Black Holes On Offense: 2013 Edition


Last November I explored some crippling holes in the White Sox’ roster in recent memory. James got the ball rolling a few days ago, scratching his head over the infield situation. So, while the season isn’t technically over, let’s take a quick, rough numerical look at some of the weakest areas of the offense. After all, there are varying degrees of bad, and some are easier to fix than others.

Tyler Flowers worked out about as poorly as he possibly could. What percentage of this season’s failure was a result of his injury is hard to discern, but they absolutely cannot rely on him moving forward.. Josh Phegley has not been much better, although he clearly offers a bit more to dream on at this point, having put up a better year at AAA than Flowers ever put together in the minors, and actually showing some life against lefties (although he has been atrocious against righties so far).

One of the few bright spots for me this season was when Hector Gimenez was told to get lost.

The White Sox have a ton of money free this offseason – anywhere between $30-70 million a season if they want to spend like they have for the past decade. It’s an extremely sparse free agent class, but Brian McCann is available. Whoever signs him may regret the years and dollars they have to give up to do it, but the guy can hit, and hits left-handed. A Phegley-McCann platoon with some rest for McCann against tough lefties to keep him fresh, or sprinkling him in at 1B would be a huge upgrade. Fortunately, in a macabre way, the White Sox being so terrible means they won’t have to give up a first round draft pick to sign a qualifying free agent.

Of course, A.J. Pierzynski is likely to be a free agent as well. 37-year old catchers are usually a grim spectacle, but it’s hard to imagine him being anything but an upgrade on this year’s production.

*Out of 15 AL Teams

As a digression, this illustrates how well you have to hit at 1B/DH just to hang with the tail end of the middle of the pack . I combined these two, as they are essentially illustrating the same point twice. 1B/DH have been split between Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. Adam Dunn is overpaid and a disappointment, but he’s actually hitting well enough that you could win with him as your DH. He’s…not a disaster, which is somehow a rarity on this roster. We all know that age has finally caught up with Konerko, and it goes to show how rickety the White Sox’ plans were for scoring runs: Just hope Konerko never gets old or has an off year. Here’s what happens when he does.

Keppinger was brought in to patch black holes in the offense – instead he just became a mobile one. (Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

There may be some uncomfortable and difficult decisions if Konerko doesn’t retire. I’d love it if he would accept some kind of position as a manager/coach somewhere in the minors, but we will just have to see how this plays out. If the White Sox truly are trying to compete in 2014, they need impact bats, and Jose Abreu may be one. It would be a shame if the team hamstrung themselves out of sentiment and brought back the same 1B/DH situation for next year.

1B/DH is also a place where acceptable bats can be had on the cheap.

Gordon Beckham has had his best year in a while, but he’s still only hitting .276/.327/.378. 2B is such a wasteland that his 89 wRC+ would still put the White Sox at 17th in the majors for the position if he were the only one getting PAs there. Carlos Sanchez was rushed until he broke at AAA, although he’s young enough to bounce back. Marcus Semien‘s great leap forward this year should put him in the mix for next year. A cold start from Beckham and a hot start from Semien may force Beckham over to 3rd or onto the bench.

Jeff Keppinger has been one of the worst players ever for the White Sox this year, and he is responsible for dragging a mediocre 2B mark down into the depths. Odds are he’s better than this, but marginal players don’t have a whole lot of margin for error, so maybe he’s just done and the White Sox have flushed a moderate amount of money down the toilet.

Keppinger is killing this number too, as Conor Gillaspie‘s part of the platoon would be somewhere between 18-22 in the majors for a team’s 3B production with an 83 wRC+. He can do a bit better than that if strictly kept away from lefty pitchers. Not a position of strength, but you can imagine teams competing with Conor Gillaspie hitting righties at 3B. Semien may have to find PAs here next year against lefties as well, although Keppinger is an obvious platoon partner too.

The White Sox are pretty much “only below average” elsewhere on offense.

Perversely, I almost take hope at how bad some of this is. After all – all you need is someone who is kinda mediocre to be a huge upgrade on abysmal. I am also optimistic that Avisail Garcia can replicate Alex Rios‘ career 102 OPS+ without much difficulty. So you can patch the black holes, and be not-awful elsewhere…but echoing James, there need to be some areas where the team is above average. Places where they have some impact bats.

I think Brian McCann and Jose Abreu make a ton of sense this offseason. The problem is, other teams might think the same thing until it is no longer a good idea in terms of value.