There’s much to improve on in second half for White Sox
The record at home, defense, baserunning, power numbers and health must get better. “It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish,” Tim Anderson said.
The White Sox have the easiest remaining schedule in baseball.
The American League Central, the weakest division in the league and perhaps all of baseball, is there for the taking.
That is, if the Sox are up to it. And up for it.
They say they are.
“It’s not about how you start; it’s how you finish,” shortstop Tim Anderson said at the All-Star Game this week.
The Sox entered this post-All-Star-break portion of a disappointing, sometimes maddening season sitting at .500 over their first 92 games. It took an inspired 11-7 record over 17 days to get there, capped by three wins in four days against the first-place Twins in Minnesota. The Twins’ lead was cut to three games. The Guardians, who play four games at Guaranteed Rate Field starting Friday, are a game ahead of the Sox.
“Everyone has seen that we haven’t quite lived up to our potential, and that’s something we’re very aware of in that clubhouse,” All-Star closer Liam Hendriks said this week. “But we control our destiny. And this has given us a chance. We have not played our best baseball, especially against the Central, and that’s something we can pick up in the second half.”
A talking point in that clubhouse is the 2021 Braves, who were 44-45 at the All-Star break and won the World Series. You gotta have hope.
For the Sox to be in the World Series conversation or, to a lesser degree, a division champion capable of overtaking a powerhouse such as the Yankees, or the Astros or even the blazing Mariners, so much has to be different in their last 70 games.
They have to run smarter on the bases and play cleaner on the field. They have to hit more home runs, and they have to play better at home.
Their big-money players must produce bigger-money results. Right-hander Lance Lynn ($18.5 million in 2022) is 1-3 with a 7.50 ERA in seven starts. Yasmani Grandal ($18.25 million) is batting .185/.294/.237 with two homers in 50 games. Yoan Moncada
($13 million) is trending up of late, but he batted .213/.263/.337 with five homers in 49 games. Reliever Joe Kelly ($7 million) has contributed 16‰ innings with a 7.56 ERA. Eloy Jimenez ($6.5 million) is batting .227/.268/.333 with two homers in 19 games.
Injuries, a significant storyline in the first half, affected all of the above. The Sox need to be healthier.
On that front, more should be known from the Sox on Friday about center fielder Luis Robert, who missed the last two-plus games at Minnesota because of light-headedness; Jimenez, who missed the Twins series because of leg soreness related to the surgery he had in late April; and Grandal, who said he expected to be over his lower-back problem and ready to rejoin the team after the break. Grandal went 9-for-25 with two homers and 13 walks between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte before the break, numbers more reflective of his potent 2021 season.
The Sox rank 28th in fielding metrics, according to FanGraphs, and are tied for second in errors. Playing half their games in a hitters’ park, they’re 24th in homers and 18th in slugging percentage.
Only five teams have a worse home record than the Sox at 19-25, so that must change. A splendid chance to improve on that lies ahead with the next 12 home games against the Guardians, Athletics, Royals and Tigers.
Manager Tony La Russa, whose in-game decisions and lineup constructions will continue to be watched closely by media and fans after a heavily scrutinized and second-guessed first half, guided his team to a 27-21 record on the road, the sixth-best mark in the majors. He promised improvement at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I guarantee you those numbers will be reversed at home from here to the end,” La Russa said. “We’re going to be a very good club at home.”
Sit back, relax and strap it down.