t have the same kind of pressure on them to win as the Twins.

Keuchel said at the outset of spring training he expected another year of solid development for the kids. And then what?

“If it’s anything short of the playoffs then I think it’s a failure,” he said.

The time-table for development may be fast-forwarded during a shortened season, where anything can happen. It wouldn’t really be considered a failure if the Sox fell short, but it certainly would lift the spirits of the South Side if they make the postseason.


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