In the last week, the White Sox saw their playoffs finally evaporate. After a great start to September where it looked like they had a great chance to catch Cleveland, it all disappeared with their disastrous series against Cleveland, followed by Seattle, Toronto, and Tampa Bay clinching wild card spots in the last few days. It was the end to a difficult, roller coaster season that ended the way it looked like it was going to end for most of the season: out of the playoffs.
Over the season, there were plenty of high moments, but as a team there was really only one goal – to get passed the first round of the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs wasn’t even a goal. That was a concrete assumption. To miss the playoffs altogether is a club misstep that is going to hurt for much of the offseason.
It is true that injuries plagued the White Sox all season long. It is hard to think of a critical team player that wasn’t on the injured list for a non-trivial amount of time. The list includes:
Multiple stints for Tim Anderson (79 games) especially down the stretch.
Lance Lynn (21 games) missed the first months of the season and didn’t turn into vintage Lance Lynn until August.
Eloy Jimenez (83 games)
Luis Robert (98 games)
Michael Kopech (25 games) had multiple knee injuries.
Garret Crochet never played
Yoan Moncada (102 games)
Yasmani Grandal (98 games)
Basically, it was Jose Abreu (156 games) who stuck it out all year long. I am sure there will be plenty of discussion this offseason about training, conditioning, and resiliency. But just for context, the Yankees main players look like the following:
Aaron Judge – 155 games
Gerrit Cole – 32 Games
Nestor Cortez – 29 games
Josh Donaldson – 130 games
Aaron Hicks – 127 games
Anthony Rizzo – 128 games
Gleyber Torres – 140 games
Jose Trevino – 113 games
Giancarlo Stanton – 109 games
Having your best players on the field does matter. The best players also stay on the field. Injuries are bad luck, but it always seems like the best teams and the best players (across all sports) are healthy.
The White Sox were not actually bad at anything. The problem was they were mediocre or less than mediocre at everything:
22nd in Homeruns – less than mediocre, no player hit over 20 home runs.
18th in RBI’s – mediocre.
18th in runs – mediocre
17th in OBP (tied with the Cubs) – mediocre.
17th in slugging – mediocre
16th in ERA – mediocre
18th in WHIP – mediocre
14th in Batting Average against – mediocre
Lucas Giolito, with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP, will likely be the first one on vacation and try to wish this year away. Grandal’s .201 batting average would be OK, but the .570 OPS tells the complete story as does the 5 homeruns. Adam Engel’s .222, 2 homerun, .570 OPS season isn’t what we hoped for either. Jake Diekman was the White Sox big time add at the trade deadline and wound up with a 7.27 ERA and a 2.077 WHIP.
We wish Tony LaRussa the best luck with his medical issues and in his retirement statement took responsibility for much, probably too much, of the White Sox’ results. White Sox fans will look forward to a new manager next year, hopefully a decision that will seem less confusing than the LaRussa hiring in 2021.
You don’t go down to the wire for the playoff competition without doing many things correctly over the season. The White Sox came in fifth in batting average in the MLB, behind the Toronto Blue Jays, Mets, Red Sox, and Dodgers. Pretty good company. Abreu hit .304, Robert hit .284, Jimenez hit .294, Andrew Vaughn hit .274, Anderson hit .301. At one time, the White Sox had 5 players over .300. We received a glimpse of what a hot Jimenez looks like and it is phenomenal. Andrew Vaughn looks like a powerhouse and Elvis Andrus looked amazing in half a season.
However, these hits did not result in runs as evidence by their low rank in RBI’s and runs. Curiously, their middle of the pack OBP ranking means they didn’t get on base all the other ways. For comparison, the Mets, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Dodgers are all in the top 6 for OBP. The Yankees were 18th in batting average, but fifth in OBP. Likewise, the Sox middling Slugging statistic means that most of the hits are singles. So, OPS does dictate playoff contention, maybe not batting average.
Dylan Cease will likely be the runner up for the Cy Young award, just bad luck to hit Justin Verlander in a career year. Cease’s 2.20 ERA and 1.11 WHIP are the end to a phenomenal year. Lance Lynn, once in season form, was electric this year. Before his injuries, Michael Kopech looked fantastic. Johnny Cueto was a savior and I hope his career is rejuvenated. Kendall Graveman, Aaron Bummer, Jimmy Lambert and Reynaldo Lopez had very good years in relief. Liam Hendricks won’t repeat as Reliever of the Year, but he came in third in saves in MLB, second in the AL.
Fixing a disappointing season is not and will not be easy. The White Sox did not make any material offseason moves last year and when the season wasn’t going well, the White Sox chose to not make any material moves at the trade deadline. It is hard to believe general manager, Rick Hahn, will have the luxury of taking the same strategy this offseason.
Power. Abreu used to be a lock for 100 RBI’s. It would be nice to have two players in that category. Robert, Jimenez, and Vaughn all have the potential. But the White Sox probably need to pick up a power hitter that will drive the ball out of the park with men on base. The power could come in the form of an outfielder, catcher, or designated hitter.
Middle Relief. The White Sox have several great middle relief pitchers but we probably need an absolute shutdown guy for two innings.
Starting Pitching. It is hard to mess with this rotation. If Kopech and Lynn are healthy, this is a stellar rotation. Assuming Cease’s year was not a fluke, and Giolito’s was, standing down makes sense. But it feels like going out to get one of the top pitchers on the market would be helpful if we don’t have complete confidence in Giolito bouncing back.
Second base. There are many shortstops on the market this year that would probably be willing to switch to second for a contender. Or put Anderson at second. Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner, and Dansby Swanson all add some pop and some defense. Elvis Andrus could play second as well, but consensus seems to feel that a big move is needed.