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What's Wrong With The Chicago White Sox?

The White Sox are underperforming. What is wrong with the team from the southside?

We're at the end of May, and the Chicago White Sox are 23-23. They were picked to win the American League Central by virtually every pundit and talking head. I know I sure did. The Minnesota Twins are up by four and a half games. The Chicago White Sox finished the 2021 season by winning the division, whereas the Twins finished dead last, 20 games behind the Sox. 

The White Sox still have a good roster and should be competitive, but they're lucky they haven't been far worse. Their Pythagorean win/loss record would put them at a humiliating 18-23. They're getting outscored, big time, giving up 212 runs and only netting 167 themselves. Again, I have to ask this question: what's going on with the Chicago White Sox? 

(Spoilers for White Sox fans, there is some positive talk about the Twins coming up and I know that isn't very pleasant)

Hitting The Ball

The first problem is pretty simple. The Sox are just not hitting the ball enough. As a team, their OPS+ is 86. That's a total 14 points lower than the league average. The Minnesota Twins OPS+ is 117, just for the record. Do some simple math and that's a difference of 31. In those 31 points, the difference is monstrous. Individually, some of these bats are underachieving. 

Jose Abreu is still posting a slightly better than average 108 OPS+. That's okay, I guess, but not for a slugger whose career OPS+ is 134. His OBP is down 20 points from his career average, too. 

Yasmani Grandal appears to have father time on his tail. His OPS+ is a minuscule 48 with a slash line that is .169/.279/.225. Grandal got on base at a ridiculous rate last season. All of his numbers are down. This is not to say Grandal is cooked, but he's at least at a parboil. 

AJ Pollock was acquired for Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel blew another save on Monday night but Pollock has been both underwhelming and injured. A 66 OPS+ from Pollock is not the number the Sox were hoping for when they traded for him.

It does not help the Sox that both of their best hitters, Tim Anderson and Luis Robert are currently injured. Tim Anderson has been phenomenal, more about him later, and Robert was posting a solid 117 OPS+ before his injury.  Andrew Vaughn has been a great bat for the Sox. Unfortunately, he has not been used enough or in the right spots. More on those choices later, too.

Pitching

The White Sox let Carlos Rodon go in the offseason. He is currently leading the National League in SO9 (strikeouts per nine innings) with a 3.60 ERA and a 113 ERA+. Those are good numbers. He's also been healthy. The White Sox could have used a healthy arm like that in their rotation. Michael Kopech has been phenomenal for the Sox as has Lucas Giolito. Dylan Cease has been just slightly better than average which is par for the course for him. Lance Lynn was supposed to lead this pitching staff, but he tore his meniscus just before the regular season. He's slated to be back at some point, but the Sox started off limping before the race began. With a cooked Dallas Keuchel (don't even try to argue, Keuchel has been cooked for a while now) and reliance on guys that shouldn't be shouldering big innings, the White Sox rotation needs Lynn back. 

Liam Hendriks has been good, but not great. It's hard to harp on a guy for being good, but Hendriks career numbers are a harsh judge to compare him to. His numbers are all slightly down. The White Sox acquired hard-throwing Joe Kelly in the offseason, and predictably he has been either hurt or bad. Kendall Graveman and Matt Foster have been solid in small sample sizes. This all leads to a pitching staff that has posted an ERA+ of 97. This is only three points below league average, but it's still below league average. Injuries certainly haven't helped, but this staff should still be better than it is. The pitching question is slightly more complicated, but there could be an answer.

The Elephants In The Room 

There's certainly blame in the hands of players who are just not performing. That's an easy answer. Anyone can go to a stats page as I did and point these things out. The more difficult part is blaming management. Wait. No, it is not. White Sox fans should be pointing fingers at Jerry Reinsdorf and his buddy, Tony La Russa. 

The White Sox could afford to spend more in the offseason. Reinsdorf's net worth of 1.8 billion could splurge for better bullpen pieces than Joe Kelly and spend more to retain Carlos Rodon. Reinsdorf should also be raked across the coals for hiring his friend and fellow dinosaur Tony La Russa. I could joke about "okay, boomer" but La Russa is older than a boomer. He's out of touch with the game. His lineup construction and his bullpen usage have also been called into question. Josh Harrison consistently hitting second while moving Andrew Vaughn further back (or out of the lineup) is just one of a hundred examples. This young White Sox team led by a generational talent like Tim Anderson deserved a manager more in touch with the game. They also deserved a manager who would use the Josh Donaldson incident as a catalyst to bring the team together. To La Russa's small credit, he called the incident racist as well, but then he showed who he truly is with his comments on Giants manager Gabe Kapler's decision to protest the National Anthem. Saying nothing would have been preferable. For the White Sox, La Russa's best choices often involve doing nothing, especially to the lineup. 

With poor leadership, lack of money spent on roster changes, bats underperforming, pitching underperforming, and a lot of on-the-field distractions, the White Sox are in a state of disarray. Given the number of runs given up versus runs scored, I have to say this to White Sox Fans:

It could be worse, I guess?