By Morris Daily Herald Staff Writer Mark Johnson

Guess it qualifies as a new low when a pitcher that came in with a 9.13 ERA throws a no-hitter against your sputtering offense.

In fairness to the White Sox, Francisco Liriano isn't just any old hurler with an ERA above 9 more than a month into the season. His very interesting career includes several stretches where he's pitched like a guy capable of throwing a no-hitter any time out. It also includes several stretches where he's stunk up the joint every time out. Until last night, the 2011 season was one of the latter stretches.

Even the most anonymous and struggling of starting pitchers have looked like Cy Young against the Sox the past couple of weeks. Since April 12, they've scored more than 4 runs twice. Not coincidentally, they're 4-16 during that time. That's sunk them to a worst-in-baseball 11-20 record and a worst-in-baseball 10.5-game divisional deficit to the red-hot Indians.

It has to get better, obviously, but the question is when and how big the hole will be when some struggling Sox start producing. Adam Dunn wasn't brought to town to hit for a high batting average, but he wasn't brought in to hit .157, either, and he won't forever. Alex Rios is far too talented to maintain his awful .492 OPS over a much larger sample size than 122 plate appearances. Those two will turn it around. I am, however, less confident that Brent Morel or even Gordon Beckham will be significantly better over the final five months of the season than they were in the first.

It's still relatively early, and as the 88-win 2010 Sox showed, a slow start does not necessarily have to prevent a team from contending. It sure doesn't help, though, and I can't say I feel great about my preseason pick to win the AL Central.

 

This article was originally published as a piece for morrisdailyherald.com. It has been republished with permission of the MDH and the original entry can be found  at  http://www.morrisdailyherald.com/blogs/entries/2011/05/04/52364037/index.xml