Dunn, Rios learn on the fly

Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are the biggest reason the White Sox are contending again. Peter G. Aiken-US Presswire

The Detroit Tigers were expected to run away with the American League Central this year, thanks to the addition of slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. What they failed to notice, however, was that the Chicago White Sox made two substantial improvements of their own without making a single roster move.

Adam Dunn and Alex Rios already have combined for nearly 10 wins above replacement (WAR) above their collective 2011 output. The White Sox's leap into contention this season can be attributed almost entirely to the duo's resurgence.

Dunn is an extreme fly ball hitter, so his success in the air will make or break his season. Last August, I wrote about Dunn's "popup problem," detailing how Dunn was hitting the ball just as high as he was previously, but not as far. There are similarities between Dunn's 2011 season and Lance Berkman's 2010, which the latter followed up with an All-Star bounce-back season.