Two weeks into baseball season the White Sox sit at 7-6, good enough for second in the division, only two games behind the 6-3 Detroit Tigers. Now while I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fast start, the White Sox have certainly asserted their presence in a very winnable division. The team has scored 76 runs, tops in the majors, has a run differential of +4, and continues to play well at home with a 5-2 record at The Cell. Overall, the White Sox shouldn’t be complaining about how the 2014 MLB season has started, but in order for this team to truly be a contender come October, the Sox must become a more complete team.
With an offense that is outscoring every team in the MLB (the Rockies are second in runs scored with 66) the White Sox have the firepower to compete with anybody in the majors, scoring more than six runs a game. But only one game above .500 the team seems to be stuck in the mud after producing so well through the first 12 games. At 6+ runs per game the Sox really should be dominating the AL Central, but pitching and defensive woes have prevented this team from truly taking the leap into contention.
Surrendering 76 runs through 13 games, second most in the majors ahead of only the 4-10 Arizona Diamondbacks, is simply not going to get it done, and eventually reality will strike hard for this team. The bats won’t stay hot forever. The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to fix the problems before it’s too late.
By far the biggest weakness of the White Sox through the first two weeks of the season has been the bullpen. Through 34.2 innings pitched the bullpen has given up a league-worst 29 runs, good for a 7.53 ERA, easily the highest in the majors. The offense can score all the runs it wants, it won’t matter if the bullpen just gives them right back.
To coincide with the bullpen woes, poor defensive play has plagued this team early on, especially from the infield. The team has surrendered 12 errors thus far, translating to the worst fielding percentage of any team in the majors.
The combination of poor defense and bad relief pitching has led this team to a .500 record when the offensive production alone should be propelling Chicago to the top of the standings. And so it seems if the White Sox truly want to contend, the team will have to trade for a relief pitcher to help strengthen a bullpen that is in clear need of veteran leadership.
Eligible to come off the DL on April 15, defensive stalwart Gordon Beckham should provide the White Sox with some interesting options when he returns. With Conor Gillaspie (batting .342 with 9 RBI), Alexei Ramirez (batting .413 with 10 RBI), and 23-year old Marcus Semien (.312 OBP batting second in the lineup) all playing extremely well, Beckham’s return is somewhat of a luxury for the team, giving the Sox plenty of flexibility managing their lineup. As Beckham, Ramirez, and Gillaspie solidify the infield positions, the Sox should look to trade Semien or 23-year old Leury Garcia (2B) for veteran relief pitching.
Once Gordon Beckham returns players on the Sox lineup will become more expendable, an opportunity the White Sox must take full advantage of. In order for this team to make the playoffs the Chicago White Sox must trade for a relief pitcher, and fast.