If just being average is considered a step in the right direction, then the Chicago White Sox have to be very pleased with how their defense has performed to this point.
In 2022, the White Sox were third overall and tops in the American League in errors committed with 102 (the Pittsburgh Pirates were first with 121 followed by the Washington Nationals at 104) and were the worst fielding team in the AL percentage-wise at .982 (the Nationals were also .982 with the Pirates dead last at .979).
And those numbers were posted when teams were allowed to play the shift which was designed to take away hits and help keep opponents off base.
This year without the shift things have gotten better, albeit not extraordinarily better.
The Chicago White Sox have a better defense in 2023 which is nice to see.
The White Sox currently have a fielding percentage of .985 which is not much better than last year. However, that number puts them virtually at the major league average (.986) and ninth in the American League.
That ninth spot isn't as bad as it looks. The Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners are atop the AL at .991 while the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles sit tied for third at .989. After that, seven teams fall between .987 and .985.
In other words, as far as fielding percentage goes, the White Sox are currently playing as well as most of the teams in the AL.
The same can be said for the number of errors the team has committed. Currently, the White Sox are sitting at 27 miscues, which is one above the league average.
While these numbers are not terrific by any stretch, it is an improvement over what has been the norm for the ball club and is something that has helped them play better of late.
Heading into Saturday's game with the Detroit Tigers, the White Sox have gone eight and three so far during their stretch of 13 consecutive games against teams in the AL Central.
The offense and pitching have both been keys during this period, but the team defense has also played a hand in the team's success as well.
Over that time, the White Sox have committed five errors, two of which came in the first game against the Cleveland Guardians (which the White Sox won 8-3) and one on Friday in Detroit when the White Sox beat the Tigers 12-3.
The defense has played cleaner baseball than in the past and that is a major positive for the ballclub.
Prior to the game with the Guardians to begin the 13-game Central run, the White Sox had posted 22 errors in 42 games. Based on how they have played to this point, the White Sox would project out to just over 80 errors for the season, which is far better than the 102 they made in 2022.
Catcher has seen some improvement as Yasmani Grandal and Seby Zavala have posted a .996 fielding percentage which is tied for fifth overall and second in the American League to the Baltimore Orioles (.998). They have committed just two errors, however, they have allowed six passed balls.
Andrew Vaughn has manned first based pretty well with only two errors; second base (four different players have started at the position) play has allowed just three errors; shortstop has five total errors (Tim Anderson has committed four of them); and third base (five different starters) has five errors but a fielding percentage of just .962.
Left field and center field have done very well with the likes of Andrew Benintendi and Luis Robert Junior manning those positions but right field is still a problem.
The White Sox have started seven different players in right field and have combined for a weak .981 fielding percentage. Oscar Colas (18 games started) and Gavin Sheets (19 games started) have posted fielding percentages of .975 and .968 respectively which is well below the league average of .989 and have combined for both of the errors recorded at that position.
Although still far from perfect, the defense has performed better and if it can stay at or above the league average, it can help the team remain in the race in a weak AL Central division.