MLB Season Win Total
Chicago White Sox u83½ -110

Posted on March 14 -- are subject to change.

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Season Win Total

Chicago White Sox under 83½ -110

Going into the 2022 season, optimism surrounded the White Sox. The team had waltzed to a Central Division title with 13 games of cushion in 2021 with a 93-69 record. Yes, it was compiled in a weak division, but it was still the third-best record in the league. A blend of exciting young players (Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Andrew Vaughn, Yoán Moncada, Luis Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet) and solid veterans (José Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks) looked set to rule the division for years.

It didn’t work out that way. Abreu, who’s gone, and Cease, who was wonderful, were the only players among those mentioned who avoided the injured list. Manager Tony La Russa seemed out of touch at times, intentionally walking batters with two strikes on them, and eventually left the club with health issues of his own. The 2021 division champions spent only 11 days in first place, the last of them on April 20.

Following the disappointing season, the White Sox distinguished themselves by being the only team to earn a grade of F in The Athletic’s wrapup of the offseason. They signed Andrew Benintendi to take over left field from AJ Pollock (departed to the Mariners via free agency) and keep Eloy Jimenez from hurting himself in the field. To replace Johnny Cueto, an end-of-spring-training signee who was third on the club in innings (signed by the Marlins), the White Sox inked Mike Clevinger, who (1) last qualified for the ERA title in 2018, (2) had Tommy John surgery in 2021, (3) was suspended for violating COVID-19 protocols in 2020, and (4) will be evaluated by, and be required to comply with recommendations from a joint treatment board to address accusations of domestic violence.. On top of that self-inflicted wound, closer Liam Hendriks will miss at least the start of the season to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 

Superficially, this team isn’t that much different from the 2021 division champions. A lot of the names are the same. But they have a rough 2022 on them, and the front office has provided little in the way of reinforcements.

Grandal, long an elite pitch framer with underappreciated on-base skills, had a miserable 2022 in which he began to show his age (now 34). He missed 40 days with back spasms and 10 more with a strained knee. Those injuries lingered even when he did make the field, as he had his worst year at the plate (.202/.301/.269, 84 DRC+) and his defense, formerly elite, was merely very good. Zavala was okay as a  #2 but may be a stretch as a no. 1. The all-important catching position will be average on its best day. That’s not a good start for the South Side. 

Andrew Vaughn, primarily as a corner outfielder, generated -7.7 DRP (Deserved Runs Prevented) in 2021 and -8.2 in 2022. With Abreu gone, he’ll get to play first base, where he played in college and in his one minor league season in 2019. It’s hoped that the return to a familiar position, more aligned with his abilities (Statcast rated him in the 25th percentile for sprint speed and first percentile for outfield jump) wil unlock his bat, which was fine (110 DRC+) in 2022 but fell short of his no. 14 pre-2021 prospect ranking. 

Tim Anderson is the man at SS but there is no way a guy with a 4% walk rate and a .350-plus BABIP can avoid regression, but he breaks the mold, year after year. His worrisome drop in ISO (Isolated Power), from .159 in 2021 to .093 in 2022 can, it’s hoped, be attributed to his portfolio of injuries. He’s one of the sport’s most watchable, dynamic players. DRP hasn’t bought in on his defense, and the analytics project only a 105 DRC+, but again, he breaks the mold.

Yoán Moncada hasn’t matched his uber-prospect pedigree, but he’s a perfectly adequate third baseman, with a double-digit walk rate and .160-plus ISO when healthy. Unfortunately, that adjective was elusive in 2022, with three injured list stints, and the falloff if he’s not available is steep. 

The White Sox’ primary second baseman in 2022, Josh Harrison, signed with the Phillies in December. Elvis Andrus, picked up last August from the A’s (who wanted to avoid his $15 million vesting option), looks to be the top choice at the position. He hit .271/.309/.464 after taking over at shortstop from the ailing Anderson. Should he falter—he’s 34, has never played any position other than short in the bigs, and was decidedly below average at the plate between 2018 and his arrival in Chicago—the White Sox have Gonzalez and García available to back up there, or at pretty much any other position. Their versatility—García played five positions last year, Gonzalez four—is helpful. Their bats—59 DRC+ for Gonzalez, 12 for Garcia in 2022—are not. Non-roster invitee Hanser Alberto, who put in time at all four infield positions and pitched in ten games for the Dodgers last year, could contribute as well. Lenyn Sosa, the team’s 11th-ranked prospect, may be its second baseman of the future, but the future probably isn’t 2023.

Andrew Benintendi was the team’s big offseason signing, inking a five-year, $75 million deal to take over left field. He’s only 28, a solid player who doesn’t do anything remarkably well or badly. He’s projected to deliver solid defense and a 107 DRC+. His presence means Jimenéz, the club’s oft-injured top hitter post-Abreu, can avoid the harms inherent in standing in the outfield with a glove on one hand. He’ll still get some reps there, likely against tough lefties that could send Benintendi to the bench.

Luis Robert Jr. dealt with multiple maladies in 2022. His health is vital to the White Sox; when he’s on, he’s a top-third-of-the-lineup bat with pop and speed. The advanced metrics are mixed on his defense, but he’s at worst OK. Like Anderson, he tends to swing at anything relatively close to the plate, and he walks only by appointment, but he makes enough contact (20%-ish strikeout rate) to make things exciting.

The right field job is Oscar Colas’ to lose. The White Sox’ latest top-101 prospect terrified pitchers at three levels last year, hitting for average (.314) and power (.524). He walked a little, 7%, too, but facing major league pitching, that rate is likely to recede, and the 23% strikeout rate to climb. If he stumbles (analytics isn’t optimistic), the incumbent, Sheets, who’ll see time at first and DH as well, will take over. Benintendi, Colas, and Sheets are the only lefty swingers on the team. Moncada is a switch-hitter who’s more effective batting left. Everybody else bats right or, in the case of Grandal and García, is a switch-hitter who’s better from the right side. 

Beyond that, we’re looking again at the likes of Gonzalez and García. Burger, another failed-to-launch former top prospect, will back up in the outfield and at third. Céspedes—Yoenis’ younger half-brother—played at Double-A Charlotte last year and could see some late-season action.

Dylan Cease was one of MLB’s top pitchers last year, tied for seventh in WARP (4.5) and DRA- (71), third in ERA (2.20), fourth in whiff rate (33.3%), fifth in strikeout rate (30.4%). He walks a lot of guys—his 10.4% walk rate was the highest among 45 qualifiers by a full percentage point—but if everything else is working, that’s not a problem. And other than a brief stay on the COVID-19 IL in 2021, he’s never missed a turn in the majors. If he gets injured, well, that’s another reason to go under this total.  

Beyond that, questions abound. Lance Lynn was wobbly in his return from knee surgery (5.88 ERA through his first 11 starts). He righted the ship the rest of the way (2.18 over his final 10). He’ll be 36 in May and the list of age-36-or-older pitchers with a better-than-average DRA over the past two years is just two seasons of Max Scherzer and Charlie Morton and one each of Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright. Giolito had the same 11-9 record in 2022 as 2021 but his strikeout rate fell by 2.5% to 25.4%, his walk rate rose by 1.5% to 8.7%, and his DRA- climbed from 89 to 106. It’s unclear which is the outlier.  Kopech moved from the bullpen to the rotation last year, saw his strikeout rate drop from 36.1% to 21.3% and his walk rate rise from 8.4% to 11.5%, and missed time with a knee strain and a shoulder inflammation. Clevinger hasn’t had a better-than-average DRA since 2019 and last year had the 36th-lowest strikeout rate, 18.8%, of 140 pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. Some of his struggles can be blamed on a sore right knee, which required a PRP injection over the winter. (I know someone that had a PRP injection in his knee once. It didn’t do anything. This is not to be confused with clinical evidence). 

Having all five starters available and effective all year seems a pretty big ask, and also a vital one. Martin, who bounced between Charlotte and Chicago last year, and 2021 draftee Burke, who needs time at Triple-A, are probably next in line. Lambert, primarily a reliever in 2022 (40 relief appearances, two starts) could fill in as well.

Hendriks’ absence casts a long shadow; he’s not only an outstanding closer, he’s the pitching staff’s Tim Anderson, its emotional center. Manager Pedro Grifol doesn’t intend to go with a single closer in Hendriks’ absence, so Graveman, along with López and Bummer, will all likely get opportunities. Graveman’s 97 mph heat generates weak contact, López generates chases (37% o-Swing rate, 34th among 273 pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched) and avoids walks (4.3%, 14th), and Bummer, the lefty in the trio, has a career 83 DRA- with a 95 mph sinker that is a groundball machine. 

The rest of the primary relievers—righties Ruiz and Kelly and lefty Diekman—all strike out a lot of guys (25%-plus rate for all three) and walk more than you’d like (12%-plus for each). Avila is a Rule 5 pickup from the Giants who had a 1.14 ERA, 28% strikeout rate, and 4% unintentional walk rate at High-A and Double-A last year. If he sticks, he’ll get garbage time until he can establish himself. Crochet, last seen generating a 28% strikeout rate (and a 12% walk rate) with his fastball/slider combo in 2021, hopes to return in May from Tommy John surgery. Bryan Shaw’s in camp as an NRI after an ineffective Age-34 season for the Guardians, 

You could look at this team and say, correctly, that it’s mostly the same ensemble that easily won the Central two years ago. You could also say, correctly, that they were bit pretty viciously by the injury bug last year, and at least some of that may be bad luck. But in professional sports, staying pat isn’t good enough. The same guys are two years older, and for Grandal, García, Lynn, Graveman, Hendriks, and Anderson, that puts them on the wrong side of 30. The biggest additions to the team—Graveman over the ‘21-’22 offseason, Benintendi over the past one—are fine, but not the frontline starting pitcher or second baseman the team needs. And the Clevinger pickup blew up in management’s faces. It’s reasonable to expect a better performance on offense in 2023, even without Abreu, counting on a return to health for key players. A better performance on the mound is a little harder to envision.

The change in the dugout may prove to be the most momentous. Longtime Royals coach (the last two as bench coach) Grifol takes over the manager role from La Russa. At 53, he’s expected to be more analytics- and player-friendly than the 78-year-old drunk Hall of Famer. His challenge will be to make do with a weak bench behind the stars, a low-ranked farm system, and an owner unwilling to pay for top free agents. Frankly speaking, we have no idea how the South Side will manage to play over .500, as there are so many things that could go wrong and not a lot that could go right.  We're going to press a bit on this one and make is a 3 unit wager.

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Our Pick

Chicago White Sox u83½ -110 (Risking 3.3 units - To Win: 3.00)