clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What’s wrong with the Chicago White Sox?

The White Sox find themselves in last place in the AL Central Division after losing their last five games.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Many pundits picked the Chicago White Sox to win the American League Central Division this season, but they’re not looking anything like contenders so far. Sunday’s 13-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins was their fifth consecutive defeat, and is just the latest example of how the 2015 has been up to this point.

While the Detroit Tigers lost former Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, and the Kansas City Royals lost their ace starting pitcher James Shields, the Chicago White Sox added starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. That move made the White Sox the only team in the American League with three starting pitchers who ranked among the top 20 in MLB for 2014, according to WAR.

The White Sox also added David Robertson, the closer from the New York Yankees, outfielder Melky Cabrera, slugger Adam LaRoche, and relief pitcher Zack Duke. Chicago had a large deficit to make up after finishing 17 games behind the first place Tigers last season, but many observers felt that the South Siders had closed the gap.

However, we are barely a month into the 2015 baseball season and the White Sox already find themselves seven games out of first place. What's gone wrong? In a nutshell, pretty much everything. The White Sox are 2-12 on the road and 8-13 against teams in their own division. During their recent five-game skid, they have been outscored 39-to-11.

The White Sox’s starting pitchers have gone 5-10 with a combined ERA of 5.40. Samardzija has an ERA of 4.76 and he's the best of the bunch. Perennial Cy Young contender Chris Sale has a 5.32 ERA, and Jose Quintana is at 5.28.

Offensively, the White Sox are batting just .241 with an on-base percentage of only .292. They have just 12 home runs and four stolen bases on the season as a team, and have a combined fWAR that is 1.1 runs below replacement level. That's for the whole team. Defensively, Chicago rates six runs below average, using defensive runs saved (DRS).

Individually, 2014 rookie sensation Jose Abreu is still slugging, but his batting average has dropped off. Meanwhile, Avisail Garcia -- who missed most of last season on the disabled list -- is off to a fine start, hitting .320 through his first 20 games. That’s where the good news ends. Abreu is the only player in the starting lineup that does not have a WAR below replacement level, overall.

Cabrera and LaRoche are not adjusting well, posting weighted on-base averages of .294 and .284, respectively. Centerfielder Adam Eaton is batting .192, while Tyler Flowers, Alexi Ramirez, and Conor Gillespie are hitting .213, .218, and .217, respectively. In the power department, Abreu has five home runs, LaRoche is at three, and no other White Sox player has hit more than one home run this season. A near-complete power outage.

Chicago ranked eighth among the 15 teams in the AL in runs scored in 2014. They subtracted Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, replacing them with Cabrera and LaRoche. So far the replacements have not paid dividends, but after finishing with 97 fewer runs than Detroit last season, the White Sox had a large gap to close.

The biggest story that the White Sox have generated this season is their brawl with the Kansas City Royals, which resulted in a pair of five-game suspensions for Samardzija and Sale. The two pitchers are expected to drop their appeals after their starts against Detroit this week.

There is one area where the White Sox have shown marked improvement this season, and that is in their bullpen. Robertson has not allowed an earned run in eight games and Duke has a 1.93 ERA in 10 games.  Unfortunately for Chicago, few of their games see a situation where they are leading in the late innings.

This is not the kind of start that the White Sox had in mind, when they began the season full of hope and optimism for the coming campaign. Across town, the Chicago Cubs are looking like a contender. Unless the White Sox can turn things around pretty soon, it's going to be another long, hot summer for baseball fans on the South Side of Chicago.