Being swept by the Kansas City Royals in the normally friendly confines of US Cellular field was a tough pill to swallow for the Chicago White Sox. The way in which the White Sox were beaten made it almost unbearable.
As good as the team has been at different points throughout the year, even as recently as the first couple games of the Detroit series, glaring weaknesses have hindered the team’s success.
Poor starting pitching and subpar defense at key positions are the most worrisome. These shortcomings are especially frustrating to Sox fans, given the wide open race in the American League Central, and extra wild card playoff slots up for grabs beginning this year.
On Friday the 13th, of all days, the Kansas City Royals opened the series with five straight hits against Jose Quintana, scoring five runs in the top half of the first inning, and never looked back. I guess that should have been our first clue that it wasn’t going to be a great weekend.
Starting pitching and poor defense dug the team into early holes that they could not climb out of. The rest of the Sox starters didn’t fare much better that weekend. In fact, the team did not have a lead in any game the entire series.
White Sox starters posted an 8.04 ERA during the weekend series sweep. Granted, poor defense didn’t help, but neither did their 1.79 WHIP. Performances like this are why they team ranks fourteenth out of fifteen amongst American league teams in Team ERA by starting pitching, per ESPN.com.
I have full confidence that Don Cooper will right this ship soon. The members of the staff largely responsible for these poor numbers are young and still gaining valuable major league experience.
Cooper will continue to improve a young staff and increase their comfort levels on the mound. In the meantime, however, their performances place added pressure on the White Sox offense.
Pitching is not the only issue, however. Errors and miscommunication on defense have been just as problematic as hanging breaking balls for this club.
In the last two series, miscommunication between Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez resulted in routine pop flies dropping between the two players. Against the Royals this weekend, a hard hit grounder to third that should have resulted in a 5-4-3 double play, went underneath Leury Garcia‘s glove.
That error opened the flood gates against Hector Noesi, staking the Royals to a 5-0 before the inning ended. According to ESPN.com, the White Sox currently rank fourteenth out of fifteen teams in errors and fielding percentage. Four positions have been particularly detrimental to the team’s overall defensive efforts.
The White Sox rank 12 out of 15, or worse, amongst American League teams in errors by position for second base, third base, left field, and right field. After watching what happened this last weekend, that does not surprise me. For the team to have any chance of making it into the postseason, defensive execution and communication have to improve.
Monday will be a welcomed day off for the team. As talented and exciting as they are, we must remember that the White Sox are technically in a rebuilding year.
Robin Ventura, himself the owner of six Gold Gloves from his playing days at third base, must focus on defensive execution and communication, while Cooper continues to work with a young starting rotation.
When the team takes the field on Tuesday against the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, I expect that the team will have a renewed sense of focus and regain some of the ground they lost over the weekend in the Central division.