Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks thought the team had the talent to win the World Series but cited a few factors which contributed to that dream not becoming a reality. One of those factors centered on the A.L Central division itself, which the White Sox won by a comfortable 13 games.
Hendriks, who won his second consecutive Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award, talked to reporters about the season and hinted at the team not playing with an edge as often as it should have due to the division being weak this season.
"“Hopefully some of the other teams in the division are able to kind of bring that level of competitiveness that the Tigers brought the last few months, [like] every game against the Twins was a tough game.So, hopefully, it’s a bit of a stronger division, which I predict, as well, and that will help to push that drive through the course of the season, so we don’t get complacent, we don’t get lackadaisical and we’re able to kind of drive and grind through the entire season rather than kind of taking our foot off the gas a little bit,” Hendriks said."
The Central was the worst division in the American League with only the Sox finishing above .500. However, they didn’t exactly beat up on everyone in it. The Sox went 19-19 against Cleveland and Kansas City, yet were a combined 12 games over the .500 mark against Minnesota and Detroit. The Tigers did play better from June through September as they went 40-38 during that time.
Pinning part of the team’s inability to advance in the postseason to the division not being strong enough to make them better is a stretch. The Boston Red Sox were the only A.L. playoff qualifier the White Sox had a winning record against (4-3) as they went a combined 10-16 against post-season teams.
The Chicago White Sox are certainly going to be in a better division next year.
The White Sox were certainly talented enough to win their division, yet were a good example of being a team that beat who they should have but struggled with who they needed to beat. The problems here lie beyond the division getting better.
First, the White Sox just weren’t good enough to beat the tougher competition and that is something both experience and off-season moves can help to overcome. Secondly, the 162-game regular season is a grind and it is tough to be up for every game every day. There will be lulls and losing streaks that occur.
However, players have to find ways to individually get themselves into a frame of mind that each game is important regardless of the opponent. The White Sox were not capable of turning it on and off whenever they wanted to. The 93 victories and division title were nice but it didn’t accomplish the end goal which was winning the World Series.
Having been in back-to-back postseasons will be beneficial to the team, especially the younger players who got a good look at what it takes to move that next step up the ladder. The experience gained from being in the position they were in can pay dividends if put in the proper perspective.
Improvements have to be made, especially on the defensive end. Hendriks thought the team was better than the stats indicated, but the Sox were tied for 13th in the A.L. in fielding percentage and were fourth in the league in errors with 98. They also turned 112 double plays which put them ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles.
The other teams in the Central will be looking to improve their rosters this off-season and close the gap between them and the White Sox. It’s not about the division getting better but the Sox getting better that they have to worry about. Success and/or failure comes from within and the White Sox have to deal with what they can control if they plan to play in late October.