In many ways, last night’s 2-1 to the Astros loss summed up the season for the White Sox. The pitching was excellent, and everything else was terrible to the point of comedy. While the defense has been frustrating and disappointing, the offense is so awful that it renders all other facets of the team irrelevant. Who cares that they allowed 2 unearned runs? Yes, in the sense of factual causation it lost them the game, but at the same time, if you hold your opponent to 2 runs that should be good enough to win. And remember, last night’s opponent has allowed the most runs in the majors, and they have surrendered 31 more runs than the 2nd-worst team.
We all know the offense is terrible. Let’s just take a quick look and then move past it to the broader point I’m trying to make.
This is with a team that is trying to compete for the playoffs, has a payroll around $126 million, and plays in hitter-friendly ballpark. Looking at it individually, the White Sox have one (1) player on their entire roster with an OPS+ above 100 – Alex Rios at 119. There is not a single other league average hitter on the entire rest of the team so far.
Yes, they are tied for the 7th most errors in the majors. Errors also aren’t the best way of measuring defense, as more range means more errors – if you get to more balls in play, you have more opportunities to make errors. The White Sox are tied for being 7th best in defensive efficiency – i.e. balls in play converted into outs. There is certainly pitching influence exerted over this statistic, but the defense is not the problem. Errors are annoying and some of them have cost individual games, but they are not turning a playoff team into a last place team when it comes to the White Sox.
So, it’s June 15th. The White Sox are in last place in the AL Central (a division with only one team over .500) with a record of 28-36, and their run differential of -34 extrapolates out to a record of…28-36. They’re 8.5 games out on the Tigers. ESPN’s playoff odds put them at 3.3%. I have heard people point to the extra wild card spot as a sign of hope that the White Sox still have a chance. The problem is there was an extra wild card slot last year, and the White Sox finished with the 8th best record in the American League. The Tigers, who won the division, had the 7th best record in the American League.
To make the playoffs, the White Sox can only have ONE of those teams ahead of them. So not only is it an extremely unlikely proposition if one assumes that all of these teams are of roughly equal quality, the problem is they’re not. Texas, Baltimore, and Tampa are all far superior to the White Sox on paper as well as in reality so far this year. Do I pridefully think that the White Sox are going to wind up better than say, Seattle and Minnesota? Sure, but that’s nowhere close to enough. Cleveland and the Yankees are almost certainly better than the White Sox too.
Could, say, Jeff Keppinger and Dayan Viciedo go on a hot streak, and maybe Paul Konerko wakes up a bit and the White Sox win 7 out of 11 games or something like that? Yeah, absolutely. But even if they rallied to .500 or so in the next few weeks that would probably be more of a high water mark, and wouldn’t really get them back in contention. The White Sox just do not have the bats to compete.
The trade deadline is 6 weeks away. It’s time to start looking at which pieces to sell to help accelerate the rebuilding process as much as possible. The White Sox always want to reload and compete instead of taking any year to make decisions that hurt in the short term and are good in the long term – but this rebuild is being forced upon them. Not wanting to be in the basement is the argument against rebuilding. Well, they’re already in the basement. Might as well make the most of it.