White Sox first half: disappointing, frustrating, suprising

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White Sox struggle to explain poor first half originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Halfway through the 2022 season, the White Sox sit at 39-42. They’re in third place in the division, six games behind the Twins. They’re five games back off a wildcard spot. And before their loss on Thursday night, they had a meager 31.4% chance to make the playoffs per Baseball Reference’s simulations.

You could use many adjectives to describe how their first half has gone, after entering the year with World Series aspirations: disappointing, frustrating, unsatisfying. But more than anything, it’s surprising.

“Honestly it’s hard to explain,” said A.J. Pollock. “It’s not really our job to explain, we’ve gotta go out there and we’ve gotta fix stuff. We’ve gotta put good routines out there, and keep working, and just hope it turns.”

One of the biggest mysteries has been why the seemingly stacked lineup hasn’t been able to launch home runs in a hitter-friendly ballpark, or score at a consistent clip. The team has gone through extended periods without some of their best hitters, like Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, and Yasmani Grandal. But even when they’re largely healthy, they’ve gone through cold streaks. The White Sox have a top-five batting average in MLB, but they rank in the bottom-10 in OPS, GIDP and runs scored. They’re bottom-five in home runs, averaging over 43 at-bats per homer.

“I feel like we’re a potent lineup,” Pollock said. “I feel like we can do damage any night. I feel like consistency has been our knock. But it’s hard to put a finger on.”

Count Dylan Cease among the unsurprised, however. Although that has more to do with the nature of the game than with the White Sox, specifically.

“Honestly, nothing in baseball, at this point, really surprises me anymore,” Cease said. “It’s just a day-to-day battle. Momentum’s great, but you’ve got to show up and win the next one.”

Momentum is something the White Sox have not been able to take advantage of for most of the year. Following a thrilling 9-8 extra innings win on Wednesday, the Sox fell flat on Thursday. After sweeping the Giants on the road, the Sox came home to lose two in a row to the Twins. Back in May, the White Sox pulled off a doubleheader sweep against the MLB-leading Yankees. They were blown out by the scuffling Red Sox 16-3 in their very next game, with a day off to rest in between.

Every time the team has taken one step towards getting over .500, they seem to take two steps backward. You’ve got to go all the way back to May 25 to find the last time the White Sox had a winning record, at 22-21. Yet, the White Sox aren’t losing faith, at least outwardly.

“Guys aren’t thinking, ‘We stink’ out there,” said Pollock. “Some nights you stink, but overall we know we have a talented group… It’s a crazy game. You have to stay focused, keep working, and you’re betting that things turn.”

It’s officially not “early in the year,” anymore, so that excuse for the White Sox woes is out the window. It’s also true that they still have runway to turn things around. However, they’ll have to figure things out sooner rather than later, and play better baseball in the second half to give themselves a shot at a playoff push. If not, they’ll squander a season right in the middle of what they expected to be their contention window.

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