CLEVELAND - MAY 25: Jake Peavy #44 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the game on May 25, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
There are questions surrounding all 30 MLB teams during Spring Training, and Rob Neyer intends to answer them with his 30-part Question of the Day series. First up, a look at the biggest question facing the Chicago White Sox heading into the 2011 season.
Do you remember the White Sox winning 88 games last season?
I don't. Not really. I do remember that the Twins had to play well down the stretch to win the American League Central, but they wound up playing so well that they finished the season six games ahead of the second-place White Sox.
Still, there's nothing wrong with 88 wins. The Rangers won 90 and wound up in the World Series. The Giants won 92 and won the thing. When you win 88 games, you have to figure you're just a move or two away from paydirt.
Well, the White Sox have essentially made just one move, signing slugger Adam Dunn for the relatively low price of $14 million per season. Dunn takes over as DH, which represents a massive upgrade over the stiffs who shared that slot last year.
There's not much question about Dunn, though. He's hit 38 home runs in each of the last two seasons, and 40 in each of the previous four seasons. I don't think it's really a stretch to suggest that Dunn, over these last six years anyway, ranks among the most consistent power hitters in major league history.
There aren't really any interesting questions about the rest of the lineup, because the rest of the lineup is exactly what it was last year. Or was supposed to be. Mark Teahen was supposed to play third base last season. Instead he spent most of the summer on the Disabled List. But he's back, slated for every-day duties at third.
The White Sox finished just seventh in the American League in scoring last season, and Dunn's presence figures to help bump that up a notch or two.
Oddly, the White Sox' pitching (and defense) finished worse than the hitters.
I say oddly because in 2009 -- when the Sox went just 79-83 -- their pitchers finished with the second-lowest ERA in the league. In 2010, when they went 88-74, the pitchers posted just eighth-lowest ERA in the league.
That said, many of the same pitchers contributed to a sixth-best ERA in 2008, so it now seems likely that the 2009 finish was something of a fluke. Still, it remains true that the White Sox probably aren't going to win 90-some games this season unless they improve their run prevention.
And that brings us to our biggest question mark: Jake Peavy.
Recall, at the trade deadline in 2009 the White Sox traded four young players to the Padres for Peavy ... who was accompanied for a $52 million contract extension, for which the Sox were on the hook.
Since then, Peavy has won exactly 10 games while starting only 20.
Meanwhile, one of those young players dispatched to San Diego was Clayton Richard ... who, while making a whole lot less money than Peavy, has gone 19-11 in 45 starts.
So it's fair to say that, to this point anyway, that trade has been a disaster.
The White Sox' highest-paid employee, Peavy's slated to earn $16 million this season and another $17 million next season. Already penciled as perhaps the most expensive No. 5 starter in the majors -- well, east of San Francisco Bay, anyway -- Peavy is not expected to pitch in a game that counts until the middle of April.
Chicago's rotation should be pretty good no matter what Peavy does. They've got stalwarts Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson thrived after joining the club last summer. But if Peavy comes back strong from the shoulder injury that cost him much of 2009, the White Sox might look like frontrunners by Memorial Day.
Correction: I was foolish to rely on an unreliable depth chart that listed Mark Teahen as the White Sox' No. 1 third baseman. Brent Morel, noted primarily for his defense, is currently slated to play third base and bat ninth.