Everyone wants to rack their brain for ways to tweak the White Sox, to find areas where reasonable solutions to some of their deadweights are available.Josh Phegley is a hot-hitting minor league catcher, so focusing on how bad Tyler Flowers has been seems like a good use of time. Relievers can always be replaced by some guy who’s throwing strikes for the moment, so focusing on Nate Jones’ struggles isn’t a bad bet either.
But they also seem like distractions from the larger, unfixable issue: the core.The engine of this offense is dead and the organization’s stasis period of neither rebuilding nor aggressively pursuing makes it pretty hard to anything about Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who are neither helping nor in a position to fear a merit-based replacement.
Out of laziness but also because there’s only so much precision needed when discussing extreme cases. Just from adding up the OPS, here’s where the White Sox rank in terms of first base/designated hitter combinations in the American League
14 out of 15 (Only Houston is worse)
Those are the two positions on the diamond that are traditionally tasked with carry the most offensive weight and the White Sox are whiffing on them. This isn’t Brian Anderson’s bat failing to develop, this isn’t Brent Morel at third base, it’s the heart and soul of the offense. It’s not de-emphasized either. The White Sox counting on these two in the middle of the order gives the White Sox one of the weakest 4-5 combos in the American League as well
14 out of 15 (Only Minnesota and Josh Willingham are worse)
Adam Dunn is battling his way through back spasms that Jim Margalus did a nice job of linking to the prompt end of his hot streak. It’s also the third performance-sapping injury he’s suffered in as many seasons on the Souths Side. White Sox injury management aside, Dunn’s either hasn’t been able to stay healthy or hasn’t been able to be consistently worthy of full-time play, but every reasonable fear-soaked grumble of “four years of this” that was uttered in 2011 is living out as reality, be it due to contractual commitment, contractual immovability, or because trying to stir up whatever was behind Dunn’s first half of 2012 is the best bid the Sox have of conjuring up middle-of-the-order production, with all apologies to Andy Wilkins and Seth Loman.
Which also explains–along with simple seniority and honor for his contributions–why Konerko will get every opportunity to grind his way out a multi-stage collapse in performance that’s seen his three true outcomes all go in bad directions. It seems unfair to Konerko, who spent his middle-30’s subverting traditional thinking about the aging curve, to have his early-season slump at the age of 37 immediately seen as “the end,” but it’s also a pragmatic approach that would have a lot more edge to it if there was a future replacement waiting in the wings and the White Sox had higher expectations.
But–Josh Phegley mania aside, obviously–the Sox farm system quickly explains why the White Sox are scaling back their aggression and trying to build up its resources rather in the first place. If this group can’t take them anywhere, they’re better off re-grouping. As a staunch advocate of rebuilding, that’s easy enough to understand, but until the heart of the lineup stops being a pair of sub-replacement, aging sluggers, it’s hard to see this current product as anything but overburdened offensively.
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