The Evergreen White Sox Problem

Upon drafting the headline, I hesitated, because it could describe a number of things with this organization. But in this instance, I am speaking specifically about the White Sox’ perpetual habit of gushing blood at several spots on the lineup and being clueless as to how to fix it. It’s been going on so long that I can’t tell if it’s simply a hobby horse of mine, or whether it is an inevitable result of the decades-long position player development failure paired with low budgets. “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee,” indeed.

Well guess what, it happened again. With all of the caveats cited in my January piece about single-season WARP totals–although FRAA is better than say, UZR or DRS–the White Sox wound up using as regulars a bunch of below-replacement level players.  By this metric, recently departed Dioner Navarro was the worst position player in the majors at -2.4.* But it doesn’t stop there. J.B. Shuck has now accumulated 231 PAs and in that time his .250 OBP and .307 SLG have been good enough for a -1.2 WARP, 8th worst in MLB.

If the excuse here is, “They were counting on Austin Jackson and he got hurt” I would point out that Jackson himself was below replacement when he was injured for the rest of the season as well.  And while we’re at it, if the plan is, “Nobody can get hurt, even our worst position players, or we’re done,” then the plan is really bad.

*The second-worst weighed in at -1.9 so Navarro was basically lapping the field. 

Even if we grant a mulligan for Jimmy Rollins‘ stopgap -0.3 WARP, we have Carlos Sanchez‘ breathtaking season wherein his meager 98 PAs were so bad that he is still the 21st worst player in baseball by this measure.  I haven’t even had to mention Avisail Garcia, who is somehow barely above replacement level, but only because, for reasons that elude me, FRAA likes his defense. So if you disagree with its assertion that he is a positive in the outfield, he too is one of the worst players in the league.

“Once again this team proves that replacement level doesn’t exist if you have no organizational depth.” – Ethan Spalding

They’ve had some bad luck, to be sure, although of all the rookies who got injured this year, Charlie Tilson likely represented the only realistic upgrade on what they have.  Shuck is a low bar to clear, as we discussed, but even so, you’d have to be pretty bullish on Tilson to have expected him to perform much better than Jackson’s bench-quality production this year anyway.

So it’s been another season of simply rearranging problems instead of solving them.  To be sure, the infield is in better shape than it was–third base and second base have legitimate major leaguers in place for 2017 (although afterward they project to be disasters again), and barring incident, shortstop looks like it has a long-term solution.  However, designated hitter, starting catcher, and at least one outfield spot are all looking dire again, and the September call-ups do not offer excitement about next year the way, say, Trayce Thompson did.  And again, left field is looking like a void waiting to happen after 2017 as well.

The White Sox are now more than a few seasons into their overhaul of their Latin America program and the CBA overhauling the draft to suit their preferences, and yet the depth is still woefully inadequate at the major league level and in the high minors.  An organization that won its only World Series in a century with a team that was defined by a lack of weaknesses, instead of elite players carrying dead weight, they have since tried for more than a decade to make the latter work, to no avail.

What’s that cliche about the definition of insanity again?


Lead Image Credit: Rick Osentoski // USA Today Sports Images



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