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How 2021 will be a better year for the Chicago White Sox.

Yoan Moncada sliding into home plate.

Yoan Moncada sliding into home plate.

Those of you that have been following the MLB Playoffs, I am sorry to report that the White Sox were eliminated on October 1st. I sent a direct message to shortstop Tim Anderson prior to writing this article to let him know that as one of my favorite players and arguably the best shortstop in the American League that I am hopeful to see him back in the playoffs in 2021, so Tim if you are reading this here is why I think you and the White Sox will be destined for another playoff spot and possibly a dynasty. For the White Sox fans reading this the best that can be said is, sorry for your loss. Although, it seems that 2020 was a good year overall to be a member of the Chicago White Sox. They came in under-rated and proved that they could hang with the best to become one of the best teams in baseball. Long story short, this franchise is going somewhere, but like every dynasty it is going to take time, so before you fly off the handle and comment below that “you must be smoking something” just hear me out. Today we will be covering the 2020 season wrap up, pitching, and hitting for the White Sox, some individual player comments and other useful information for the White Sox fans out there who watched yesterday’s defeat to let them know that now may not feel great but the future is bright.

2020: A brief recap

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So, 2020 started off great for everyone or at least we thought it would. I wrote an article during Spring Training picking the White Sox to clearly win the AL Central by conquering their longtime foes the Indians and Twins. I even expected a White Sox playoff run by the White Sox, not a World Series but a run that would be something for the ages. In that case, what actually unfolded, just to see how close we came to having a great White Sox 2020 story.

The American League central is one of the hardest divisions in baseball to win because both the AL East and AL West both sleep on their talent and potential. In the past 5 seasons the division has produced a World Series champion, a runner-up, one of the more dominant playoff runs ever and of course one of the greatest hitting extravaganzas in one season that we have ever seen. The reason for the staunch attitude towards the White Sox is because their division opponents like the Royals and Tigers rarely compete for a division crown much less a World Series; well in 2015 the Royals won the World Series. The Tigers will be obsolete until they can figure out what to do in the management department. However, three teams that are key to this division are the Indians, Twins and White Sox. Each of them has boasted the best record in the American League at one point, the Indians broke the American League win streak record in 2017 en-route to a runner-up in the World Series.

The White Sox though have appeared to be in the background of the division as well. To say the least the White Sox have been below average. Between 2016 and 2019 they had a win percentage of .431 which is not even close to making a playoff appearance. They finished 4th in three of those seasons and third in 2019. Not to mention their playoff drought lasted between 2008 and 2020. This team won the World Series in 2005, missed the playoffs two seasons afterwards and then proceeded to goose-egg the remainder of their time until 2020. They showed promise through it all though as they had a valuable building block in Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton. Eaton eventually was dealt to the Nationals who he won the World Series with in 2019. Abreu though remains in Chicago but now finally has help.

The 2020 White Sox did not win the AL Central but held the division lead for a hot minute. The Twins eventually overcame them and they finished tied for 2nd with the Indians. In 60 games the White Sox managed to win 35 and lose 25. They however lost 8 of their last 10 which promoted a tie with the Indians. Their playoffs were nothing short of spectacular though, despite losing 2-1 in a brief Wild Card Series. They went from having the best record in Major League Baseball to dropping a bunch of games that they should have won going from a potential #1 seed to 7th.

Upsides

White Sox celebrating after a Game 1 victory

White Sox celebrating after a Game 1 victory

For the doubters out there, the White Sox did their damage in all facets of the game. They started off sluggish but eventually found their own to set up an appointment in the playoffs with the A’s. They finished with a 13-7 division record which included 114 runs scored and only 84 against. They showed massive improvement in the pitching department and even had a no-hit performance by Lucas Giolito on August 25th. The offensive production was spectacular as well. They hit .261 combined and has a .326 OBP. They also combined for 96 home runs in those 60 games that they appeared in. They had three potential All-Stars in Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal and Tim Anderson who all batted a combined .326; if only their was an all-star game in 2020 they would have been hard to pick against. The White Sox even has two players in the 2.0 or above range in Wins Against Replacement (WAR). The Yankees, who advanced further in the playoffs did had only 1. The regular season was one of the more exciting in White Sox history from a stats perspective at least offensively.

Downsides

Nick Madrigal tag of Oakland A's Ramon Lauriano.

Nick Madrigal tag of Oakland A's Ramon Lauriano.

The White Sox had a strong offense in 2020. Their struggle was defensively. Despite positing a reasonable 3.81 ERA amongst all pitchers and allowing 71 home runs, the pitching is where the White Sox lost their games. Just looking at two stats, earned runs and BB the calculations can be reasonably looked at as sub-par. They walked 217 batters in 60 games, that from a standpoint is just over 3.5 a game, call it four. Despite striking out 523 batters this year they did not perform well providing 223 earned runs, most of which where the result of walks. They gave games away in some sense, still played great baseball but in a short season like this one, these kinds of mistakes are more valuable. Not to mention, the guy that they provided a 1-year, $12-million-dollar payout to in Edwin Encarnacion did not pan out all too well. He hit 10 home runs which is fine but 25 hits in 159 at bats is atrocious. Surprisingly his OBP did not turn out that bad as he had .250 on the season. Offensively the biggest issue with the White Sox was strikeouts. They had 571 of them in 2047 at bats which again caused them to lose a bunch of games, they need to stop being a long ball hitting team and concentrate on extra-base hits instead.

Individual assessments (Batting/Fielding)

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Tim Anderson had a great year with .322 BA, .357 OBP, scored 45 runs and had 110 total bases. He lead the league offensively in runs scored but had the least amount of stolen bases for a player in his position in the American League. He even did extremely well in the slugging percentage performance. In the field he tied his career best .967 Fielding Percentage which was 6 points under the league average. He also had a season low 6 errors which would put him at his career best even if we averaged it to 162 games played as he would have finished with 12, his career low at the moment is 14. There could potentially be a Gold Glove for him this year.

Jose Abreu has proven his hitting ability in the past being a two-time Silver Slugger and a 3-time All-Star. He played in every single game this season, all 60 which was a league high. He had 76 hits, also a league high and a .617 slugging percentage, league high. 19 Home Runs on the year and a .317 batting average. His downside comes in two categories, the first is strikeouts. He had 59 of them in 60 games, just under one a game. It is understandable being a deep ball hitter but that can be helped and lowered. Also, he has the league lead in Double Plays grounded into with 10 this year and 24 last year which also led the league. His fielding was superb at 1B with a .989 fielding percentage; however, his fielding skills are not his asset to the White Sox.

Yasmani Grandal is the heart and soul of this youthful White Sox roster and he disappointed this year with 58 strikeouts, 8 home runs, and only 27 runs on the season. Granted he only appeared in 46 of 60 games but for a guy that is an All-Star caliber player this is quite shameful. His slugging percentage and OBP were both at All-Star levels but aside from this there is upside to his 2020. His fielding is not as important, being a catcher, but for the sake of argument he had a .983 this year which is great for someone who has played as a DH, Catcher, and 1B in his career.

Nick Madrigal is the outstanding rookie of this group at 23 he has a lot of room for growth and is a future great member of the White Sox. He struck out only 7 times in his 103 At-Bats and batted .340 which was a team high. He has a bright future and will be vital to the White Sox future. His fielding mistakes in Game 3 of the ALDS in Oakland aside, he had a .964 fielding percentage and committed 4 errors on the season. Madrigal needs to work on fielding this offseason but for the most part he appears to be the most complete player on the roster at the moment.

Individual Assessments (Pitching)

Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the White Sox.

Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the White Sox.

Dallas Keuchel had a great year as a White Sox. He was the newest edition to their rotation and did not disappoint at all. He also had a 1.99 ERA in 11 games pitched this year. He took a lot of good batters deep into counts and finished the job on his end. He allowed 14 earned runs and two home runs on the year. Not bad at all for 63.1 Innings pitched. He gave it his all and deserves every penny of the 3-year $55-million deal.

Lucas Giolito led the White Sox with strikeouts by a mile and even threw a no-hitter this season. His downside was his ERA which ended up at 3.48. He pitched just as many games as Dylan Cease but accounted for more home runs and earned runs. Giolito has some work to do but Keuchel should be able to provide strong support for him.

Alex Colome had an impressive season as well in a close role. He compiled 12 saves, 22.1 innings pitched and allowed only 3 runs. He also finished with a career low 0.81 ERA. He honestly was the White Sox best pitcher statistically in the closing role.

Gio Gonzalez is the ranking old timer in the White Sox pitching core, his ERA blew up this year to just under 5.00. He still battled back though with 34 strikeouts making him one of the better pitchers in that statistic in the relief role. We expect to see him return to the White Sox although he has to re-sign as his current contract was for one year. Gonzalez needs to simply lower that ERA soon though.

What to expect from the White Sox in 2021?

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Their won’t be a World Series for the White Sox in 2021. We can all agree with that statement. 2020 though may have been a catalyst for a team that was thought to be non-existent though. Yes, this season was short and had it continued the White Sox would have finished just above .500, completely based on their current standings. They probably would have missed the playoffs by a nose-hair due to the AL Central being so tight but the future is bright.

Looking forward the guys that need to step up more are Grandal and Anderson. Anderson had a great season in 2020 but 2021 might prove him to be the best shortstop in the league not just in the American League. Pitching wise they need to keep their ERA’s low and more strikeouts are needed to be an impact team. They also might have a chance if the Indians do not resign Francisco Lindor this off-season which based on his recent comments might not happen. The White Sox like every team have kinks to work out but within the next 5 seasons they will be a force to be reckoned with in the American League, you hear it here.