The Long, Slow March To The Future – White Sox At The Halfway Mark

So here we are just about the halfway point of this halfway season in what feels like the 8th season of the White Sox rebuild.  There’s quite a bit to unpack , but what does it all really mean?  I feel like there’s been measurable progress this season for the first time ever with the rebuild.  Not that there wasn’t progress with the team before, but it was all measured by what trades and prospects that Rick Hahn was able to hoard either in the offseason or at the trade deadline.  Now this season we are starting to see some of the core of the rebuild coalesce and start to cut their teeth on some series wins.  So let’s dig in and see what’s what, shall we?

The Sox currently sit in 3rd place in the AL Central with a 37-41 record, a whopping 14 games behind this weekend’s opponent, the dirty Twins.  They’re also 6.5 games out of the wild card conversation, though just a few weeks ago they had that number down to 2.  They’re 4th from the bottom in the AL in runs scored with a -63 run differential, and third from the bottom with a team 5.03 ERA.  On the surface, this looks pretty terrible and would make me want to not watch another Sox game for the rest of the season let alone write about them.  Yet the games have been pretty fun thus far, and they only sit at 4 games below .500.  What does it all mean?

I think it’s safe to say that based on the squad that took the field at the beginning of April that this White Sox team has performed slightly above expectations.  ZIPS projections had the team at 71 wins for the entire season, a .444 win percentage.  The Sox current win percentage sits at .474, which projects out to a 77-85 season.  Compared to last season’s 62 wins that’s a drastic improvement.    The Sox have made this step forward even while dealing with Carlos Rodon’s exploding joke elbow, or in spite of the fact that they find their 5th starters for the rotation under the Green Line L tracks next to the Hockeenight home office.  The projections also included Jon Jay, who just this past week finally found his way into the Sox outfield.

We’ve seen solid progression from Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Eloy Jimenez.  Lucas Giolito has transformed into a legitimate top of the rotation candidate.  James McCann is going to be an All Star this season.  There’s a lot to be excited about, yet I can’t help but feel a little frustrated.  With all of the bad luck the Sox have endured, i feel like an 81+ win season was right there for the taking if the front office had any interest in doing so.  Instead we got the ridiculous song and dance with Manny Machado, which lead to nothing other than Yonder Alonso being set out by the trash yesterday.  If the Sox front office had any interest in putting a winning product out on the field this season Ivan Nova would be somewhere else, as would Jon Jay.  The Sox starting rotation would have an ERA under 6, and the OF would have a combined WAR of more than 3 (2.3 of which belongs to Eloy).  Dylan Cease wouldn’t continue to waste pitches down in AAA, working towards some invisible finish line that Rick Hahn has set for him.  Instead we are left to wonder where the Sox could’ve been at this point. It’s frustrating, but also worrisome at the same time, as the Sox will need to add outside talent to the core if they have deigns on competing next season and I don’t feel like Hahn knows how to add via free agency.  That’s further out, however.  Closer to now is the back half of the season.

Looking to the 2nd half of this season depends entirely on how long Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson are out.  If it’s a lengthy absence for either (or god forbid both), the 77 win season isn’t gonna happen.  The Sox -61 run differential is also begging for a market correction, as a team with offensive stats like that is coasting along on some luck.  In addition to that, there’s the question of whether or not the Sox sell off some pieces in the coming weeks.  Alex Colome, despite the blown save in the Red Sox series, would be a nice addition to any team looking to add for a stretch run, as would Aaron Bummer.  Wellington Castillo could be had for parts, and if there’s an offer for James McCann that blows Rick Hahn’s socks off I’d expect him to at least consider it.  Add all these parts up, and I feel like the ZIPS projection of 71 wins might be right on the money.  Dylan Cease coming up, or Zack Collins getting consistent playing time may alter those numbers slightly, but not much more than a win or two in either direction.  Adding 8 wins to the Sox total from last season is a solid improvement, and I’m in no way upset about it.

Just kinda disappointed.

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