The Chicago White Sox hit rock-bottom last year, dropping to 63-99, their worst record in over 40 seasons. Our handicapper breaks down on how the team will be looking this upcomng season.
Not exactly what Robin Ventura had in mind when he took the manager job a couple of years ago.
And unfortunately for the former Sox third-sacker his Southsiders might end up scrambling to stay out of last place in the AL Central again this year.
There may be some hope for the future, as Chicago assembles a small stockpile of young talent. But is there any hope for this year?
2013 Quick Review
Chicago started 24-24 last year, before going in the tank. The Sox won just eight games in June and eight in July, then really put the finishing touches on a fine disaster with a 7-21 September.
Chicago was the worst road team in baseball last year, losing 55 of 81 games on the room-service circuit. The Sox also went just 26-50 in AL Central Divisional play, losing 17 of 19 games to Cleveland and 12 of 19 to Detroit. Heck, they even had a losing record against Minnesota.
Along the way the Sox dumped several veterans, such as Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, and later parted ways with closer Addison Reed, RP Jesse Crain and starter Gavin Floyd.
But over the off-season they also made a stab at a big young bat, signing Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu.
At the Bat
Chicago ranked 27th in the Majors last year with a .302 team OBP, 19th in homers with 148, and second-to-last in scoring at just 3.7 runs per game. No wonder they lost 99 games.
Adam Dunn smacked 34 homers, but hit just .219 with 189 whiffs. Paul Konerko missed 30 games and hit just .244, with just 12 homers. And now he's 38 years old.
And while Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo provided a little pop, their OBPs barely topped .300.
As for this season newcomer Adam Eaton, after hitting .250 in 66 games with Arizona last year, is being counted on to take over in center field and bat lead-off.
Abreu, who dominated in Cuba's top pro league, is expected to take over at first base and bat third.
And Matt Davidson, who hit .237 in 31 games for Arizona last year, is supposedly the new third-baseman.
For us, that's just too many unknowns to expect much of an improvement in offensive production.
On the Hill
Chicago can send out a pretty decent top two in its starting rotation, but after that, just more question marks.
Two years ago lefty Chris Sale busted out with 17 wins and a 3.05 ERA. Last year Sale posted a 3.07 ERA, allowed 184 hits in 214 innings and struck out 226, but went 11-14. Obviously, he didn't get much help from the bats.
And fellow lefty Jose Quintana fashioned a 3.51 ERA in 200 innings last year, and actually went 9-7 for the worst team in the league outside of Houston.
But Sale and Quintana and three days of rain ain't gonna get the Sox too far. They'll need help.
Chicago could use a comeback season from John Danks, who went 4-14 with a 4.75 ERA last year.
Erik Johnson put up some super numbers last year in the Minors and looked good in a cup-of-coffee appearance for the Sox last September. But suddenly, with five ML starts under his belt, he's being called upon to take over the four spot.
Finally, the Sox are hoping Felipe Paulino, who missed all of last year recovering from elbow surgery, can take over the five spot.
That's a lot of hoping.
Chicago ranked 19th in team ERA last season at 3.98, and a respectable 12th in quality starts with 90. Sale and Quintana combined for 40 of those, the rest of the team, 50.
After their bullpen ranked 23rd with a 4.00 ERA last year, and blew 20 of 60 save opportunities, the Sox
did a near-complete rebuild. Reed, Crain and Matt Thornton are gone, replaced by, among others, Scott Downs, Mitchell Boggs and Ronald Belisario. But will this year's bullpen be any better?
2014 White Sox Betting Futures
As the Sox got ready to open their exhibition slate down at Camelback Ranch the best futures odds prices we could find was the +1000 to win the AL Central at Bovada, and the +3700 and +7000 to win the American League and the World Series at Bookmaker.
Chicago fell by 22 wins last year, from 85 in 2012 to 63. Changes needed to be made, and the Sox have gone with a semi-youth movement.
Chicago, for the most part, will be a young squad this year; if the Sox can make a run at .500 we'd consider the season a success.
The ChiSox open this season with three games at home against Minnesota March 31-April 3.