While the Chicago White Sox possibly pulling off a World Series run like the 2019 Washington Nationals and 2021 Atlanta Braves makes for great talk radio fodder, the reality is the team has a long way to go to equal what those teams accomplished.
The optimistic fan points to both the Nationals and Braves as teams that found themselves with a high hill to climb to make the playoffs let alone win a title. The Nationals never led their division all season and were 12 games under .500 in May while the Braves were a game under .500 at the All-Star break.
Washington turned around its season by going 69-36 from June through September, including a 46-27 second-half explosion. The Braves went 44-28 after the break aided by a 34-18 run from August through September.
Those two examples of teams turning things around to win a title are more the exception rather than the rule, although other teams with not-so-great records have gone on to win a title. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals did grab a championship despite winning just 83 games in the regular season, the lowest total of any World Series winner.
However, they were 11 games over .500 in mid-September before hitting a losing skid and holding on to win the division.
The best tend to rise to the top and during the season as good teams will separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Teams can catch fire and ride some hot pitching but usually, the really good teams are there in the end.
The Chicago White Sox have a long way to go before people are confident again.
Things have not gone well for the White Sox who have dropped from serious World Series contenders to fighting for a Wild Card spot. While the Sox have had to cope with injuries like every other team in the league, they have not played up to their potential and have dug themselves into a hole.
In comparing the White Sox to the Nationals and Braves, several key things stand out as to why it is hard to see the Sox pulling off a run that gets them to the World Series. It can be done but the likelihood of it happening is remote at best with this club.
Heading into the series finale against the Detroit Tigers, the White Sox found themselves in the bottom third of the Major Leagues in offensive categories such as runs (26th), home runs (24th), runs batted in (26th), on-base percentage (tied for 23rd), slugging percentage (25th) and on-base plus slugging percentage (tied for 26th).
The offense was not supposed to be an issue heading into the season but it is clearly an area in need of desperate improvement.
In each of those categories, the Braves’ lowest placing was 12th in OBP. Every other category found Atlanta no worse than eighth in the Major Leagues and fifth in the National League.
Washington was 13th overall in home runs while being arguably the best offense in the NL, finishing first in OBP and BA, second in OPS and RBI, and third in SLG.
Both of those teams were consistent offensively but were just as solid on the defensive side. Atlanta tied for first with Pittsburgh in fielding percentage, fifth overall in assists, and committed the third least number of errors in the majors.
Washington was top five in the NL in fielding percentage and ranked fourth in the league in errors. Fielding has been an issue with the White Sox for a while and is not showing signs of improvement.
The Sox rank 28th in assists, 24th in fielding percentage, and are tied for seventh in errors. That has to improve dramatically if the Sox are going to make a move up in the standings.
Both Atlanta and Washington were sound fundamentally and didn’t make managerial mistakes that would come back to haunt them. The White Sox have been just the opposite in both areas and any help coming via trade or through the farm system is pure speculation at this point.
The White Sox need to find something to kick-start this team into becoming serious contenders again. Getting fat on playing the Detroit Tigers is nice but not all teams are that bad and the White Sox need to start winning with more regularity.
Much has been made of how much talent the White Sox have but that talent has not reached its potential.
The players have a lot to do with the team’s under-performing to this point but blame needs to also be laid at the feet of general manager Rick Hahn, manager Tony La Russa, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf for not finding more difference-makers who can help this team.
There is plenty of work to do and there is still time to get the ship moving in the right direction. However, everyone needs to up their games and approach the situation at hand with a little more urgency or face the prospect of being left outside the playoffs.