The Chicago White Sox have had a brutal start to the 2023 campaign. At 8-21 entering Tuesday’s series opener against the Minnesota Twins, they are sitting in fourth place in the AL Central division, 9.0 games back from first place. A promising split to open the season in Houston was followed by an embarrassing home opener, a 2-1 series loss to the red-hot Pirates, another series loss to the Twins, and then a painful 10-game losing streak handed to them by the dominant Tampa Bay Rays and stellar Toronto Blue Jays. The pitiful losing streak ended on Sunday with an epic seven-run rally in the ninth inning to come back from a 9-5 deficit to the best team in baseball.
Can the fans still hold on to hope? Can the Chicago White Sox really make a push to win the AL Central? If they want to, this is what needs to be done.
Despite a handful of lackluster offensive performances from the Southsiders this year, the pitching hasn’t really helped the team at all. The rotation has lacked the ability to go deep into games, and the bullpen, which happens to be the most expensive in baseball, has been giving up leads and letting games get out of hand.
Dylan Cease, a Cy Young Award contender last year and ace of the staff, started the year on a strong note with a dominant 10-strikeout performance against the defending champion Astros but has fallen upon a few mediocre starts for his standards. A lot of this can be chalked up to too many walks. When you walk too many batters, you throw too many pitches, which puts unnecessary stress on the bullpen. Cease has the potential to be one of the game’s best pitchers, and he has shown he can, but he needs to continue his dominant ways from 2022.
Among others that need to be better are Lance Lynn, Aaron Bummer, and Kendall Graveman. Each of these pitchers was given a vote of confidence with their big contracts, and none of them (along with many in the bullpen) have really lived up to it. Lance Lynn had a phenomenal 2022 but has slowed down a lot since. Aaron Bummer and Kendall Graveman are depended upon as being lockdown bullpen arms, but a lack of control from both of them has caused problems. They all need to be better if the Sox want to make the season worthwhile.
Chicago’s problems at the plate are all too similar to last year’s … too many groundouts and double plays, and not enough home runs. The Sox are relying on the bats of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert Jr. right now, but are being let down big time.
Jimenez is slashing .225/.295/.350 with two homers. Robert Jr. is slashing .213/.254/.407 with five homers. That’s not going to cut it for a team that wants to compete. Both of these players are supposed to be stars in this lineup, and they need to start living up to that expectation.
The team is also being let down by the second base position, which has been a problem for the past couple of years. Elvis Andrus and Lenyn Sosa have primarily played there, and they are almost a free out at the plate right now. For the season, the combined bWAR for those playing second base for the White Sox stands at minus-1.3, the second-worst in all of baseball.
If the Sox want to win games, they are going to need more production from this talented order. It’s that simple.
A common theme with the White Sox over the past couple of years has been their inability to stay healthy. Eloy Jimenez has played more than 50 games just twice in his five-year career, and Yoan Moncada has missed significant time both last year and this year. Add that to a quite fragile bullpen, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The White Sox simply do not have the depth to be able to afford these injuries. Replacements like Romy Gonzalez, Lenyn Sosa, and Hanser Alberto have all been well below average at the plate, and there aren’t many more options in the farm system for them.
A huge key to the White Sox success is simply staying on the field.
On paper, the White Sox have a very talented roster, but it’s the product on the field that matters in MLB. The White Sox have yet to win a series or back-to-back games, and the hope among fans is that the comeback win on Sunday can help spark the team to get back on track and make a run at the already weak AL Central division.