Under the blue skies at Camelback Ranch in Arizona the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are getting ready to toss the first pitches in the 2015 spring training season for both teams.
Jose Quintana will take the mound for the north side against the stout Dodgers lineup that features Jimmy Rollins and Carl Crawford at the top of the lineup and a healthy mix of lefties and righties throughout the lineup. The mix in the lineup will give Quintana an excellent chance to work on whatever he needs to for hitters on both sides.
A couple players to keep an eye on during the game would be how Gordon Beckham does at third base and Carlos Sanchez at second base, Both players are looking to make a statement this spring, going forward it’ll be interesting to see how both positions play out in the next month.
Another thing to watch out for is the lineup in general for the White Sox. Throughout the offsesason it was expected that the lineup would feature Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Avisail Garcia, and Alexei Ramirez as the order of the top six. It’ll be interesting to see if this lineup will prosper as is or how Manager Robin Ventura might tweak the lineup throughout the spring to see what different combinations are the most successful since a majority of the positions are already set.
The rest of the week will see the south side ball club take on the Dodgers again tomorrow, then will go to the Padres at , come back to Camelback Ranch to take on the Mariners Saturday and will go to the Athletics on Sunday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s games are at 2:05 Central Time and Sunday’s game will be at 3:05 Central Time.
While shortstop and second base are next to each other on the diamond, the statuses of both positions for the Chicago White Sox couldn’t be further apart. One is emphatically decided for at least one more season, and the other has several options for manager Robin Ventura to pick from.
The locked in position is shortstop. 33-year old Alexei Ramirez came out of spring training last season on fire. March and April are traditionally Ramirez’s weakest months, but last season he figured out something early and hit a combined .329 in those months. In fact, he was so hot at times, longtime Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson said that Ramirez was the same level shortstop and even better than Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Not long after those proclamations were made Ramirez dropped off. He would go onto hit below .235 three out of the last four-plus months. A couple of categories that he was successful and an asset in to the club were with men on base and with runners in scoring position. He hit .295 and .305 respectively in those categories and was one of the reasons the Sox offense showed life at different times throughout the seasons.
While Ramirez is the guy now, one prospect to keep an eye on for the future at the position is Tim Anderson. The 21-year old hit a .301 batting average in rookie ball, high-A and double-A last season. WhiteSox.com rates Anderson as the number two prospect in the organization and number 81 overall amongst all prospects in the league. According to the site he grades at an above average level in his bat, arm and fielding while being well above average running.
Second base is a much different matter for the club. Carlos Sanchez at the position once they traded Gordon Beckham towards the end of August. Despite that chance last year, he currently resides in second place on the depth chart. The 23-year old got the chance to play in 28 games last season and hit for a .250 average. He also struck out 25 times in his 100 at-bats while supplying very little power.
Unless he blows the minds of the management with his play the likelihood of him making the roster as the starter is small, and since they are already deep with utility players he’ll probably be sent to the minors.
The top spot on the depth chart is currently held by the White Sox top prospect at the position and fourth overall in the organization, Micah Johnson. It appears that Johnson has the inside track for the starting role as long as he puts in the work and has a solid spring.
Johnson put together a solid campaign in 2014. He managed a .294 batting average while only striking out 69 times in 419 at-bats in both double-A and triple-A. His batting average was actually right on par with his career average of a .297.
He also provides a speed threat on the bases. In 2013 Johnson stole 87 bases in 114 attempts between low-A, high-A, double-A, and Arizona fall ball. His speed is something the Sox have been missing on the base paths for a while now.
For the last several years the Sox seemed content with a base to base approach to running or making mistakes on the base paths that runs the team out of the inning. So if he is able to break camp with the big club, he could provide a spark at the bottom of the order ahead of leadoff hitter Adam Eaton.
Another person in the competition for the position is the formerly departed, but now returning, Beckham. He was signed as a utility player who could play all over the infield and that’s how the Sox plan to use him. He currently sits third on the depth chart at third base and second behind Alexei Ramirez at shortstop. So unless Johnson and Sanchez blow their chance at the position this spring, Beckham should remain as the reserve across the majority of the infield positions.
A couple other players fighting for playing time this season are Emilio Bonifacio and Leury Garcia. Bonifacio is set to split time at third base with Conor Gillaspie so the amount of time he’d see at the other positions should be limited. He also could potentially be used as a back-up outfielder in center as well.
Garcia will be fighting to break camp with the Sox. The 23-year old spent time at a wide variety of positions last season, including an inning on the mound in extra innings. His dismal year last season could play a role into the Sox managements decision if he has a mediocre spring training.
The Sox are deep with players at both positions. As Cactus League games begin, keep an eye on the race for second base because it could be a tight one down the stretch between the young guys and the veteran players.
The 2014 season wasn’t exactly kind to Adam Eaton as he spent 32 days total on the disabled list. The same can be said about Avisail Garcia and his 2014 season. Although Eaton was only on the disabled list for two stints totaling 32 days, Garcia was stuck on the list for a majority of four months with a torn labrum in his left shoulder that happened 8 games into the season.
Eaton was exactly what the White Sox needed a lead-off man to be. While he didn’t steal a lot of bases, 15 in 24 attempts, but he had a .362 on base percentage hitting the entire time out of the top spot. He gave the White Sox something they’d been lacking using Alejandro DeAza, a lead-off hitter who’d set the stage for the middle of the batting order. Instead, when DeAza was in the top spot in previous seasons, he would try to strike out attempting to hit home runs and as a result would leave no one on base for Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, or anyone else who’d hit in the heart of the lineup.
The biggest problem Eaton ran into, other than trying to stay healthy by not letting walls beat him up is having the second hitter in the lineup hit a double play eliminating the chance to get the offense rolling. The hitters who spent some time in the second spot combined for a total of 57 double plays throughout the season. That plus the countless number of fielder’s choices supplied throughout the lineup kept the offense sputtering at times when they would finally get runners on base.
However with a 5.2 wins above replacement number and a .338 average with runners on base, Eaton was able to come away with last season knowing he’d done his job. It also showed he’d taken the step forward the Sox had hoped he would after they had acquired him in the trade with Arizona. He’ll look to keep his foot forward this season and hopefully he’ll keep his body away from the outfield fences that had him seeing time on the disabled list last season.
Last season was supposed to be the breakout season for Avisail Garcia. He was supposed to take a leap towards becoming the player everyone has projected the 24-year old to be. However one play in April changed the route Garcia’s season would take. He would spend the next four months recovering and rehabbing from a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He finally returned later in August from the DL quicker than some expected and was able to get work in at the major league level in the outfield and at the plate. He would go on to hit just .244 last season in a total of 46 games, but that wasn’t as important as him taking advantage of the playing time on a team that wasn’t going anywhere.
The obvious hope for the White Sox is to get to see Garcia the whole season, especially after he’s lost the extra weight he gained at the end of 2014. Garcia’s been dieting and working out trying to get his speed back to make him once again a projected five-tool player. If the Sox intend to be successful this season and compete for the division and the World Series, it’ll take Garcia being successful from wherever in the lineup Robin Ventura sees him fitting. The most likely spot in that lineup will probably be at number five hitting behind either Adam LaRoche or Jose Abreu.
Other than Emilio Bonifacio who is listed as a back up to all the outfielders, Leury Garcia is also among the list to back up Eaton in centerfield. As a utility fielder in 2014, Garcia only hit .166 in 74 games playing a multitude of positions including one inning in relief during an extra inning game. The 23-year old Garcia needs to come out firing on all cylinders come the February 24th when the Sox position players report and spring training gets going. He’s going to have competition for utility player with the acquisitions of Gordon Beckham, J.B. Shuck, and Emilio Bonifacio. If he does have a mediocre spring, it could be his versatility that keeps him on the 25-man roster coming out of Camelback Ranch.
Non-roster invitee and former Chicago Cub Tony Campana was supposed to be in the mix for a bench role but on February 10th the White Sox twitter account reported that Campana had torn his ACL while training recent to the announcement and would most likely be out for the entire 2015 season.
While the Sox tried to set their roster up with defensive depth in all three positions, it may have come at the cost of offensive depth. The starters shouldn’t have an issue producing runs, but we’ll have to see what combination of bench players Sox management gives themselves heading into the regular season. However, for what we as Sox fans have dealt with over the recent seasons, we’ll take the starting three as is and deal with the lack of offensive depth when it becomes an issue.
To say the 2014 Chicago White Sox team was disappointing would be a hefty understatement. The point of last season was to retool instead of rebuilding while trying to save money on payroll at the same time. The plan ended up being an ultimate failure and it showed in the fact the stadium looked 90 percent empty during most games. The message from the fans didn’t fall on deaf ears.
There were so many holes left on the White Sox roster heading into this offseason. General Manager Rick Hahn had to find out from Owner Jerry Reinsdorf exactly how much money he had to work with for payroll. Last season the White Sox hovered around $91 million dollars for payroll last season. Reinsdorf told Hahn he could raise the payroll to address the needs of the team.
Need #1 – Finding a designated hitter/back-up first baseman
When Hahn went to work on fixing the roster, one of the first signings he made was on a back-up first baseman and designated hitter. He hooked former Washington National’s first baseman Adam LaRoche to a 2-year, $25 million contract.
LaRoche was the arguably the best first baseman on the market, but he also gives the White Sox a left-handed hitter. The 35-year old brings a career .264 average to a lineup in desperate need of protection in the heart of the lineup for Jose Abreu. While he doesn’t bring a lot of power with him, only averaging 22 home runs a season, in such a hitter friendly ballpark like U.S. Cellular he should be able to reach 20-25 home runs pretty easily.
One concern fans might have with his signing could be that at his age there’s possibility of deterioration of skills. One argument against that mind set is that he improved his average .022 over the previous season and had his second highest WAR of his career with a 2.1.
Another concern that may face the club is the fact LaRoche has had very little experience hitting in the designated hitter position. He holds a career .190 average in 21 at-bats, and as Sox fans remember with Adam Dunn, it could be challenging for a career national league player to get used to being a designated hitter. It’ll be important for Manager Robin Ventura to try to use him as much as possible in that position during spring training to get a jump start on getting him used to not playing the field.
Grade on the move – B
Need #2 – Bullpen bridge work
What ended up actually being the first move of the free agency period for the White Sox, management snagged left-handed reliever Zach Duke with a 3-year, $15 million contract. Duke was a non-roster invitee last season for the Milwaukee Brewer and made the team out of spring training. He would go on to post his third best ERA in his 10-year career with a 2.45. Even though he may be used as a left-handed specialist, Duke did his best damage in the eighth inning of games where he carried a 1.10 ERA in 19 appearances last season during that inning. He showed up 35 times in the seventh inning and posted a 2.70 ERA. Either way, the most important thing is if he’s able to repeat or even come close to what he threw out there last season, he’ll be a huge improvement over pretty much anyone the White Sox rolled out of the pen last season.
The Sox has been busy since the signing of Zach Duke trying to bring in as many relievers they can to try to help improve the pen. At the end of the winter meetings in San Diego, the Sox pulled the string on a trade with Miami for 27-year old, left-handed reliever Dan Jennings.
Jennings is in his third year in the league and has a career 2.43 ERA in 100 innings pitched. An area that needs big improvement in his game is his WHIP. Last season he carried a 1.537 WHIP and for his career 1.460. On the bright side he held a 1.34 ERA last season even though he had such a high WHIP. So if he can manage to keep hitters off base, he could be a big plus in the pen for the next couple seasons since he doesn’t reach free agency until the 2020 season.
This month the Sox have also added former Sox players Jesse Crain and Scott Carroll to the non-roster invitees list for spring training in the hopes to find a spark.
Crain is coming off a biceps tendinitis surgery in 2013 and didn’t throw one pitch in the pros last season for the Astros. So to expect this move to come up aces for the Sox is taking a leap, but he did pitch relatively well for the Sox from 2011-2013. In his two and a half seasons with the south side club, Crain carried a 2.11 ERA for those seasons. If his stuff comes back to the level it was prior to his surgery, Crain could find himself in the setup role for the Sox allowing Duke and the others to be the specialists coming out of the pen.
Scott Carroll was mostly a starter for the team last season and didn’t fair very well in the 19 starts he had. However, he did come out of the pen seven times last season and was much better in the short term use. Out of the pen he carried a 1.99 ERA in 22 innings pitched and hitters’ averages dropped .095 compared to his starts. Carroll could be more successful in limited spurts from the pen. If they could use him as a specialist in the seventh or eighth innings, he could end up being more successful.
The Sox have also invited right-handers J.D. Martin, Nolan Sanburn, Chris Beck, Brad Penny, Shawn Haviland, and the organization’s 7th overall prospect Tyler Danish.
Danish was the organization’s second round pick in 2013, and could end up in the bullpen as a setup man or closer in the next couple seasons. He has a unique delivery that is in a side arm slot but he still is able to bring his hand more over the top. It’s an extreme angle that has a lot of people a little nervous about him having future arm troubles, but it’s the delivery that could make him a very successful reliever. He is expected to push through the minors quickly and could be up with the big club in 2016 or 2017.
They’ve also invited 2014’s number three overall draft pick Carlos Rodon to spring training. The left-handed pitcher has tons of hype surrounding him and is expected to see pro ball at some point throughout the coming season. The Sox could use him out of the pen in his first season or two like they did with Chris Sale. He jumped his way through the minors in his half season with the organization, but could be held back at the beginning of the year to help delay the clock starting on his service time in the league.
Grade on the moves – C
Need #3 – Fishing for a closer
Through the process of the winter meetings GM Rick Hahn had to keep checking in on how much he would be able to spend on payroll. Things fell in place for the Sox that Hahn was able to give Jerry Reinsdorf a plan that could work but it would require him to spend a little more than what was originally planned. Reinsdorf liked the plan so much that he approved the management team to spend more on payroll.
On the third day of the winter meetings, Hahn and the Sox were able to convince right-handed closer David Robertson to sign with the club. MLB.com quoted Robertson on a conference call talking about the signing with Rick Hahn and the Sox, “I like the moves he’s making with getting [Adam] LaRoche and Zach Duke and the trade for [Jeff] Samardzija. I feel like he’s building a good squad that’s really going to be a competitor next year, and I’m hoping we end up back in the playoffs.”
“Every time we played the White Sox, they were an incredibly tough team to beat. They just grinded it out against us. Obviously, they were on my radar from the beginning and I was glad that I was approached by them and once they – making those extra moves really helped solidify the direction I wanted to go, which was being a Chicago White Sox.”
Robertson put his name to a 4-year, $46 million contract to become the closer for the Sox.
The top player at his position on the market, Robertson brings a career 2.21 ERA in save situations to the club. He saved 39 games last season in 44 attempts for the Yankees last season. He will bring credibility to the position for the Sox which was searching all last season for someone to fill the role after they had traded their young closer Addison Reed to Arizona last offseason.
Grade on the move – A
Need #4 – A quality left fielder
To improve the lineup and the defense, Rick Hahn needed to find someone who could not only hit better and field better than Alejandro DeAza and Dayan Viciedo have in recent seasons. Hahn looked at who was available on the free agency market and was able to get former Yankee Melky Cabrera to ink to a 3-year, $42 million contract.
The switch hitting left fielder’s history says he’s going to be a player that gets on base and doesn’t strike out much. He’s a player that makes contact often and puts the ball in play which is an asset the Sox miss from the lineup year in and year out. Those skills in theory should make him a solid pick for the two holes in the lineup and would allow him to set up the heart of the lineup to have more opportunities to drive in runs. Also with his ability to switch hit he could allow Ventura to set up a left and right combo down the lineup through the heart of it.
The 30-year old also hasn’t had more than four errors in the field during any season, and is half of what the departed Dayan Viciedo put up in 2014 alone. 2015 could end up being one of the best fielding outfields the White Sox have fielded in a while. Cabrera and Eaton offer a wide fielding range, and with the weight loss Garcia has focused on this offseason, the outfield should have fewer gaps in it this season. Its skills the Sox have needed because they play in a division with teams that have massive outfields.
The only concern Sox fans might have is if Cabrera gets caught on PEDs again. If he does it again he would be out for a whole season’s worth of games. It’s a concern, but one would have to assume that Hahn looked into it and flat out asked Cabrera about it. He apparently heard what he needed and the Sox got a much better player than what they’ve had in left field the last several seasons.
Grade on the move – A
Need #5 – Quality starter
Last season the Sox’s fourth and fifth starters were highly questionable. In order to save on payroll the Sox used pitchers like Felipe Paulino, Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo, and Scott Carroll in those spots and were pretty much complete failures.
In an unexpected move, Rick Hahn and Billy Bean were able to pull off a trade in which Hahn would send right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and shortstop Marcus Semien to Oakland for right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija and prospect pitcher Michael Ynoa.
It’s a move that lured David Robertson to the club and showed that the White Sox were serious about retooling and were making a commitment to compete in 2015. It also has Sox fans buying tickets again according to Rick Hahn, and because of that they were able to spend more money on payroll for players like Melky Cabrera.
Samardzija grew up a Sox fan in the Valparasio, Indiana area and has said he’s excited about getting the chance to be “home.” The former Cubs ace had a 2.99 combined ERA last season pitching for both the Cubs and A’s. He’ll fit in nicely as the number two pitcher on the team and gives the Sox one of the best top of the rotation combinations in the majors.
According to WhiteSox.com, Samardzija’s agent, Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s “The Front Office” with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on Sunday that both he and his client would be open to listening to offers if the club would like to throw numbers at them.
“Obviously they really put in a lot of effort this offseason to make that club better,” Rogers said. “And so out of due respect to [White Sox chairman] Mr. [Jerry] Reinsdorf and to [general manager] Rick Hahn, who’s done a heck of a job, and [executive vice president] Kenny Williams, I told those guys, ‘Any time you want to talk, I’ll listen. Jeff and I will certainly talk.”
The Sox have both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana locked up till 2019 and 2020 so it’s possible that they would be able to sign Samardzija to a favorable contract on both sides. It would likely depend on the length of contract Samardzija would want, but until then, the Sox hope that he can continue his success and help carry the team to the playoffs.
Grade on the move – A
Need #6 – Utility players
The trade of Marcus Semien and designating Jordan Danks for assignment opens up holes at utility players for both the infield and outfield. So Rick Hahn needed to find players who were good defenders that would be able to give breaks to the starters but not lose a ton at the plate.
Journeyman Emilio Bonifacio was the perfect example of someone Hahn was looking for. He has the ability to play all infield positions except for first base and has played all the outfield field positions well. He has a .262 career batting average for seven different teams. Thoughts are he may platoon at third base with Conor Gillaspie but will more than likely see some time at shortstop and second base as well.
The Sox were also reached out to another former Cub, Tony Campana for their utility outfield position. The non-roster invitee has a career .249 batting average in 438 at-bats, and will be used as a defensive replacement player unless there’s an injury to the starters.
The latest player that will come to camp is former Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham. Sox management acquired him from free agency on a one-year, $2 million contract and is planning to use him as a utility infielder that will fill in at all the positions in the infield other than first base. He posted a .293 average last season versus left-handed pitchers which is the type of player the Sox were looking to lock in for this season. Unfortunately his history says he’s a career .244 average versus left-handed pitchers. It’ll be interesting to see how Beckham does in his second go around with the club.
Grade on the move – D/D-
This offseason has Sox fans energized again for baseball to start again for the first time in a while. As a fan it’s been fun hearing other fans, tv and radio personalities talking about the Sox making the playoffs. Even though Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have the Sox falling into third place in the division, it hasn’t put out the flame of Sox fans expectations and excitement!
In the next couple of weeks leading up to the start of the season, we’ll look into each position individually, a preview of each division, and other topics to get you ready and informed for the 2015 season!
On a perfect night for baseball, the White Sox invite the wild card leading Oakland Athletics into U.S. Cellular Field for a four game series starting tonight.
Oakland will be sending Sonny Gray to the mound to try to keep the Sox offense under wraps and maintain the two-game cushion in the standings.
Gray’s had a rough go of it as of late. The 24-year old right-hander is 1-4 in his last six games with a high 5.84 ERA as he’s keeps adding onto his career high in innings pitched. In what could be simply tiring, Gray hasn’t been nearly as sharp as he was before August started.
His appearance could be coming at the right time for a White Sox offense that struggled the last three games to score runs for their pitchers who put up solid outings. In the last three the Sox have combined to score two runs while Sale, Quintana, and Carroll held the opposition to seven runs in those games.
Sitting with 63-79 at this point, starters Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Alejandro DeAza traded away, Paul Konerko dealing with a fractured bone in his left hand, players like Carlos Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Marcus Semien, and Andy Wilkins need to show what they could do on the major league level. Especially second basemen and shortstops Sanchez, Garcia, and Seimen, as the Sox may look into finding a suitor in the off-season to trade Alexei Ramirez.
With White Sox coaches eyeing on who they’ll think about keeping for 2015, Hector Noesi is doing what he can to make up their mind for them. The Sox have seen a different Noesi in the second half of the season. In his last nine starts, Noesi has compiled seven quality starts leading to a 3.90 ERA compared to a 5.36 ERA in the starts previous to that.
The Sox could easily consider Noesi as a fourth or fifth starter of the future if he can show that his recent success isn’t just a fluke and he puts together a few more quality starts to end the season.
Three Strikes to Success
Strike One – Slowing down Josh Donaldson who has been their best overall offensive player in the last 30 games. Donaldson’s put together a .290 average, 12 base-on-balls with 11 RBI in 26 games played. While he’s racked up those numbers of in the last 26, this season Donaldson has their second highest strike out total this season. So make good pitches and give Donaldson much to work with.
Strike Two – Get to Sonny Gray early! With how bad the offense looked against the Indians, the Sox have had the fourth best average since the All-Star break, but are only 21st in runs batted in. The biggest problem the Sox have is getting the runners in when they get on. The Sox have a combined to score just 14% of the runners that have gotten on base. Between not putting the ball into play, grounding into double players, and players making simple running mistakes, the White Sox have issues doing basics to get players around the bases. Against a solid starter who’s having a rough time of it lately, the Sox need to jump on him in the first inning and keep the momentum going throughout the game.
Strike Three – Hold a lead! The Sox bullpen has had a rough year when it comes to keeping the opponent off the scoreboard. The bullpen has the second most lost games (28) in relief in the majors, standing only behind the Colorado Rockies. It’s a major area that’ll need to be addressed in the off-season, but while manager Robin Ventura has some extra pitchers to bring in from the pen, he needs to consider using pitchers like Ronald Belisario a little as possible. Belisario leads the team with eight games lost in relief.
This is a key game in the series for the Sox with Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija lined up to start the next two games against them.
Quick hit news
This game marks Adam Dunn’s first game back at U.S Cellular since the trade from the south side. In his six games with the A’s, Dunn has hit .313 with two home runs and five RBI. If the A’s make the playoffs it’ll mark Dunn’s first experience in the playoffs as the Reds, Diamondbacks, Nationals and White Sox didn’t make it with him on the roster.
According to MLB.com, Paul Konerko might be able to return sometime this week from the fractured bone in his left hand.
Gordon Beckham’s 2013 was a story of injury, of change of stance, and even time spent rehabbing at a different position than what he has been playing since he started out with the White Sox organization.
Beckham was projected to be a 20 home run player and .280 or higher average coming out of college. At the age of 22, he was thrown into the majors because the White Sox thought they had seen signs that showed he was ready to perform at such a high level after he had been a college star.
In his first season, he compiled a .270 batting average, 14 home runs and 63 RBI which was a solid year for a rookie. It was also his best season in those categories.
To try to get Beckham back to what they had believed he would become, the White Sox coaching staff decided to try to change his stance by having him squat a little to improve his eye for seeing the ball out of the pitchers hand, and making contact as cleanly as possible. Their plans seem to work for about half the season.
In his first three seasons, Beckham averaged 80 percent contact and that has gone up the last two years, to his highest last year at 85.3 percent. So the plan to get him to make connection with more balls was a success. In fact, his strike out to at bat percentage was the lowest of his career.
Unfortunately the contact he was making in the last two months of the season wasn’t adding up to hits. Beckham started out the season hot. He hit .316 in April before he got hurt 7 games into the season. When he came back he looked like he picked up right where he left off, hitting .308 in June and .303 in July, then the slide began to happen.
In August (.240 average) and September (.210 average) it seemed like Beckham couldn’t do anything right, but the White Sox stood by him. Down the stretch in September, they decided to flip him back and forth in the lineup from second to seventh, eighth and even ninth. Which could’ve also led to his hitting issues in September because players tend to be people of habit and to play with a routine like that could have affected him.
When there were runners in scoring position, Beckham definitely left something to be desired. If there was a runner on first and second he was pretty successful, hitting .320 in those situations. If there was a runner on second or third and any other combination of the bases, he only hit .160. His overall RISP was well below his .264 average of his first four seasons.
While his hitting was on a downhill slide throughout the season, Beckham’s defense did seem to take a little bit of a hit. He tied his second most errors of his career, while playing 230 less innings than that season. You can simply look at June for the answer to why it was so high.
Beckham rehabbed at shortstop during his time in the minors. In June, the first month he came back, he had five of his twelve errors. If anyone has played both positions, they are pretty different. While he did play the position in college, playing it in the majors is a way different animal, and he simply had trouble adjusting. He only had six errors the last three months combined.
In the first three months, Beckham hit over .300 but slid. He didn’t help the team’s need for assistance in getting runners in from scoring position. His defense looked like it digressed but a closer look showed that almost half of his errors came in one month. With all that being said, I’m giving C+. He was only 14 away from his average number of hits per year in his career, while having about 100 less at bats than average.
If you forecasted his numbers for an injury free year, he would have been well above average in doubles (he was already 2 short of average), possibly stolen bases (2 away from a career high), and walks (only 13 shy of a career high).
I took all that and balanced it out with his lack of performance in runners in scoring position to get the grade. He could be one of the key contributors in 2014.
In order to start anew, we have to take a look back at the past.
The 2013 season didn’t go exactly as the White Sox had planned. Ninety-nine losses and last place in the division was a hard fall from competing for a Central Division title in 2012. To quote Yogi Berra, “We made too many wrong mistakes.” What went wrong?
The biggest issue was with the way the White Sox built their team. They simply couldn’t figure out a way to get on base consistently. Alex Rios held the highest on base percentage at .328 before he was traded. The next highest was Avisail Garcia whom the Sox acquired in a three way trade with Detroit and Boston. His OBP after the trade ended at .327. The team was simply too impatient and lacked contact.
The team was filled with players who swing and miss far too regularly. Adam Dunn’s obviously first on the list. It’s getting to the point that his strikeouts are starting to outweigh his power numbers. While he still put up 34 home runs (tied for 6th in the league), his strikeout numbers on a team with so many free swingers hurts. The fact that five of the nine positions in the lineup had players that struck out over 20 percent of the time is outrageous. So what have Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn done to fix the situation?
The addition of Adam Eaton could be an answer to the solution. In the minors, he’s been solid at getting on base. He’s carried a .367 OBP or higher every year in the minors. The flip side to that coin is last year he only averaged .252 with a .314 on base percentage in the pros. It’s the expectations that the White Sox are relying on. Hoping that what he’s done in the minors will coordinate to the majors giving the Sox a possible lead off or second hitter.
Other than Eaton, who could the Sox use on the roster that could succeed at getting on base? Unfortunately there’s a lot of “if’s” and “hopes” that go into it.
First, the team is also relying on the time Garcia spent with the team. The hope is that his experience in the pro’s since August will make this season a breakout for him. He had a very good end of 2013, batting .304 in 161 at bats. He also solidified the right field position where Rios left off. He’s got great plate coverage, and he was willing to go the opposite direction. Only a few players on the Sox seem to do this.
There’s also a hope Gordon Beckham also could be a spark if he is able to repeat the success he had when he first came back from his injury. For about half of his time he was batting near or above .300. He ended up the season with a .267 average. Call it whatever you might, but I still think Beckham could have a solid career. Not just as the excellent defender he is but with averages around .275-.280. To have a fully healthy complete season, I believe his new stance has helped him at the plate with coverage and being able to recognize pitches.
The Sox are putting all of their eggs in one basket with Jose Abreu. There’s been talk amongst those who project prospects that Abreu could reach a .290 avg. and 30 plus home run level. The team has talked about doing a rotation of Abreu, Konerko and Dunn between first base and designated hitter. It’ll be interesting to see what effect it’ll have on any of the players’ productions. If Konerko can hit .250 with 15-20 homeruns, it will be a positive.
Dunn still needs to put up the near 35 homeruns while trying to avoid the 175 strikeout total. He did have a stretch where he hit the opposite direction a few times a week last Sept but that only lasted about 2 weeks. Somewhere, somehow, he needs to learn to do it on a more consistent basis which of course has been said for almost every season he’s played in since he’s been in Chicago.
Then there’s Alexei Ramirez. He was supposed to grow into an Alfonso Soriano type player that could hit for some power and a decent average. He’s done a decent job of making contact with average consistently hitting about .270-.285 most of his career. He needs to do a little better job taking walks more frequently. He’s had two seasons of 49 and 51 walks but otherwise has been in the teens and twenties. Unfortunately the latter seems to be the norm.
This is just one issue that led to the collapse of the 2013 Chicago White Sox. The Sox haven’t done much to change the biggest issue that plagued them last season. However, there is a reason why they play the games. To quote Bob Feller, “Everyday is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Let’s see if some of the players can start over in this new season!