They say that it’s better to be lucky than to be good. In the month of April, the Chicago White Sox were neither of those things. At the time of writing, they sit third in their division with an 8–13 record and one win in their last nine games against divisional opponents. The Sox went on a run of eight straight losses near the end of April, highlighted by an unlucky and unproductive offense, a series of injuries to key players, and some serious pitching liabilities. Let’s talk about it.
Two players are emblematic of the White Sox’s failure thus far in 2022: Leury García and Dallas Keuchel. After finishing 2021 as one of the worst pitchers in the American League, Keuchel has unfortunately continued that trend into this season. After given up 14 earned runs in his first four starts, Keuchel is currently posting a horrendous ERA (earned run average) of 8.40, a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 2.33, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio below 1. Simply put, the former Cy Young Award winner just can’t seem to find the zone as he could two years ago, and every time he does, the ball seems to end up either in the outfield or in the bleachers. With Vince Velasquez putting up an impressive showing in his last start against the Los Angeles Angels, Johnny Cueto completing his ramp up to the season in Triple-A, and Lance Lynn recovering rapidly from a knee injury he sustained in spring training, this may be the end of the road for the 34-year-old Keuchel on the South Side of Chicago.
“Leury Legend” had the most memorable moment in 15 years of White Sox baseball last postseason, and I feel the need to present that fact every time I mention him because there don’t seem to be many positives to discuss nowadays. After signing a new three-year deal with the club this offseason, Leury has had a miserable start to the year, hitting .118/.151/.216. In addition to his offensive woes, he has been found lacking on the defensive side as well, and his defensive versatility has not been put to effective use as of yet. Another element of Leury’s failures thus far has been manager Tony La Russa’s insistence that he hit higher in the lineup than needed, at the cost of pushing offensive stalwarts such as José Abreu and Yasmani Grandal down the order. The difference between Keuchel’s and Leury’s situations is that there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to García’s play. La Russa has started putting him back towards the lower end of the order, and he has come up with a couple of big hits as of late. Hopefully this short resurgence is a more accurate sign of things to come.
While the Sox’s injury situation is improving—Lucas Giolito, Joe Kelly, A. J. Pollock, Yoán Moncada, Luis Robert, Josh Harrison and Lynn have all either returned or are on the verge of returning to the roster—a big part of the offense in Eloy Jiménez is still out. On a routine ground ball against the Minnesota Twins, Jiménez suffered a torn hamstring after stepping onto first base awkwardly. He is expected to be out until July.
Jiménez’s play until his injury was also a good example of the White Sox’s sheer lack of luck to begin the season. In three key offensive metrics (weighted on-base average, slugging percentage, and batting average), the White Sox lead Major League Baseball by a wide margin in the difference between expected numbers and actual numbers. Essentially, the offense is hitting the ball hard and with good elevation but has been extremely unlucky when it comes to where its players are hitting the ball. The law of averages would dictate that their luck should turn soon enough, and if it does, the offense should return to its rightful spot on the top of most leaderboards. Abreu, Grandal, Tim Anderson, Robert, and Andrew Vaughn are all squaring up the ball extremely well, and soon enough, their production will match the quality of their at-bats.
The White Sox’s pitching has been good overall despite some shaky April appearances from some of the Southsiders’ best pitchers. Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech are all off to outstanding starts to the season, while Velasquez showed a glimpse of his potential in an outstanding start against a loaded Angels offense. Closer Liam Hendriks has had a difficult start to the season, but I wouldn’t worry about him. He is really, really good at his job and will figure it out. Off-season addition Kendall Graveman has been fantastic thus far, and while Joe Kelly’s return will be a welcome sight for La Russa, Tanner Banks, José Ruiz, and Matt Foster have all done an outstanding job of filling in as bullpen arms. Aaron Bummer still has one of the nastiest sliders in the major leagues. Overall, the Sox’s pitching has been decent, and with Lynn and Kelly returning soon, I would only expect it to improve.
I opened this piece with a proverb, and I’d like to end it with another one: Tough times never last, but tough people do. The month of May will test the Chicago White Sox’s championship pedigree, their ability to overcome adversity and find their winning formula. If things even out the way that they usually do in the Major Leagues, the cream will rise to the top, and the Sox will return to their rightful place at the top of the division. But although it is far too early to be worried, it is not too early to develop a sense of urgency. Let’s see if the Southsiders can find a way to win and win consistently.