Well here we are at the All-Star break and while they may not have taken the most traditional route to get there, the White Sox are about where I thought they would be.
At present, they sit two games over the .500 mark at 45-43. They came up one win short of the benchmark I set for them a few weeks ago of hitting the break at 46-42 by losing two of three at home to the lowly Braves to stumble into the break.
The Sox are seven games behind the Indians in the American League Central and 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot with two teams (Houston and Detroit) ahead of them. They have a negative run differential (-12) as well.
As most expected the pitching has been pretty solid overall. They are fifth in the AL in ERA (4.02) and runs allowed. They have also managed to allow the second-fewest home runs in the league. However, they are 13th in the AL in walks and just ninth in strikeouts.
Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have been good, as expected. Carlos Rodon has struggled some but has also had some tough luck. Miguel Gonzalez has been good enough in the fifth starter role and James Shields seems to have remembered how to get batters out over the last handful of starts. The pitching hasn’t been great, but it’s been pretty solid for the South Siders.
At the plate however, it is a different story. The Sox rank 12th out of 15 AL teams in runs scored. They are also 12th in hits, batting average, and on base percentage. They are 13th in homers, slugging and OPS.
Todd Frazier has provided the power the Sox were hoping with a team high 25 homers, but his .213 batting average and .305 on base percentage are well below career average. He also has just nine doubles after collecting 43 just a season ago.
Jose Abreu is starting to heat up, but his slugging percentage is down almost 70 points from last year and his ISO (isolated power) is down from .212 last year to .158 this year.
The addition of Tim Anderson has sparked the team over the last few weeks. Anderson has been great, batting .304 with 14 extra base hits and 10 RBI in 28 games.
Looking at the breakdown versus opponents from the first half, it is pretty easy to see where the Sox problems lie. The Sox are seven games over .500 against non-division opponents at 31-24. That includes their full season series against current wild card teams Boston and Toronto, who the Sox went 9-4 against. They also won their season series against Texas, the team with the best record in the American League.
The flip side of that coin is the Sox record against the AL Central, which stands five games under .500 at 14-19.
That includes an 8-1 mark against the Twins. Against the Tigers, Royals, and Indians the Sox are a putrid 6-18.
This is important because, after the All-Star break the Sox will play 43 of their final 74 games (58%) against the AL Central. They have 10 games left against the Twins, Royals and Indians, and 13 left against the Tigers. They must find a way to play better against the AL Central in order to have any shot at a playoff spot.
So with the trade deadline approaching at the end of the month, the question for the Sox is simple: buy or sell?
Personally, I believe that this question has really already been answered by the front office. They are going to continue to try and go for it this year and next. That is why they traded for James Shields and signed Justin Morneau.
And they really have no choice right now. The majority of the roster is under team control through at least 2017 when Melky, Frazier, Lawrie, and Duke will become free agents. Robertson and Shields are under contract through 2018.
While the outlook for this year doesn’t look great, they are by no means out of the hunt and they can also try and set themselves up for next year. My guess is that they will try and acquire a bat that will help them this year and the next, as well as going after a bullpen arm. Of course doing so will require them to dip into a farm system that is once again getting thin.
If the Sox are unable, or unwilling, to acquire another middle of the order bat and instead hope that Morneau and the return of Austin Jackson will be enough, they will certainly fall short of the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
Of course, should the Sox stumble out of the gate in the second half and find themselves too far out come the end of the month, they shouldn’t be opposed to selling. Cabrera, Frazier, and Lawrie would all be options to help a team. And they could even think about moving someone like Quintana if a contender is willing to put together a big enough package of prospects and/or young major leaguers.
One way or the other, Sox fans are likely to learn a lot about the direction of the franchise over the next few weeks.