In 2012, the Chicago White Sox were leading the division throughout the year before faltering during the final week to the Tigers. The downward spiral continued a year later as they finished with a dismal 63-99 finish. With former White Sox great Robin Ventura at the helm, South Side fans should not look for the upcoming season to be any better.
Chris Sale leads a young inexperienced rotation. At 24, Sale entered his fourth full seasons in the pros. Unlike many of his contemporary, he has avoided injury and transitioned remarkably well from middle reliever to the starting rotation. After posting a solid 17-8 record two seasons ago, it dipped last year to 11-14 because of the team’s anemic offense. Sale’s 1.073 WHIP was tops in the league and he averaged more than a strikeout per inning. The lanky left-hander looks to build on his repertoire and recent success to be more of a power pitcher. Opponents batted .230 against him and he was even tougher on lefties, not allowing any home runs and a .135 batting average. In 30 starts, only once was he knocked out before five innings as he kept his team in the game for the major of his outings. He is the ace of the rotation, face of the franchise, and the future for President Obama’s favorite team.
Behind Sale the White Sox have as many holes as questions. Jose Quintana has been a starter the past two years but his ERA just ballooned to 30.00 this spring. He needs to straighten things out quickly with the start of the season right around the corner. Erik Johnson is likely the team’s number two starter. The rookie has the best upside and displayed his potential in five starts last season. He posted a 3.25 ERA with a 3-2 record. His 32 hits and 11 walks in 27 innings is a concern but he should lean on Sale for help. Closer Addison Reed was traded in the offseason to Arizona leaving the White Sox with a closer-by-committee until someone steps into the role.
Team captain Paul Konerko declared 2014 to be his final season. While there will not be a Derek Jeter-type fanfare in his retirement, he will always be remembered as a White Sox legend. Konerko was instrumental in the team’s 2005 championship run, its first title since the Black Sox scandal in 1919. He gives away to Cuban defector and new offensive catalyst Jose Abreu. Without a game in the Majors, Abreu was signed to a huge deal and annotated the starting first base role. His potential is limitless but historic numbers in his first year is unlikely. Yoenis Cespedes has been solid his two years since leaving Cuba, but not overly great. Similarly, the expectations for Abreu are good but he is a few seasons away from being a dynamic hitter. Adam Dunn led the team with 34 home runs and 86 RBIs. The bulky lefty reminds fans of the Avengers’ Hulk with his tape-measure blasts. He should tack on another 40-homer season to his résumé.
As the White Sox fall out of contention (quickly), it is widely speculated this is Dunn’s final season with the team. He will be traded to a contender to replenish the minor league system. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez looked to be a second calling of Alex Rodriguez but his slugging percentage has tailed off dramatically since hitting 21 homers as a rookie in 2008. He led the team with 30 steals but GM Ken Williams was surely expecting more power.
Outside of Sale, Dunn and Abreu, the team is filled with youngsters trying to win a job or veteran castoffs. Ventura has the tough task of piecing together a consistent lineup. Fans will sell out U.S. Cellular Field every fifth day to watch Sale climb the strikeout chart but otherwise there is not much to cheer about in the South Side. If Ventura can keep the team from losing 100 games, it will count as a successful year.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/.