To what degree it will be addressed in 2022 remains to be seen, but the White Sox’ below-average defense that was evident this season reared its ugly head during the first two games of the American League Division Series.
Meanwhile, the Astros caught everything in sight and made good play after good play.
The difference was glaring.
“People don’t always give the importance they might need to for the defensive side of things,” Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel said.
“In the playoffs especially, pitching and defense is what wins you games, and you need to have good defense if you want to advance.”
As Astros manager Dusty Baker put it: “You can’t win on defense, but you can lose on defense. I’m more surprised when we don’t make the plays. I’m more surprised when we make errors.”
The Sox ranked 26th among 30 teams in defensive runs saved. The Astros were second.
In the first two games of the ALDS, both losses, the Sox were not charged with an error, but Leury Garcia misplayed a fly ball in right field for a two-run double in Game 2, and multiple throws from the outfield were off-target.
Gold Glove center fielder Luis Robert, caught between diving or pulling up to stop a one-hop single in Game 2, played it into a double.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal’s defensive forte is pitch-framing, not blocking, and that came to light on a wild pitch by Lucas Giolito that moved a runner from second to third, setting up a run in Game 2.
Sox catchers had 18 passed balls this season, and the combination of 84 wild pitches and 18 passed balls led the majors, as much an indicator of blocking abilities as Sox pitchers’ propensity to throw breaking balls in the dirt.
Anderson downplays experience
Shortstop Tim Anderson approaches postseason games like any old “normal” game, he said.
“I mean, I don’t really get nervous,” Anderson said before Game 3 of the ALDS. “These are the moments you want to be in.”
The Astros are used to this, it being their fifth straight postseason and all. Anderson, 13-for-25 in his first five postseason games before Sunday, played like he has done it all his life. He racked up a franchise-record four three-hit postseason games.
“The only reason it’s ‘postseason’ is because that’s what they call it,” Anderson said.
Rodon workload ‘not an excuse’
Left-hander Carlos Rodon was hoping for a win that would give him the start in Game 4. When he was breezing through the first half of the season as one of baseball’s most dominant starters, he looked like a Game 1 or 2 starter for the postseason.
But his balky shoulder turned him into a question mark in October.
“My goal this year was to just get through the whole season and obviously perform,” Rodon said. “Staying on the field and getting through the whole season, the performance would just take care of itself.
‘‘I wouldn’t call it injury. You know, it’s more arm fatigue and soreness, to be honest.”
Noting his innings total of 42⅓ combined over the previous two seasons, Rodon called the 132⅔ innings this season a big workload.
“It’s not that I don’t want to take on the workload,” he said. “It’s just — it’s kind of hard on the body, I guess.
“That’s not an excuse. I’m still standing here now trying to get on the mound and pitch, do my job.”