2019 White Sox Season: South Side Struggles

What’s going on with the 2019 White Sox season? In 2018, they were horrific and 2019 isn’t looking much better.

The Chicago White Sox lost 100 games in 2018. They entered the 2019 campaign looking to avoid that and snap the fourth-longest active postseason drought in baseball. They did avoid the 100 losses and had some improvements. Unfortunately, that postseason streak will extend to the start of the 2020 season. 

2019 White Sox Season: Key Injuries

The White Sox were a relatively healthy team throughout this 2019 season, but they did face a couple of losses. Starting pitcher Michael Kopech, who had Tommy John surgery in September 2018, missed all of 2019 and had his development delayed a year. Fellow starter Carlos Rodon had the same operation performed in mid-May earlier this year as well, meaning he could miss all of 2020.

Lucas Giolito, who had an incredible break out season as a pitcher, will miss the remainder of 2019 with a shoulder injury. It is nothing major, however, and he is expected to be ready for all of 2020.

Pitching Woes

They won’t lose 100 games, but this team still has more than its fair share of flaws. A major weakness of the White Sox this season has been their pitching. The bullpen has been mediocre, however, the starting rotation has been atrocious. Chicago has trotted out 13 different pitchers to start a game this year with Lucas Giolito being the only one to show any level of consistency. Giolito finally found some consistency and pitched to a 3.41 ERA over 176.2 innings this season. He had 228 strikeouts over that work and walked 2.9 batters per nine innings. He took a huge step forward and should build on that in 2020.

The rest of that pieced-together rotation has been consistently awful. White Sox starters possess the 6th worst team ERA per FanGraphs, sitting at 5.36. 10 of those 13 starters have an ERA over 5.00. This, of course, means a lot of taxing work for the bullpen. Surprisingly, their bullpen resides in the middle of the pack with just the 14th highest team ERA as a relief unit. Not great, but not horrendous by any means, with a couple of playoff-aspiring clubs possessing worse bullpens. Their is youth in the Chicago arms, so time will tell if they can develop into a better staff. Struggling veterans like Ross Detwiler, however, will more than likely be searching for a new home next season. 

Emerging Star

The offense was simply not good enough to make up for the lack of pitching, Luckily, the White Sox saw something positive. A couple of their young bats started to showcase their abilities at a high level.

Shortstop Tim Anderson, the club’s first-round draft pick back in 2013, had a career year. His batting average went from .240 in 2018 all the way to .335 so far in 2019, good for the highest in Major League Baseball. He also stirred up some controversy back in April when he took Royals starter Brad Keller deep and threw the bat afterward. While many old-school baseball fans dislike the bat throws of today, they do tend to make the game more exciting.

Defensively, Anderson’s development still has a long way to go. He’s committed the most errors as an AL shortstop at 25 this season, 5 more than the next player. His fielding percentage leaves much to be desired, sitting at .949.

Rookie Sensation

You can’t talk about the White Sox without mentioning rookie stud Eloy Jimenez. The left-fielder struggles with consistent contact at times, possessing just a 71.3% contact rate, putting him in the bottom third of that category. However, stars like Bryce Harper, Nelson Cruz, and Ronald Acuna Jr. also flirt with a similar contact rate. Jimenez walks just 6.1% of the time with an o-swing percentage of 34.6%, meaning over a third of his swings are at balls outside the zone.

His power is already more than impressive, however, and his plate discipline should improve over time. It almost HAS to, as the White Sox have struck out the 6th most this year of any MLB team. He recently captured an AL Player of the Week award and has hit 28 home runs through 2019 with a 112 OPS+. Jimenez is certainly on his way to becoming another young star in the game if you already do not consider him a star.

What Does 2020 Look Like for the White Sox?

It feels like every season for the past five years we have heard “yeah the White Sox are just two or three years away”. However, this time that might legitimately be the case. Anderson, Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada serve as a solid young core, especially with the pithing that could develop. The White Sox offense is a few upgrades away from being formidable, especially in right field. Luis Robert was one of the best minor league outfielders in 2019. You will find him on top of any White Sox prospect list, will certainly see some action in Chicago in 2020.

Guys like Dylan Cease and Zack Collins cracked the major league level but struggled. The White Sox are hoping for more consistency from two of their top prospects. Keep an eye out for Nick Madrigal as well. Scouts across the league seem to be split on him. Regardless, moving from A+ ball to AAA ball over the course of a summer is wildly impressive. So is maintaing a .300+ batting average. I would expect Chicago to let Moncada DH, put Yolmer Sanchez at third, and slide Madrigal right into second base. Mix in the fact that Jose Abreu is a free agent and the White Sox might make a big splash this offseason and this team could be fun to watch next season. Playoffs are still unlikely for the White Sox in 2020, but I think 80+ wins is attainable.

Author Twitter: @Noush9602

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