A look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses in various phases of the game going into the postseason:
Probable rotation: Tuesday – Left-hander Jim Parque (13-6, 4.28 earned run average). Wednesday – left-hander Mike Sirotka (15-10, 3.79); Friday – right-hander James Baldwin (14-7, 4.65); Saturday – right-hander Sean Lowe (4-1, 5.48). Sunday – Parque.
????Strengths: The Sox rolled to the league’s best record behind James Baldwin (14-6), Mike Sirotka (15-10) and Cal Eldred (10-2), but all three have struggled with their health lately. Chicagoland fans can only hope that someone among that threesome is healthy enough to return to their midseason strength. Parque is no slouch, especially against the Mariners, who have hit only .200 against him this year.
Weaknesses: With Baldwin, Sirotka and Eldred all hurting, the playoff burden may fall squarely on Parque, Lowe, Wells and Garland. Sirotka was to throw on the side Monday to test his sore elbow, Eldred has a 5-inch screw in his elbow and also was to throw Monday, and Baldwin sat out two weeks with a sore shoulder only to get hammered by the Royals on Friday. Barring a sudden recovery by one or all of those three, manager Jerry Manuel may be forced to start rookies Wells and Garland in Games 3 and 4 in Seattle.
Key relievers: Right-hander Keith Foulke, right-hander Bob Howry, right-hander Bill Simas, left-hander Kelly Wunsch, left-hander Mark Buehrie.
Strengths: Foulke, who started his pro career with the Everett Giants, finished with 34 saves and a 2.98 ERA, and Howry (3.21 ERA in 64 appearances) is one of the game’s best setup men.
Weaknesses: Very few. The downfall of the White Sox bullpen, as it was for the Mariners’ late in the season, could be the inability of the starters to carry the game deep enough to get to Howry and Foulke. With the starting rotation in shambles, the bullpen may face its greatest test this week.
Lineup: Catcher – Charles Johnson. First base – Paul Konerko. Second – Ray Durham. Third – Herbert Perry. Shortstop – Jose Valentin. Left field – Carlos Lee. Center – Chris Singleton. Right – Magglio Ordonez.
Strengths: Johnson, acquired from the Orioles, gives the Sox a catcher who will make the Mariners think twice before running. Perry has solidified the third base situation, and Ordonez was an All-Star in right field. Up the middle, Valentin and Durham led the league in double plays on a team not renowned for its defense.
Weaknesses: Defense wasn’t the White Sox’s forte this season. Valentin, whose athleticism allows him to make the spectacular play at shortstop, has more than offset it with 35 errors going into the final series this weekend. The Mariners should hope to get runners on base and pressure the White Sox into mistakes.
Batting order: Ray Durham, Jose Valentin, Frank Thomas (DH), Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Paul Konerko, Herbert Perry, Chris Singleton, Charles Johnson.
Strengths: The White Sox, who averaged six runs per game, shattered season franchise records for most runs scored, home runs, RBI, total bases and doubles. Thomas (.330 average, 43 home runs) and Ordonez (.313, 32 homers) pack a powerful punch in the middle of the order, and six players have hit 20 or more home runs: Thomas, Ordonez, Johnson, Valentin, Lee and Konerko.
Weaknesses: The offense went flat after the White Sox clinched their division, and the result was a five-game losing streak to close the regular season. Singleton, also a former Everett Giant, has followed a spectacular rookie season (.300 with 17 home runs) with mediocre numbers in 2000: .255 average, 11 home runs and 62 RBI. Opponents have busted him with inside fastballs and gotten him out.
The White Sox also must worry about Durham, who hasn’t fully recovered from a collision with Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski more than a week ago. The Sox need Durham. When he reached base at least twice in a game, the Sox went 51-16. When he didn’t, their record was 43-50.