Let's see how quickly I can crank out a few random observations....
Thome's Early Aggression
You can get a pretty good idea of how Jim Thome is going to do in an at-bat based on how many strikes he has. If he isn't making contact early, he's unlikely to do so later in that at-bat.
For instance, once Thome has had two strikes on him, he's in trouble. With a 0-2 count, he has yet to get a hit this year. At 1-2, he's batting just .179. At an even-2-2 count, he's hitting just .111. And at a full count, he's hitting just .161 - but has a .500 on-base percentage.
But if he connects early, watch out. The 3-0 pitch hit for a home run on Sunday is a rarity - he's only put two balls in play at that count and that other one was an out. But consider what he has done on the first pitch this year: 18 AB, 11 hits and 6 home runs. You don't want to groove your first pitch to Thome. There are similarly scary numbers on 1-0 and 2-0 counts.
It looks like Thome can either hurt you bad, or he can't, and you'll find out which when you throw him his first strike.
Since the All-Star Break, Mauer has started at catcher in four consecutive games exactly once - and there was a rest day in between those. Before the All-Star break, he caught four or more consecutive games NINE times, including a streak of ten games, eight games and seven games. In the 30 games since the All-Star break, he has NOT started at catcher 13 times, or 43% of the time. Before the All-Star break that percentage was just 26%.
Maybe it's the rest, or maybe it's something else, but the result is he is hitting the snot out of the ball. We've been praising the starting pitching, and the bullpen, and Danny Valencia's rise and others. But check out Mauer's numbers since the ASB: .437 batting average, including a .504 on-base percentage and .660 slugging percentage. He already has 28 RBI, compared to 35 before the All-Star Break. He is carrying this team offensively right now.
Being Careful Not To Jinx
With a three game lead in the division going into tonight's three-game series with the White Sox, the Twins have a chance to really put the Pale Hose in a tough position. If the Twins were to sweep, the White Sox would be six games back, have just three remaining games to play against the Twins, and still have ten games against the Yankees and Red Sox on their schedule.
It's worth noting how the White Sox responded last year. On August 30th, the White Sox fell 6 games back of the Tigers, and 1.5 games behind the Twins. The next day, they traded away Jose Contreras and Jim Thome, on the last day that playoff rosters were set.
Could the same thing happen this year? It's hard to say, because last year the Sox were dealing with the surprise addition of Alex Rios (and his huge contract) to their roster. That might have been part of the reason that they felt they needed to trade away two rather large contracts despite still having some shot for the playoffs. But if the White Sox find themselves 6 or so games back at the end of August this year, it isn't inconceivable that they would do something similar, especially if it meant getting them out from under of next year's payroll mess.