White Sox Preview 2014

The 2013 White Sox had a lot of issues.  They were the worst offensive team in the league, scoring under 600 runs. Their pitching staff, which has plenty of potential, vastly underachieved. Consider the case of Chris Sale who is one of the best pitchers in the game and who, at  almost 25 years of age, has the trajectory and stuff to be a dominant left-handed pitcher.  The White Sox lost 99 games and Chris Sale had a record of 11-14 yet still managed to finish fifth in the AL Cy Young race.  Sale has a career ERA of under three and a runs-per-9-innings of 3.13. Couple his stats with the team’s 598 runs and you see why Rick Hahn has desperately tried to turn this offense around during the winter from hell.

After Sale there’s Jose Quintana who, also at 25, has some dominant stuff from the left side. Quintana’s ERA is in the mid-threes with a run-per-9-innings of 3.88. Quintana managed to have a winning record at 9-7. After the two front-line starters who would be top-of-the-rotation arms on most teams, there is a dramatic drop off. John Danks was absolutely awful last year finishing the season at 4-14, which says it all. Danks’ problem mostly had to do with the long ball where he gave up 28 home runs in just 138IP. Nobody’s going to win while giving up nearly two home runs a game while also averaging a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This year’s front three starters are expected to improve, but after that it’s two unproven commodities who’ll round out the rotation:  Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino, who’s only started 13 games in his career at age 30.

Now to the offense, which is where most of the questions reside. At the trade deadline the White Sox traded Jake Peavy to Boston in a three-team deal that included division-rival Detroit. The White Sox in return got Avisail Garcia and salary relief from Peavy. The outfield production was piss-poor last year and the lone bright spot was Alex Rios who was sent to Texas in a late waiver deal for Leury Garcia who’s a jack of all trades with an ability to play anywhere in the OF as well as 3B. In the offseason the White Sox added Adam Eaton to the mix from Arizona in exchange for Hector Santiago who was sent to the Angels in another three-team trade (Mark Trumbo was also involved in this trade). Eaton should start from day one in center with Dayan “Tank” Viciedo in left and Garcia in right. Whether or not that all pans out and improves one of the worst offensive outfields in the game remains to be seen, but at this point there’s only one way to go and that’s up.

The infield for the Southsiders is no different.  There’s the high-cost acquisition of Josè Abreu from Cuba. Abreu was a monster in the Cuban league bashing home runs with regularity. With Paul Konerko’s role being dramatically diminished from now on, it’ll be up to Abreu and Dunn to be the new one-two punch the Sox have lacked in the past. Ramirez and Beckham will again be the double-play combo this year and third base should be a revolving door with any number of guys filling the role on a nightly basis. Third base is currently a crowded position for Robin Ventura with the availability of Connor Gillespie, Jeff Keppinger and Matt Davidson. Davidson is knew this year to the Cell and shouldn’t be anything more than a platoon player baring injury. Ramirez was decent last year but an OBP of .313 is not acceptable for a lead-off hitter. Ramirez could drop in the lineup with Eaton now on the team, which may allow him to see better pitches having Abreu and Dunn waiting on-deck. Gordon Beckham’s 2013 was certainly one to forget as he only hit 5HR’s with 24 RBI’s and an average of .267/.322/.372. Beckham collected less than a hundred hits on the year in which he missed 59 games. A big part will be to get him healthy and playing a full season. Beckham was an extremely high draft pick for the Sox back in 2008 (8th overall), and with 2B turning into a power position with the likes of Brandon Phillips, Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano, Becks is going to have to improve his numbers if he wants to stay with the Sox for the long term. Beckahm’s WAR was .8 in 2013, showing the stiff competition at the position.

The biggest keys for the White Sox turning last year’s awful season around and reaching the Las Vegas line of 77 wins will be to get Abreu and Dunn pitches to hit. The only way to do that is to set the table and allow them to drive in runs, which is still the only stat that truly matters in baseball. If Dunn and Abreu both drive in 100+ runs and Ramirez and Beckham have high batting averages then the White should be just fine this year. The White Sox have two tremendous left-handed starters and a bunch of guys with potential. John Danks has the ability to turn things around and Erik Johnson is said to have the stuff to be in a major-league rotation.

The White Sox need to turn their fortunes around from last year because 99 losses were the worst in 43 years. There’s no way Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn will accept another season like that. The AL Central is a division on the rise with teams like Minnesota and Cleveland having very strong lineups projected. It’ll a tough task for Ventura and Co. to turn things around but it’s not impossible. I do think the Vegas line of 77 wins is a little generous and that may not come to pass, however after posting on 63 wins last year, getting to 75 wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of possibility.

The Southside has some great fans, but it’s still a tough sell for anyone to get too excited about the 2014 White Sox, however stranger things have happened. Look at the 69′ Mets and the 2013 Red Sox!