Sep 10, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Did you know the Chicago White Sox have never won the American League Wild Card? The White Sox are one just three teams in the AL (Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins) to never do so.
As a fan, you have every right to believe that your White Sox have a strong chance to make the postseason this year, but history isn’t on their side.
Kansas City and Detroit got worse, Cleveland’s offseason was quiet and there wasn’t much that the Twins could do in one year to become a contender in the AL Central. In comparison to every team in this division, the White Sox stack up well, but what about against the rest of the league?
Let’s say Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez come back quickly from their reported injuries and the starting pitching doesn’t miss a beat without Max Scherzer. Or the Royals bullpen and speedsters, once again, carry them to the playoffs. Can the White Sox still get there if they don’t win the Central?
History says no. Since the second Wild Card was introduced in 2012, the White Sox have never finished better than eight games back.
Winning a Wild Card typically involves you beating the teams outside of your division. That’s something that has always been a tough task for the White Sox. Since ’06 they have finished .500 or better against the AL West five times and just once against the AL East.
Another key task is beating the bad teams. Last season the White Sox were 28-30 against teams with a record below .500. All 10 teams that finished ahead of them in the Wild Card standings had a winning record against sub .500 teams.
Only four teams in the AL had a worse overall record than the White Sox last season, and three out of the four had more wins than loss head to head with the South Siders.
Across the board, the White Sox are a better team this upcoming season, but they aren’t the only team that improved in the offseason. There will be plenty of competition in both the AL East and West divisions.
The Baltimore Orioles won the AL East last season by 12 games, and did so without any real contributions from Manny Machado (injured), Matt Wieters (injured) and Chris Davis (suspended). Despite losing the likes of Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller, the Orioles get their three missing players back which is the equivalent of signing three strong free agents.
Oct 1, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles injured third baseman Manny Machado (13) during workouts the day before game one of the 2014 ALDS at Oriole Park at Camden. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jays finished five games behind in the AL Wild Card and did more than enough this offseason to get better. The additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin make them better both on offense and defense. There are some question marks about their pitching, but even with that, it’s not a stretch to assume those two guys can win them five more games.
The Boston Red Sox made wholesale changes this offseason to their starting rotation and lineup.
The additions Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval make them loaded on offense while Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson all upgrade one of the worse pitching staffs in the league last season.If things still don’t work, they have an abundance of outfielders and young players for trade bait.
The Los Angeles Angels had the best record in baseball last season and feature arguably the best player in the AL in Mike Trout. Their starting rotation got younger with the addition of top prospect Andrew Heaney and the question mark that is Josh Hamilton no longer needs to be relied on thanks to the depth that is C.J. Cron and Matt Joyce. The Angels did however lose a key piece in Howie Kendrick, but to say they won’t make the playoffs because of it is a stretch.
The Seattle Mariners were one game away from a Wild Card spot with one of the league’s worst offenses last season. Signing Cruz away from Baltimore and trading for Seth Smith gives them much needed power in the middle of the order. The pitching has always been good enough, so ignoring this team as a playoff contender in 2015 wouldn’t be wise.
The Texas Rangers were the worst team in the American League last season. Before you ask how can a team that won 67 games last season be a postseason contender this season consider this, the Rangers are perennial winners.
From 2009-13 the Rangers averaged 91 wins. Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland all missed significant time. All of those players return healthy this season and will be aided by the additions of Yovani Gallardo and Ross Detweiler. I’m not saying they are favorites, but they will certainly be around the Wild Card fold.
The White Sox won 73 games last season and no team has ever made it in as a Wild Card with less than 88 wins in a season.
Are the additions of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche 15 games better than last season? Possibly, but I say it is less likely this season that more than one team in the division wins more than that.
The AL Central is completely up for grabs. The best teams from a year ago are worse and bad teams are better. If the White Sox are going to be a postseason team, their best chance is to win the division, because history isn’t on their side for a Wild Card.