For fans of teams out of contention late in the year, a lot of September baseball watching is about finding silver linings: young players developing, personal achievements, and really any sign of hope for the coming year. For the White Sox, this month has provided a few such opportunities: Tim Anderson has continued to develop as a quality everyday player, Chris Sale is locking in on a good chance to win a Cy Young award, and Jose Abreu is making his prolonged slump to start the year seem like an aberration rather than a new trend.
Sunday, however, was not a day for positives. Instead it was a reminder that this team needs to be fixed drastically if it is to contend any time soon.
1. On paper, the pitching matchup looked like it could lead to an enjoyable contest between a pair of good left-handed starters. The Royals’ Danny Duffy–who is putting together quite a nice season this year (he headed into Sunday 11th in the AL in DRA among qualified starters)–held up his end of the bargain, twirling seven innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and eight hit, and allowing just two runs on a Todd Frazier home run.
Jose Quintana, however, did not do his part in making the game a pitchers duel. Quintana went a season-low four innings while allowing six earned runs, striking out just one, walking three and giving up a season-high 10 hits. While his season ERA is still a very respectable 3.26, it seems the hopes of the Sox breaking their 49-year AL ERA title drought rest solely on Sale.
2. As bad as Quintana was, his replacements over the next four innings were hardly better. Chris Beck and Jacob Turner both allowed two runs over two innings of work, highlighting a very real issue of bullpen depth in the Sox organization. Of the relievers in their organization, there are at most three (Nate Jones, David Robertson, and Dan Jennings) that I have any confidence in being serviceable next season. With the premium that is being put on elite relief talent, it is unlikely the sox will be able to afford any top-of-the-line arms for the pen next year, and will likely have to hope some high risk arms can provide them important innings.
3. Frazier hit his 37th home run of the year Sunday, which is good. His batting average and OBP are less good, but Frazier has not been the problem for the 2016 White Sox. What is a problem, and maybe the problem, is that Frazier is one of just two White Sox with 15 or more home runs this season. In a newly power-happy run environment where 132 players have hit 15 or more home runs this year, the White Sox are the only AL team with two or fewer such players and one of just three such teams in MLB. For a team that plays half of their games in a bandbox, there is simply no way they can have an offense capable of contending without adding significantly more power.
4. The White Sox started both Carlos Sanchez and Leury Garcia Sunday, two players whose respective OPS (On Base Plus Slugging Plus On Base Plus Slugging) sum to .863, just .032 points more than team-leading Jose Abreu’s OPS. While Tyler Saladino has been a bit of a revelation as player who can both field and hit a bit, watching Sanchez and Garcia look completely lost at the plate is a good reminder of how thin the White Sox major league-quality depth is. Any contention plan in 2017 will have to be on the back of a litany of acquisitions of major league players (yeah, right) or prayers that there are no injuries or under-performances from players set to start everyday.
5. While I went into this post planning on five negative points, I feel the need to sing the praises of Anderson. After a misplay on an attempted double play turn in the second inning cost the Sox an out at second, Anderson made a couple of fine plays in the field Sunday that showed off both his arm and range. Despite the occasional miscues, Anderson looks miles better than the guy who regularly botched routine plays early in his professional career. If he can continue to come into his own at the position, the physical tools could allow him to be a pretty special defensive player.
Team Record: 72-77
Next game is Monday at Kansas City at 1:15pm CT on CSN
Lead Image Credit: Denny Medley // USA Today Sports Images