The Chicago White Sox did a number of things wrong which kept them from getting into the postseason this year. But of the issues needing to be addressed going into next season, improving defensively needs to be at the top of the list.
The White Sox finished last in the American League in fielding percentage at .982, which was good bad enough to be tied with the Washington Nationals for 28th place overall in the major leagues.
To reach that mark, a team has to have committed a large number of errors and the White Sox certainly did that, finishing with the third most in the majors and tops in the AL at 102.
The Cleveland Guardians were second behind the White Sox at 97 despite having 168 more fielding chances than the Southsiders.
While there was plenty of blame to go around for the White Sox finishing at 81-81 and being the most underachieving team in baseball, their inability to field any position well stood out like a sore thumb and was the main contributor to their mediocrity.
The Guardians were the only playoff team to be below the league average in fielding percentage (.985) at .984. It should also be noted the Guardians are the youngest team in all of baseball.
Shortstop provided the largest number of errors by any position for the White Sox with 17. On a positive note, that was one less than the league average of 18. On the negative side, Tim Anderson led the team with 12 errors and reached that in just 79 games.
By comparison, Javy Baez and Bo Bichette committed the most errors with 26 and 23 respectively, yet Baez hit that mark in 157 games with Bichette doing it in 133.
Only Oneil Cruz (Pittsburgh), CJ Abrams (San Diego/Washington), and Bobby Witt Jr. (Kansas City) had more errors in fewer games than Anderson.
During Elvis Andrus’ 42 games at shortstop, he committed just one error in 163 chances for a .994 fielding percentage. His addition brought a much-needed spark to the team with the glove and bat as he contributed nine homers and 28 runs batted in.
The Chicago White Sox needs everybody to be better defensively in 2023.
White Sox catchers committed nine errors on the year which was just one below the major league average.
From that standpoint, things were not that bad but when it came to passed balls, things were far from rosy. The White Sox led the majors with 15, eight of which were credited to Yasmani Grandal who played in only 71 games.
Rounding out the other positions, the White Sox ranked fifth overall in errors at first base (12), 11th at second base (13), tied for 15th at third base (16), first in left field (7), fourth in center (6), and seventh in right (6).
The 19 total outfield errors tied them with the Chicago Cubs for the most. AJ Pollock’s 5 miscues tied him for fifth most out of all outfielders and Jake Burger had six errors to Yoan Moncada’s five at third base.
This all adds up to general manager Rick Hahn having to find a way to shore up what has been a problem for this team for years. Although the offense was not up to what it needed to be, the defense played very poorly and did not help keep the team in games when the bats were silent.
Hahn passed on filling voids in right field and second base with major free agents and it came back to haunt him. For example, players such as Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos would have been solid additions to the outfield.
Schwarber committed one error for the Phillies to go along with his National League-leading 46 homers while Castellanos did not have a miscue in over 1,000 innings in right field.
As for second base, Trevor Semien led the majors in defensive games played and putouts while leading the AL in assists. He also hit 26 home runs which were 9 more than Andrew Vaughn’s team-leading 17.
Those and others were available but the White Sox’s only moves were to sign Josh Harrison at second and trade for Pollock to play in the outfield.
Hahn liked what he had in-house with the likes of Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, Adam Engel, and Leury Garcia to also patrol those positions but it didn’t work out as planned.
What will become of the roster is anyone’s guess. Do Hahn and team president Kenny Williams think enough talent exists that major changes don’t need to be made or will they make some moves involving key players to shore up deficiencies?
If they opt for the latter, they need to find players who can contribute with the glove to turn around a defense that is one of the worst in the game.