What to expect from White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson in 2022

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What to expect from Tim Anderson in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Chicago White Sox fans have watched Tim Anderson develop into one of the game's preeminent shortstops.

And nothing about that changed in 2021.

Anderson was again excellent. His batting average — .240 at the end of the 2018 season and now expected to soar well north of .300 on an annual basis — wasn't as high as his batting-title-capturing .335 from two years prior, or even as high as it was during the shortened 2020 campaign (.322). But at .309, it still ranked in the top 10 in baseball, fourth in the American League.

RELATED: How the Sox became Tim Anderson's team

Anderson has done what he long hoped to do: show everyone how good he is, not with talk but with his play. It took a few years of playing big league ball to get the job done, but he's now among the game's best, the face of the franchise on the South Side. The White Sox have adopted his attitude as they've climbed out of rebuilding mode and set their sights on a World Series championship.

"If you were to personify our attitude, kind of like what makes us a club, in one guy," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said last summer, "I would choose Tim Anderson.

"Even in failure, (he's like), 'That's not going to discourage me, that's not going to discourage us.' ... He has so much inner confidence that's not dictated by results. 'No matter if I went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, or I went 3-for-4 with three homers and a double,' it's the same guy every day.

"I think it just injects that level of confidence (into the whole team). We're ready to win, no matter what, no matter how we're feeling. Having a guy like that in the clubhouse, I think is hugely important."

But even with all he's accomplished, Anderson's got plenty left on his to-do list for 2022.

Chief among his goals, of course, is winning and winning big with these White Sox. He's talked about wanting to go all the way for years now, when it was just the mission statement of an ongoing rebuilding effort. Now it's a realistic end point to each season, and Anderson wants to go all the way.

"Everybody knows what we are here to do," he said two spring trainings ago. "We are here to win a championship, and we are here to take it all."

It'll come as no surprise to White Sox fans that any White Sox championship will feature Anderson as a central player. His critical importance to the team was highlighted during the second half of the 2021 regular season, when a nagging bout of leg soreness knocked him out of a stretch of games and knocked the wind out of the White Sox' sails in the process.

Manager Tony La Russa refers to Anderson, the team's leadoff hitter, as the squad's "igniter" — even comparing him to Michael Jordan at one point last year — and that was evident, the White Sox, especially on offense, rather lifeless without Anderson at the top of the order.

So then, what else should be near the top of Anderson's to-do list for 2022? Staying healthy. He missed nearly 40 games with various maladies, an early season hamstring tweak combining with that persistent late-season leg soreness to keep him from a full complement of contests. If Anderson can simply play more, he figures to extend his awesome impact on the White Sox and help power them toward those winning goals he talks so much about.

"Timmy is a fundamental piece on this team," White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo in September. "He's always trying to bring the energy every day. He's always talking. Sometimes you wonder if he's ever going to stop.

"When he's in the dugout, you feel that. When he was on the IL and he wasn't with us, you could notice a difference. The dugout was quiet. And then, when he came back, you knew that he was there because he was around speaking and talking with the guys. ... That's how we see his importance in some cases, how his personality reflects on the team."

But Anderson's central role goes beyond just availability and extends to showing up in the biggest moments, something he's made a habit of during his ascent to team leader. No one needs to be reminded of his statement-making heroics in an Iowa cornfield last summer.

Anderson was sensational in the White Sox' three-game 2020 playoff series against the Oakland Athletics, his first taste of the postseason, banging out a trio of hits in each game. While the White Sox' offense as a whole no-showed for three of the four games they played in the AL Division Series against the Houston Astros a year later, Anderson showed glimpses of trying to, to borrow a word, ignite his team. He had three hits in Games 2 and 3. He was a combined 1-for-8 in the other two games of the series.

Seven hits over the course of four games is nothing to sneeze at — a mark that tied Luis Robert for the team lead in the series — but surely Anderson would like to have done more. Like win.

What to expect from Anderson in 2022, then? Well, more of the same is the short version. But given better health, Anderson would figure to contribute his typical influence on an even greater scale. If the White Sox could advance further in the postseason, Anderson would get a chance to flex his muscles in the sport's brightest lights, something he relishes doing.

This is Anderson's team. If they're going to achieve their sky-high goals in 2022, they'll do it the Anderson way — with Anderson leading the way.

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