White Sox 2015 Final Grades

Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field - credit City of Chicago_Chris McGuireThe Chicago White Sox were better in 2015 than they were in 2014. We all saw that coming, right? After all, the team spent a lot of money patching up the team’s holes during the offseason. They needed a closer, so they signed David Robertson. They needed a right-handed starting pitcher, so they traded for Jeff Samardzija. They needed a powerful left-handed bat, so they signed Adam LaRoche. And so on, and so forth…

What we didn’t see coming, however, was the magnitude (or lack thereof) by which the Sox improved their record from a season ago.

Three games.

From 73-89 to 76-86.

Three games.

David Robertson, Jeff Samardzija, Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera…… Three games.

So what went wrong? Let’s hand out the annual final grades at each position and compare them to last year’s final grades to determine which players failed to improve and/or hold up their end of the bargain of competing for a playoff spot this season.

Catchers

2014 Final Grade: C

2015 Final Grade: D-

I thought that I was generous last year when I gave our catchers a “C”. But last year, there was a point at which Tyler Flowers was actually on a hot streak. Correct me if I’m wrong, but at no point at all this year was either Flowers or Geovany Soto on any sort of hot streak. The team’s outlook at the catcher position should be plain and simple at this point – FIND A NEW CATCHER. The only thing saving this unit from a failing grade is the fact that Chris Sale seems to always give credit to Flowers for his ability to call a game from behind the plate. But heck, the man can’t hit for average, hit for power, run the bases, or throw out baserunners, so he better be able to call a good game.

1st Basemen/DHs

2014 Final Grade: A

2015 Final Grade: B-

As expected, Jose Abreu was terrific in his second year in the Major Leagues. Last year, he set the world on fire with a .317 average, 36 HR, and 107 RBI. His numbers were down a bit this year at .290/30/101, but still not disappointing by any means. Adam LaRoche, on the other hand, was the definition of a disappointment. The Sox brought him to town on a two-year $25 million contract, and he turned out to be nothing more than a replica of the infamous Adam Dunn in his first year on the south side. LaRoche was one of baseball’s consistent run producers over the years. In 11 seasons spent in the big leagues before heading to Chicago, LaRoche became a lock to hit at least 20 home runs and drive in at least 80 runs in any given season. But things didn’t turn out as we all hoped they would in 2015. LaRoche’s numbers dipped to .207/12/44 , and his inability to drive in runs was one of the primary reasons that the Sox offense was so inept.

2nd Basemen

2014 Final Grade: C-

2015 Final Grade: C-

After a handful of underwhelming seasons with Gordon Beckham as the every day 2nd baseman, the team finally decided to move onto the next chapter. Carlos Sanchez was the primary 2nd baseman in 2015. His defense was spectacular, but his hitting was abysmal. He spent the first two months of his season hitting in the mid-.100s, and it took him over two months to get his average over .200. Micah Johnson was supposed to be the 2nd baseman of the future, but his defense didn’t appear to be Major League ready which forced the Sox to replace him with Sanchez. While the team is hopeful that both of those players can work on their flaws this winter, this doesn’t appear to be a position with much promise moving forward.

3rd Basemen

2014 Final Grade: B

2015 Final Grade: D+

Conor Gillaspie was quietly one of the American League’s most productive offensive 3rd basemen in 2014. His power numbers weren’t very indicative of a successful corner infielder, but his .282 batting average and 31 doubles were both in the top 5 in the AL at his position. For whatever reason, Gillaspie was not the same hitter in 2015. He struggled for the first three months of the year, and was reduced to a spot starter once the team called up Tyler Saladino. Gillaspie was traded to the Angels later in the season. Although Saladino showed more signs of life than Gillaspie in 2015, neither of them were very productive or consistent. The same can be said for Mike Olt, who had his audition at 3rd base during the season’s final month.

Shortstops

2014 Final Grade: A-

2015 Final Grade: C-

Alexei Ramirez enjoyed the best year of his career in 2014. He ranked at or near the top of all American League shortstops in just about every offensive category, and he was also a finalist for the Gold Glove award. 2015 was quite a different story, as his numbers dipped quite a bit across the board. At age 34, the Cuban Missle could be beginning to lose some steam. Tyler Saladino did make some impressive plays at shortstop on Ramirez’s off days.

Left Fielders

2014 Final Grade: C-

2015 Final Grade: B-

After watching Dayan Viciedo misplay fly ball after fly ball in left field while displaying no discipline at the plate, it was a pleasure to see the Sox sign Melky Cabrera this past offseason. The year started out slow for Cabrera, but he turned his game up a notch after the All Star break. He finished the season with 36 doubles and 77 RBI, and he posted a “back of the baseball card” type season before it was all said and done.

Center Fielders

2014 Final Grade: A-

2015 Final Grade A-

Man, do I love watching Adam Eaton play baseball. After hitting just one home run and driving in only 35 runs a year ago, Eaton found his power stroke in 2015 with 14 home runs and 56 driven in. Impressively, his .300 batting average in 2014 was not much of a casualty of his increased power numbers this year, as his average dipped only .013 points from .300 to .287. His outfield defense was spectacular again, as he made many flashy catches throughout the year. If you’re looking to blame the players for the disappointing season in 2015, don’t blame this guy.

Right Fielders

2014 Final Grade: C

2015 Final Grade: C

Everyone thought that this was going to be the year that Avisail Garcia took off. He was fully recovered from a shoulder injury that cost him most of his 2014 season; and with parts of three seasons in the big leagues under his belt, a lot of people thought that he was ready to emerge as an All Star calibur player. Well, things didn’t exactly turn out that way. In fact, you could argue that he failed to show any progress at all in any facet of the game. Sure, the talent is there. But his career is stuck in first gear.

Starting Pitchers

2014 Final Grade: C+

2015 Final Grade: C+

There’s an old adage that misery needs company. If Jeff Samardzija served any productive purpose on the Sox in 2015, it was to take some of the heat off Adam LaRoche for being the team’s biggest flop. Chris Sale was Batman just like he always is, but Samardzija was not Robin, and he certainly was not a productive #2 in the team’s 1-2 punch in the starting rotation. Aside from the Samardzija disaster, there were some bright spots in the rotation. Sale set numerous strikeout records, Carlos Rodon had a late-season emergence, and Quintana was Quintana.

Bullpen

2014 Final Grade: F

2015 Final Grade: B-

David Robertson was a sight for sore eyes on the south side in 2015. It has been since the days of Big Bad Bobby Jenks that the team had a reliable closer. Robertson converted 83% of his save opportunities (34 saves / 41 opportunities) which is actually not very good by recent league standards. But he was healthy for the whole year, and he still nailed down some big saves throughout season. The bridge to Robertson was shaky at times but for the most part reliable. Zach Duke proved to be a good addition as a much needed lefty reliever. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam left a lot more to be desired, however, after very impressive campaigns in 2014.

Managing

2014 Final Grade: C

2015 Final Grade: D

There were a lot of expectations for Robin Ventura’s team heading into this year. A lot of money was spent this offseason to piece together a ball club that was supposed to contend for an AL Central division title. Not only didn’t the Sox compete for the division, but they didn’t even compete for a Wild Card berth. Ventura was given a free pass, essentially, in 2013 and 2014 due to the team opting to engage in a rebuild. But the rebuild was supposed to conclude this spring, and the team was supposed to be ready to be a contender. After all of that offseason activity, the team spent a grand total of ONE day over the .500 mark. Yes, you read that correctly. The Chicago White Sox had a winning record for ONE calendar day in a six-month season. How does Ventura explain that?

Overall

2014 Final Grade: C-

2015 Final Grade: D

So many disappointments on both sides of the ball. The roster looked very promising on Opening Day, but the Sox were blown out in Kansas City that afternoon, and seemed to be climbing uphill all season long. Whenever they put together a winning streak, they followed it up with a losing streak that was twice as bad. They lost their first 6 games in Kansas City, and lost 8 out of 10 games in Minnesota. They were dead last in the American League in runs scored. Jeff Samardzija allowed the most hits and the most earned runs out of any pitcher in all of baseball. 2015 was an ugly season in many, many ways.