Chicago White Sox 2019 Season Recap

Joey Ricotta | October 11th, 2019 

The 2019 MLB regular season has already come to an end. The playoffs are in full swing while the Chicago White Sox find themselves watching as other teams chase what they’ve been unable to accomplish since 2005, a World Series. Let’s take a look at the season that was and a few things to look forward to next year.

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB team recaps here.

2019 Season Recap – 72-89 Record (3rd place in the AL Central)

What Went Right

First of all, my preseason record prediction was nearly spot-on. Had it not been for a rainout, the White Sox could’ve very well finished with a 73-89 record. Not all of my predictions came true, but if you’d like to take a look back at my season preview, you can check that out here.

As for what went right for the White Sox themselves, youth development. Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Lucas Giolito all had breakout seasons. Eloy Jimenez started out a little rough, went down with an injury, and returned to mash the baseball and finish the season strong.

Collectively, the Sox had the eighth-best team batting average (.261). The bullpen wasn’t excellent, but the Sox found decent contributors who had solid individual years. Sox relievers also allowed the lowest rate of hard contact (30.9%), 3.3% lower than any other team and no other teams separated by that wide of a margin.

By far, the biggest surprises of the 2019 Sox season was the emergence of  and Tim Anderson. Going into the season, Giolito looked like the worst piece acquired in the Adam Eaton deal with the Washington Nationals. That tune changed dramatically and Giolito proved doubters wrong. He posted a 2.10 ERA in May and June combined and went on to become an All-Star alongside teammates James McCann and Jose Abreu. A major improvement is an understatement. Giolito is just one year removed from finishing a season with the most earned runs and most walks allowed. He finished the season prematurely due to a mild lat strain, with a 14-9 record, 3.41 ERA, and the league leader in complete games (3) and shutouts (2).

Bat flipping crazy. Tim Anderson set out on a voyage to change the game for the better this season. Looking to install life and bring more joy into the game, Anderson did that early on when he took right-hander Brad Keller deep on April 17th. After he ripped the pitch, he emphatically threw his bat towards the White Sox dugout and yelled something to fire up the troops. It wasn’t the only time he flipped his bat this season, but it certainly was a memorable moment. I’ll just leave this video here to give you all a good laugh.

Tim Anderson went on to hit .335 for the season and became the first White Sox player to win a batting title since Frank Thomas did it in 1997. He’s also only the second Sox player to lead all of baseball in hitting (Luke Appling in 1936).

Yoan Moncada – Somewhat overshadowed when it comes to National media, Moncada really burst onto the scene this year. Out of players with at least 100 batted ball events, Moncada ranked ninth in baseball in average exit velocity (93.6 MPH). He got more aggressive and decreased his strikeout rate, albeit also decreasing his walk rate. Moncada proved that he can play third base and improved his batting average dramatically from .235 a year ago to .315 in this past season. He also hit eight more homers (25 total) in 17 fewer games played and finished sixth among all third basemen in fWAR.

Yolmer SanchezSanchez could be the favorite for a gold glove at second base, committing only nine errors on the season. He had the most defensive runs saved or DRS (11) out of any second baseman in the American League. His hitting still wasn’t quite up to par, but his defense has to be looked at as a positive nonetheless.

What Went Wrong

Injuries, overall pitching, hitting, and defense. Basically, in a nutshell, all of the things needed to win baseball games.

Notable players that spent time on the injured list: Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito, Jon Jay, Carlos Rodon, Nate Jones (prior to being traded), Welington Castillo, Ryan Burr, Jace Fry, and Kelvin Herrera.

The Sox had a combined staff ERA of 4.90 ranking 22nd in the big leagues. They also had a combined BB/9 rate of 3.7 which tied them for third-worst in the Majors. Their starting staff gave up the third-most home runs in all of baseball.

While there were a lot of good individual performances, the White Sox hit the sixth-fewest home runs in the Majors with 182 big flies. They also struck out the sixth-most out of any team with 1,549 strikeouts and they walked the fewest amount of any team with 378 walks.

They ranked bottom-third in the league in many other categories as well, including OBP (23rd), OPS (24th), wOBA (24th), K% (28th), and BB% (30th). To sum it up, they didn’t hit a whole lot of home runs, they didn’t get on-base much, they walked at the worst rate in the league, and they struck out far too much. Teams that strikeout, need to be able to walk and hit home runs.

As far as acquisitions go, the biggest front office failure was Yonder Alonso. Much like the way they didn’t think they would miss out on acquiring Manny Machado, I’m sure they didn’t envision themselves designating Alonso for assignment before the All-Star break. In 67 games with the Sox, Alonso hit an abysmal .178.

Defensively, the Sox had their issues as well. They finished with the fourth-most errors in the league with 117, and a low Defensive Efficiency Ratio of .682.

Impending Free Agents

Jose Abreu, Ivan Nova, Ross Detwiler, Jon Jay, Hector Santiago, Welington Castillo (club option).

The biggest name of the bunch is long-time White Sox first baseman, Jose Abreu. The longest-tenured White Sox player enjoyed a solid bounce-back season after an injury-riddled, underwhelming 2018 campaign. Abreu hit .284 with 33 HRs and led the American League with 123 RBIs. Abreu turns 33 in January. He is widely viewed as the leader in the clubhouse, well respected, and loved by many fans. Other than 2018, you can pretty much bank on Abreu hitting 30-plus HRs, 30-plus doubles, and 100-plus RBIs. While we can’t rule out the possibility that his time in Chicago has come to an end, don’t be surprised to see the White Sox re-sign him.

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With the emergence of free agent signing James McCann, the Sox aren’t expected to pick up Castillo’s club option. The rest of the players mentioned aren’t expected to be brought back either.

Players to Watch for in 2020

Eloy Jimenez – Long awaited was the arrival of Eloy Jimenez and while he had his struggles and missed some time due to injury, he started busting out towards the end of the season. He looked more comfortable in the box and seemed to gain an understanding of what pitchers were trying to do against him.

Notably, Eloy increased his xwOBA considerably over his last 100 plate appearances. He had a .446 xwOBA over his last 100 PAs compared to a .324 xwOBA over his previous 100 PAs. Even with his earlier struggles, Jimenez hit 31 bombs in only 122 games played. With one season under his belt, look for Eloy to take more steps forward next year.

Dylan Cease – Early struggles are expected from young pitchers, and Cease certainly had his share of them after making his MLB debut on July 3rd, against the Detroit Tigers. Cease finished the season 4-7 with a 5.79 ERA and 1.548 WHIP. However, he flashed his potential in some outings as well, and ended on a strong note, firing 11.0 IP and allowing only two ERs in his final two starts of the season.

Luis Robert – Watch out for this guy. Robert is the number one ranked prospect in the Sox system and MLB Pipeline’s third-ranked prospect overall. He’s an above-average fielder, extremely powerful hitter, and has very nice wheels. The guy went bonkers this past season at three different levels of the Minors. In 122 games spread out across High-A ball, Double-A, and Triple-A, Robert hit .328 with 32 bombs and 36 stolen bases. He should get the call to the show very soon.

Michael Kopech – The former Boston Red Sox first-round draft pick didn’t throw a pitch all season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s the South Sider’s number two rated prospect in their system and number 17 on MLB Pipeline’s top 100. Kopech’s only started four Big League games but is progressing well and expected to have no restrictions come spring training. If you watch the video below, it looks like his heater is already without restrictions.

Nick MadrigalMadrigal found himself getting promoted twice in 2019. First, he was promoted from High-A where he slashed .272/.346/.377, and then after slashing .341/.400/.451 at Double-A Birmingham, he was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte on deadline day. At Triple-A, Madrigal slashed .331/.398/.424 in 29 games. The 22-year old second baseman has extremely good bat-to-ball skills and is right on the verge of a Major League call up. Don’t be surprised to see him fill a position of need very early on in 2020.

Dane DunningAnother top prospect pitcher that missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. Dunning was shut down prior to the spring because a mild elbow strain suffered in June 2018 continued to bother him. Dunning reached Double-A Birmingham and was expected to get promoted to Triple-A Charlotte shortly thereafter. He won’t start in the Majors and could miss the beginning of the season while still recovering, but at some point, he may get the Big League call in 2020.

Honorable Mentions: Zack Collins, Zack Burdi, Tyler Johnson, and Ian Hamilton.

Conclusion/Needs

The South Siders continue to search for their first winning record since 2012 (85-77). As mentioned earlier, the Sox have been getting production with the sticks from some of their young bright stars. They still don’t have all of the hitting they need. With Abreu likely to be brought back, Robert and Madrigal likely making the jump to the Majors, one or two offseason additions could make this team seriously dangerous from the hitting side of things. Also, if Giolito can continue his turnaround, Cease can continue to develop, and Kopech can blossom without many restrictions, the rotation will be much improved.

Needs: One big bat (preferably an outfielder or DH) and one big arm (preferably a starting pitcher).

Another position of need, in my eyes, is a manager. Not by any means am I bashing the guy, I just don’t feel like Rick Renteria is the guy they need or the guy that makes the most sense in this age of baseball. Ricky’s small-ball style doesn’t mesh well with a team on the rise. Players still learning how to hit at the big league level, need to get as many swings in as possible, especially in crucial situations with runners on base. This past season, the Sox weren’t going anywhere, why take the bat out of their hands?

Teams aren’t bunting like they used to. The new philosophy, and in my opinion the better strategy, is to take all of the opportunities you have to drive in runs. Giving up outs to move runners over, especially early on in ballgames, can be looked at as stepping over dollars to pick up dimes. Expanding on that, Rick Hahn already stated: “Ricky will be our manager,” when asked about potential 2020 candidates for the job. So, whether it’s a team need or not, the skipper will carry through to 2020.

With the White Sox failing to lure the big-name free agents they targeted last offseason, Rick Hahn and the rest of the front office will get another crack at some big names this year. Whether that be going after a stud pitcher the likes of Gerrit Cole or a big-time hitter like J.D. Martinez, it’ll be interesting to see what they do. They have some money to spend and I expect them to make some kind of free agency splash. If they do, their not so distant future looks very bright.

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