COMMENTARY | The Chicago White Sox (63-99) finished in last place for the first time since 1989.
Don't remember that team? Led by Melido Perez, Dan Pasqua, Carlton Fisk and Ozzie Guillen, the '89 White Sox (69-92) played a unique brand of bad baseball in the old American League West.
That is, of course, until this season's squad redefined the meaning of bad on the South Side. It was a failure of the greatest magnitude. Failure may be too kind of a word, actually. Unmitigated disaster is more appropriate, and there are five reasons that stand above the rest to explain why the 2013 season went the way it did for the White Sox.
One year after committing the fewest errors (70) and finishing with the highest fielding percentage (.988) in the AL, per baseball-reference.com, the White Sox made 121 errors and ended the 2014 season with a .980 fielding percentage.
Alexei Ramirez, usually a plus defender, led the way with an astonishing 22 errors. Normally sure-second baseman Gordon Beckham also had a bad season and committed 12 errors. Simply stated, the defense was systemically bad.
From passed balls, missed cutoff men and bad angles on line drives, the fielding was horrendous. The inability to catch and throw the baseball led to an amazing 80 unearned runs scored against Sox pitching.
Robin Ventura was stubborn
In-game decisions are of no consequence here. While important, they are too easy to point to. Ventura's stubbornness is what's at issue here.
It was apparent that Tyler Flowers was not getting the job done before April ended, for example, yet he remained the No. 1 catcher until before the All-Star break when Josh Phegley was promoted. Ventura also stuck with Jeff Keppinger in the two-hole even as he almost single-handedly prevented the offense from generating any momentum. And why wasn't Adam Dunn batting seventh when May began?
Granted, the options to replace the underachieving were few, but as a season begins to unravel, it is wise for a manager to do everything in his power to try and right the ship. Ventura stayed the course too long.
Running into trouble
The White Sox collected 2104 total bases in 2013, and if the number of times base runners were picked off is included, they recorded an unacceptable 76 outs on the basepaths (OOB). To put the woefulness into context, baseball-reference.com notes that last year's team finished with 2328 total bases, only recorded 67 OOB and was picked off a mere 11 times.
The greatest offender was Alejandro De Aza. He was picked off 11 times this season and recorded a total of 24 OOB batting leadoff. Fittingly, De Aza was doubled off second base during the season-ending loss to the Kansas City Royals.
The long ball was gone
The White Sox's general inability to get on base was a driving force behind the worst offense in the American League in 2013. Then again, the Sox haven't been a team whose success was predicated on a high OBP for some time. What they have done well in the past is hit for power, and that was not the case this year.
After ranking third in the AL in 2012 with 211 home runs, the Sox hit 148 this year, according to baseball-reference.com. Sure, Adam Dunn (34 home runs) did his part, but the long ball from Dayan Viciedo (14) and Paul Konerko (12) was not there when it needed to be. The drop in power was a large reason why they scored the fewest runs (598) in the AL and why hitting coach Jeff Manto is out of a job.
An incomplete set of starters
After Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, the White Sox failed to find any sort of consistency in the starting rotation. Hector Santiago was too mercurial. Gavin Floyd underwent Tommy John surgery after a terrible start. John Danks did not locate as effectively as he has in the past, and Dylan Axelrod is hardly serviceable as a garbage-time reliever, let alone a No. 5 starter.
With a stagnant offense, the starters needed to be on point each time out. Yes, it may be an unrealistic expectation, but when the 2013 season is examined, the lack of consistency from the bottom of the rotation must be considered.
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