White Sox's Anderson could be on path to joining legends

Tim Anderson has been the Chicago White Sox starting shortstop since 2016.
Tim Anderson has been the Chicago White Sox starting shortstop since 2016. / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

Tim Anderson could be on the verge of greatness as a Chicago White Sox shortstop.

The 29-year-old Anderson, the White Sox starting shortstop since 2016, is only on the first few steps of a path once blazed by Luke Appling and Luis Aparicio.

But by the time his career comes to an end, don't be surprised if Anderson has more in common with those former Sox shortstop stars than just the first letter in his last name.

From Appling to Aparicio to Anderson to Cooperstown? Dare to dream, White Sox fans.

A lot of wonderful things have to happen, of course, before Anderson joins Appling and Aparicio as the only White Sox shortstops in the Hall of Fame. But nothing that has happened in Anderson's first six major league seasons would suggest that it is an impossible dream.

Anderson has a lifetime batting average of .288 with 97 home runs, 313 RBI,104 stolen bases and 476 runs over just 772 games and 3,129 at-bats.

In 2019 (.335) he became the first White Sox shortstop since Appling in 1943 (.328) to lead the American League in hitting. Appling also led the league in 1936 at .388.

The Chicago White Sox could see Tim Anderson become a franchise icon.

Comparing baseball statistics of modern day players with those from when Appling and Aparicio played is always debatable. The style of play during Appling's (1930-50) and Aparicio's (1956-73) eras were, without question, vastly different from what Anderson is doing today.

Anderson, after all, already has more career homers (97) than either Aparicio (83) or Appling (45). Also, along those lines, Appling walked (1,302 times) far more than he struck out (528) and Aparicio also valued putting the ball in play or a base on balls (742 strikeouts, 736 walks) far more than Anderson seemingly does now (761 strikeouts, just 117 walks).

But when you take Anderson's six-year track record and stretch it over 18 seasons, giving him a career about as long as Appling and Aparicio, the numbers of the three shortstops suggest a lot of similarities.

Anderson, judging by his first six seasons (that have been tainted by a pandemic season and another with a major injury), would finish with 2,316 games, 9,387 at-bats, 1,428 runs, 2,700 hits, 483 doubles, 48 triples, 291 homers, 939 RBI, 312 stolen bases, a .288 average and six All Star appearances. That would certainly merit Cooperstown consideration.

Those types of numbers, after all, merited Cooperstown consideration for Aparicio and Appling though both had to wait more than a decade before getting elected. Aparicio played his last game in 1973 and was named to the Hall in 1984. Appling last played in 1950 and didn't get in until 1964.

Aparicio played in 2,599 games and had 10,230 at-bats, 1,335 runs, 2,677 hits, 394 doubles, 92 triples, 83 homers, 791 RBI, 506 stolen bases, a .262 average and 13 All Star games (three years he went twice). Appling played in 2,422 games with 8,856 at-bats, 1,319 runs, 2,749 hits, 440 doubles, 102 triples, 45 homers, 1,116 RBI, 179 stolen bases, a .310 average and seven All Star games.

Anderson, at least with the bat, has Cooperstown credentials compared with Appling and Aparicio. But what about with the glove? Anderson has made 116 errors in six years with a .962 fielding percentage in 766 games at short.

Aparicio had 366 errors and a .972 fielding percentage in 2,581 games at short while Appling played 2,218 games at short and had 643 errors and a percentage of .948.

The defensive numbers of the three shortstops seem reasonably similar but, in fairness, to the two Hall of Famers, both Aparicio and Appling got to more balls, handled far more chances, and turned more double plays than Anderson is projected to have when his six-year career is stretched over 18 seasons.

Aparicio won nine Gold Gloves and had 12,930 chances and 1,553 double plays while Appling had 12,259 chances and 1,424 double plays at short. Appling didn't ever win a Gold Glove because the award wasn't created until seven years past his retirement in 1957.

Anderson, when taking his first six seasons and stretching them over 18 seasons, is projected to have just 9,138 chances and 1,206 double plays in 2,298 games at short . He's never won a Gold Glove because, well, he led American League shortstops in errors in 2017 (28), 2018 (20) and 2019 (26).

It might be more fair to Anderson to compare his statistics with those of Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. Larkin, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012, hit 198 homers, and drove in 960 runs on a .295 average. He had 2,340 hits, 441 doubles, 76 triples and 379 stolen bases.

He played 2,180 games in his career, 2,085 at shortstop. He was named an All Star 14 times in 19 seasons, won one Most Valuable Player award (1995) and nine Silver Slugger awards (Anderson has one) to go along with three Gold Gloves.

The numbers with the bat shouldn't be a problem for Anderson if he plays 18 seasons. The Most Valuable Player, Silver Slugger awards, All Star games and Gold Gloves, however, might be a bit challenging.

Larkin also helped the Reds win the World Series in 1990 over the Oakland A's and Tony LaRussa. Anderson is also playing in an era with a glut of standout shortstops.

Teams fell all over themselves this past off-season, after all, trying to sign Dansby Swanson, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner and Carlos Correa. Anderson also has yet to win a playoff series, let alone a World Series.

Anderson's claim to fame right now outside of Chicago is flipping his bat in the air and hitting a home run into a cornfield. So there is still a lot of work to do to start connecting him to Cooperstown. But the past six seasons do suggest Anderson is on the right path.

There is a chance, however, that Anderson winds up in Cooperstown and is pictured wearing a different team's hat on his plaque.

The White Sox will have an opportunity to pick up a $14 million option on Anderson in 2024 much like they picked up the $12.5 million option this year.

But Anderson, unless the White Sox work out a contract extension with him between now and the end of next season, will likely become a free agent heading into 2025. If the last two-thirds of his career are in another uniform nobody will be comparing him to Appling or Aparicio.

Anderson gives the White Sox stability, production, leadership and energy at shortstop, four things that are difficult to find.

Those are things that Appling and Aparicio also provided that the statistics don't show. The White Sox have had just two regular shortstops over the last 14 seasons combined.

Alexei Ramirez led the team in games played at short each year from 2009-15 and Anderson has taken over the last seven years. Ozzie Guillen started the most games at shortstop for 12-of-13 years from 1987-97.

Guillen's 12 years of manning the position, though, were broken up into seven and five-year increments because of an injury in 1992.

That means Anderson this year has an opportunity to become the first player to lead the White Sox in games played at shortstop every year for eight years in a row since Appling did it 12 years in a row from 1932-43.

Aparicio was traded to Baltimore after his seventh season with the Sox in 1962 and returned from 1968-70.

The Guillen era was followed by a revolving door of regular starting shortstops that included Mike Caruso, Jose Valentin, Royce Clayton, Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera.

It was also preceded by 13 musical chair years (1971-84) that included 11 different players taking turns leading the team in games played at short (Scott Fletcher, Bucky Dent, Bill Almon, Jerry Dybzinski, Todd Cruz, Greg Pryor, Don Kessinger, Alan Bannister, Eddie Leon, Rick Morales, and Luis Alvarado).

Only one player (Dent) from 1971-84 led the team as many as three years in a row in games played at short but he was then traded to the New York Yankees the next year.

Nobody else played as many as 135 games at short during any of those 14 years. And nobody compared any of them, including Dent, to Aparicio or Appling.

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