MLB Coverage: South Side Disaster

No one was expecting great things on the South Side of Chicago this baseball season. The White Sox were not seen as a serious playoff contender, in spite of having made a strong push in the AL Central during the 2012 season. But did anyone really think the White Sox would be this bad—40-66, and almost twenty games off the second wild-card spot? And all this being done before the fire sale of talent at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline?

If you were expecting this, take a bow, because you could have made some money in Las Vegas. Earlier today, TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage reviewed  how American League teams are faring against their preseason Over/Under win props. And we found that the White Sox are the biggest disappointment in the league. Even with a modest number of 80.5—they only needed to go .500 to cash the Over—the White Sox are currently projected to miss the mark by almost 20 games.

Furthermore, the last two months are going to be played without Jake Peavy, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, all of whom have been traded to contenders. The nation’s most well-known White Sox fan is President Obama, and both the president and his team don’t seem to be enjoying 2013 as much as they did 2012, though of course Obama survived his hard-fought race. (FYI—if you’re one of these political activist-types who get in a snit every time someone makes a casual joke along these lines, or reads a lot into it, go away. A lot of us have our views, but don’t feel like letting it poison every other facet of human life).

Before we lay the 2013 Chicago White Sox officially to rest, or let their disappointing play slide under the radar simply because they weren’t perceived as a playoff contender, let’s take a look at who or what is to blame.

*INJURIES: This is usually where most disappointing teams have at least a little bit of an excuse. Peavy missed time—indeed, it was waiting for him to get to full health that was a subplot of the trade deadline sweepstakes. Crain still is injured, even after being traded to Tampa. And first baseman Paul Konerko, the heart and soul of the team, has done his own stint on the disabled list.

*ATROCIOUS OFFENSE: We can’t lay this all at the feet of injuries though. Konerko has still played enough to compiled 292 at-bats, and the time he’s been on the field hasn’t been productive. His stat line is .308 on-base percentage/.353 slugging percentage. Given that he’s 37-years-old, you have to consider that he’s finally hit the end of the line.

Chicago is last in the American League in runs scored, and we can also look at a so-so year from Alex Rios (.323/.425) and Adam Dunn (.321/.456). We’re all accustomed to Dunn’ s high strikeout rate, and low batting average—he’s hitting .214—and just let him make up for it by drawing walks and hitting home runs. But if there’s a point where this is no longer productive, Dunn has to be near it.

Dunn will be 34-years-old in November and Rios is 32. It’s not a good situation when you’re a rebuilding team and your three most historically productive position players are on the wrong side of 30.

Which brings us to Dayan Viciedo. A highly regarded young outfielder, Viciedo has not been able to generate any kind of consistency, with a lousy OBP of .296 and mediocre slugging at .413. This has been going on for a couple years and it’s fair to question if he’s ever going to make it. Viciedo failing to emerge would be a big blow to the rebuilding project.

*A BAD BULLPEN: It’s somewhat scary that the White Sox pen was only 12th in the American League with Crain and Thornton. Another young player that has to be questioned is Addison Reed. He’s got 26 saves, but has also blown five chances and his ERA of 3.91 is nowhere close to what you expect from a top closer. Like Viciedo he’s been highly regarded, and in both cases, I would give them 2014 to try and make good, but they have to be running out of chances to be considered a star-in-the-making.

There’s no real depth behind Reed, especially since the strip-mining done at the trade deadline. It’s unfortunate, because the starting pitching was pretty good. Chicago’s rotation ranked 5th in the league and Chris Sale’s 2.92 ERA in 20 starts has established him as the proverbial “real deal.” Unfortunately, it’s only gotten him six wins.

Chicago did the right thing at the deadline and looked to get younger prospects coming in. But given the disappointments of Viciedo and Reed, along with the ages of Konerko, Dunn and to a lesser extent Rios, it’s difficult to see better days ahead. At the very least, the Over/Under number will adjust accordingly and White Sox fans who visit Vegas in the spring might be able to grab an Over ticket on a number like 68.5 for 2014.