Last year the White Sox were bit hard by errors. Despite some strong pitching personnel, the White Sox finished 10th out of 15 teams in the AL in runs allowed. A lot of this was just Dylan Axelrod, but another huge chunk was allowing 80 unearned runs. With 121 errors, the White Sox committed the second most in the majors, “behind” only the Houston Astros’ 125.
Errors aren’t the only way to measure defense. Often, paradoxically, players with good range make more errors as they are able to get to more balls in play than surehanded statues. At the same time, if you’re making 100+ errors as a team you are doing yourself no favors and it will be a huge obstacle to success.
Alexei Ramirez lead the team with 22 errors. That puts him back where he was in 2009 and 2010 where he had 20 errors a piece, but it was a big increase on his totals of 16 and 12 in ’11 and ’12. But frankly, that’s just the type of thing that happens when you are getting 650+ chances a year as Ramirez is, due to his range. He is still a plus defensive shortstop, even if his days as an elite glove are behind him.
Conor Gillaspie, beloved though he is amongst the Southside Showdown staff (or at least, by James and me), was the 2nd biggest culprit and he does not have any of the excuses that Alexei does. Alexei has a track record, great range, and a ton of chances. Furthermore – Gillaspie wasn’t even playing full time. Alexei had 1400 defensive innings, Gillaspie had 982. Even playing part time, Gillaspie racked up a massive 17 errors. He’s young enough that you can hope for improvement, but with the arrival of Matt Davidson and Marcus Semien, Gillaspie is looking increasingly like a stopgap or potentially a DFA heading into the regular season.
The corner infield positions and catcher still look to be areas of potential defensive weakness heading into 2014. Davidson has his own question marks at the hot corner, and the Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko/Jose Abreu triumvirate are all likely weak defenders at 1B. However, Beckham and Alexei are good up the middle, and after all of this I am finally getting to the point of this article: The outfield defense, as it stands, could be a real plus.
Given the platoon splits, that would mean de Aza would be getting the lion’s share of starts in LF (and would almost certainly be used as a defensive replacement for Viciedo in late innings). So on most days, the White Sox would be running out three guys who can all serve as center fielders in a pinch. Granted, de Aza and Garcia aren’t plus center fielders, but they’re not bad either. All three of those players have good athleticism, they can all throw well, and have good range for their respective positions.
On the days Viciedo plays…well, he throws well, and perhaps the presence of Garcia will allow Eaton to cheat over to help cover some of the ground that the Tank can’t reach.
With the continued streamlining of the roster and inflow of position player talent, the White Sox should expect to see improvements on the defensive side of the ball in 2014 and beyond.