As the 2021 season came to a close for the Chicago White Sox in early October with a 3-1 series loss to the Houston Astros, the deficiencies in the White Sox lineup stuck out like a sore thumb. It was clear to Sox fans they weren’t ready to compete on the game’s biggest stage with the perennial contenders.
While front offices and general managers around the league went to work assessing team needs and prepared to address them accordingly the Chicago White Sox assumingly did nothing. They publicly stated the holes that needed to be filled and they sounded very similar to the issues in years past. No true right fielder and they traded away Nick Madrigal for Craig Kimbrel, so yet again they had a hole at second base to fill. The attempt to band-aid the second base position by trading with Cleveland for switch-hitting Cesar Hernandez proved to be yet another faulty move by Rick Hahn and company.
The solutions the Sox came up with prior to the start of the 2022 season were, you guessed it, from the bargain bin yet again. Josh Harrison was signed to play second base and would undoubtedly split time with Leury Garcia who was retained with a 3-year 16.5 million dollar contract. Also added to the roster was veteran outfielder A.J. Pollock from the Dodgers via trade sending closer Craig Kimbrel out to L.A. The Pollock move made some sense at the time although the Sox desperately needed a left-handed bat which Pollock does not provide. While Pollock had decent splits over his career against right-handed and left-handed pitching he is currently slashing .228 / .268 / .332 with an OPS of .600. Not only are these numbers low, they are all well below his career averages. Yet another move that the Sox have made that just hasn’t panned out.
Chicago White Sox Roster Construction
One of the biggest issues this season has been the White Sox roster construction. There is still no true right fielder on this White Sox roster as Adam Engel is naturally a center fielder and Pollock has found a home in left although he too, is by trade a centerfielder. Luis Robert will play centerfield when healthy and Eloy in left leaves only one spot left in the outfield with Pollock, Engel, Sheets, Vaughn, and occasionally for some reason Garcia to fight over. None of these players are truly right fielders with three of the five being natural infielders.
Finding left-handed power bats has proven too difficult for the White Sox front office and finding an above-average second baseman has been just as tough. From Leury Garcia to Cesar Hernandez, to Josh Harrison above average is not what comes to mind when thinking of the Chicago White Sox second baseman.
The White Sox roster has been bitten time and time again by the injury bug but nobody feels sorry for anybody when this happens and the job of the front office is to build a roster to withstand things like injuries. In that aspect, the Sox front office has clearly failed. Andrew Vaughn is not a corner outfielder nor is Gavin Sheets. When forcing players to play positions requiring athleticism they clearly do not possess, it becomes difficult to blame the players for their performance. Vaughn is an outstanding hitter and when given the opportunity, plays a solid first base.
There are not enough left-handed bats in the White Sox roster and there seems to be no cure for this problem inside the organization. Again, this falls in the laps of Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams. Yoan Moncada and Leury Garcia both switch hit, but neither of them has been setting the world on fire at the plate. Gavin Sheets and Reese McGuire are the only true lefty bats on the Sox active roster, and neither has provided much in the hitting department, let alone the power department.
It is a tired argument that Tony La Russa has been a huge reason the Sox cannot seem to get it going. That does not make it false. La Russa has continuously made poor decisions in key situations costing the Sox runs and games. While not all of the issues fall on La Russa, he is certainly, part of the problem.
Making decisions based on loyalty and not performance seems to show up almost daily for the Sox. Leury Garcia seemingly plays nearly every day but was retained based on the premise of being a bench/utility player. Of the 93 games the Sox have played this season, Garcia has played in 67 of them or about 72% of them. Couple that with questionable pitching and bullpen decisions and it adds up to some key losses.
The Sox have been bad in so many categories it becomes a fair assessment to say they have been poorly managed. From lack of hustle to lacklustre focus the Sox have made some terrible plays throughout the first half and some form of accountability needs to show up. Somebody needs to step up and take responsibility for the underperformance of this team and Tony should be the guy. Don’t expect him to do so, but he should.
While we have discussed the lack of power from the left side of the plate, the power from the right side has been less than impressive. The Sox currently rank 24th in all of baseball in the home run department. They have hit 80 home runs this season as a team; in comparison, the Twins have hit 117. Not hitting the ball out of the park when you are a team built on power is a very bad thing. Not to mention they play their home games in a home run ballpark.
Luis Robert currently leads the Sox in the home run department with just 12. Jose Abreu (11), and Andrew Vaughn (10) are the only other hitters on the Sox with ten or more homers on the year. This isn’t nearly the power the Sox figured they would get from this lineup nor is it enough. If the Sox want to win the Central, they will have to ramp up the power numbers quickly.
The power has undoubtedly taken a hit from the injuries the Sox roster has suffered and the list of injuries is extensive. Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, and Tim Anderson have all spent time on the IL this season and with Robert currently on this list, it’s not over yet. Just when the Sox seem to be on track to getting their full roster of power hitters and position players back on the active list, Robert went down with lightheadedness and dizziness just before the All-Star break in Minnesota.
While Robert was added to the IL right after the break, it sounds like he could make a return relatively quickly. When Robert was removed from the game in Minnesota, after misplaying a ball in centerfield, it seemed as if it was a performance substitution, however, with the length of his absence, this seems to be a false narrative. Let’s all hope the Sox can get healthy and hot and make a run to October.
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