Tim Anderson thinks White Sox learned from playoff disappointment
While making the rounds last week promoting his appearance on the cover of RBI Baseball 21, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson also spoke on the subject of the South Siders’ playoff experience in 2020 and how it will galvanize the team as it looks to make a serious October run this season.
The White Sox reached the expanded postseason field last season with a 35-25 record, finishing in a tie for second with the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central Division but taking the third spot in the decision after going 2-8 against Cleveland during the regular season.
That left Chicago as the seventh seed in the eight-team AL bracket and the White Sox went west to face the AL West champion Oakland A’s in the best-of-3 Wild-Card Series.
Behind seven-plus strong innings from Lucas Giolito, the White Sox took the advantage with a 4-1 victory in Game 1. But they were unable to climb back out of a 5-0 hole in a 5-3 Game 2 loss and were held to just two hits over the final four innings, with A’s closer Liam Hendriks slamming the door by striking out the side in the top of the ninth. Chicago lost 6-4 and was eliminated.
Anderson, for his part, had a monster series, going 9-for-14 with a pair of doubles, but he only scored twice and had no RBI. White the White Sox hit .277/.319/.464 as a team in the series and pitched to a 3.24 ERA and 1.160 WHIP, three errors in the series contributed to three unearned runs.
Two of those came in the Game 2 loss, when Nick Madrigal’s two-out fielding error with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first allowed two runs to score. In a game the White Sox eventually lost by two runs, that felt significant.
In the decisive fifth inning in Game 3, Yasmani Grandal was called for catcher interference with one on and two outs, extending the inning. After Marcus Semien walked, Chad Pinder grounded a single to left field to give Oakland the 6-4 lead they would hang onto.
Anderson said the feeling after the series ended will push the team in 2021.
White Sox changes for 2021
The White Sox have made some significant upgrades this offseason, trading for veteran right-hander Lance Lynn to add depth to the middle of the rotation, signing free agent Adam Eaton to fill a hole in right field and landing the man who ended their season, Hendriks, to anchor the back of the bullpen.
With young Michael Kopech expected to take his place in the rotation after missing 2019 following Tommy John surgery and 2020 after opting out of the pandemic-abbreviated season, Chicago has the makings of a deep rotation headed by Giolito and left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
The offense won’t have the black hole known as Edwin Encarnacion sucking the life out of potential rallies, which will have to help the production out of the DH spot, where Encarnacion hit just .157/.250/.377. His 10 home runs led to only 19 RBI, he scored only 19 runs and he had more than twice as many strikeouts (54) as hits (25).
Anderson, along with MVP Jose Abreu and Silver Slugger winning left fielder Eloy Jimenez, will anchor the offense. Eaton slots into right field in place of the non-tendered Nomar Mazara, who hit .228/.295/.294 in 42 games, Mazara’s OPS+ of 64 was the lowest among the primary starters last season.
Eaton is back for a second stint in Chicago, having been with the White Sox from 2014-16. He returns with a World Series ring as a member of the Washington Nationals championship club in 2019 and will be looking to bounce back from the worst offensive season of his career. He hit only .226/.285/.384 last season. His career slash line is .282/.360/.416.
His first time around with the Sox, Eaton hit .290/.362/.422 in 433 games, banging out 83 doubles, 28 triples and 29 home runs to go with 47 stolen bases. He tied for the AL lead with 10 triples in 2014 and led the league outright in 2016 with nine three-baggers.
While fans may be dreaming of adding National League Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to the top of the rotation, general manager Rick Hahn indicated at last week’s press conference introducing Hendriks that he may be done for this offseason, according to NBC Sports Chicago.
"“It’s always another move we feel we can make to get us better. We’re going to continue to explore to see if something lines up, but there’s no guarantee it will. So if this in fact is our group, we feel pretty good about where we sit today.“I’m going to err on the side of managing and minimizing expectations. So, to quote ‘Hoosiers’: ‘Our team is on the floor.'”"
The rest of the AL Central could be coming back to the pack, however. The defending champion Minnesota Twins added left-hander J.A. Happ, but have yet to re-sign DH Nelson Cruz, starting pitchers Rich Hill or Jake Odorizzi. Still unsigned as well are setup relievers Tyler Clippard or Sergio Romo, while reliever Trevor May signed with the New York Mets.
The Indians traded away superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco, while closer Brad Hand likely won’t be back as he looks for a free-agent deal and first baseman Carlos Santana signed with the Kansas City Royals.
Speaking of the Royals, they have some promise, but also some work to do to return to contention and the Detroit Tigers are still in the midst of a massive overhaul.