MLB.com released their latest Power Rankings today and the Chicago White Sox find themselves ranked fourth across all of Major League Baseball, second only to the Boston Red Sox in the American League.
The White Sox have certainly earned their position on this list. The team currently holds a 15-12 record after going 7-3 over their last ten games.
Chicago’s .556 W-L% is the fourth-best in the American League and second-best in the AL Central. They currently sit 1.5 games back of the Kansas City Royals in the division.
Records aside, the White Sox tout the third-best run differential in all of baseball, beating opponents by an average of 1.0 runs/game so far this season.
The team had lofty expectations coming into the 2021 season after making the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2008.
Manager Rick Hahn attempted to bolster the roster through a number of offseason transactions ranging from blockbuster (Liam Hendriks, Lance Lynn) to supplementary (Adam Eaton, Billy Hamilton, Jake Lamb).
White Sox fans should appreciate seeing their team this high on the list even more considering the hurdles they have had to overcome so early in the season.
The White Sox were dealt what felt like a devastating blow before the season even started when 2020 Silver Slugger Eloy Jimenez tore his pectoral muscle. The injury would require surgery and sidelined Jimenez for five to six months.
Right fielder Adam Engel has also missed the first month of the season with a hamstring injury.
In what could prove to be the most impactful of all, superstar centerfielder Luis Robert exited this past weekend’s game with what appeared to be a significant lower-body injury. The ailment would turn out to be a right hip flexor strain and to the relief of White Sox fans, x-rays came back negative. The full impact of Robert’s injury is yet to be determined.
To add insult to injury, some of the team’s stars have struggled in the early season, most notably Jose Abreu.
The 34-year-old first baseman is coming off an MVP 2020 season. All eyes were looking toward Abreu continuing his dominant run and pushing this team to the next level. Unfortunately things have not gone to plan as Abreu is off to the worst start of his career.
The historically consistent slugger is slugging just .374 on the season, over 100 points lower than his career average. He is batting just .202 over the first 27 games and striking out in over 28% of his plate appearances.
However, Abreu is not the only hitter with early-season troubles. Catcher Yasmani Grandal signed the largest contract in White Sox history (four years, $73 million) after the 2019 season and was meant to be a core part of the White Sox as they transitioned from a rebuild into their competitive window.
The catcher is still doing what he does best in taking walks, but he’s also batting a putrid .127 and slugging just .273.
It’s not all on these two, however. The White Sox have struggled mightily with runners in scoring position this year, stranding 3.59 runners per game. This is sixth-worst in all of baseball.
The White Sox’ bullpen was considered one of the best in baseball coming into the season after signing Liam Hendriks. However, that was just on paper.
In the early stages of the season, White Sox relief pitchers have allowed 77 hits and 41 earned runs. That also includes 13 long balls.
All together, White Sox relief pitchers have combined for -1.6 WAR on the season, the fifth-worst in all of baseball.
The good thing for the White Sox is that they have found ways to overcome these aforementioned hurdles. Some of these solutions have come in the form of major surprises.
Designated hitter Yermin Mercedes has been one of the most exciting stories in all of baseball this year. The 28-year-old rookie is slashing .395/.435/.628 with an OPS+ over 200. He earned American League Rookie of the Month Honors for April and already finds himself in Rookie of the Year conversations.
Other White Sox batters have stepped up as well. In total, the White Sox are averaging an AL-best 5.0 runs per game.
On the pitching side, Carlos Rodón is undergoing what looks like a complete career revitalization. The left-hander is 4-0 with a 0.72 ERA and threw the 20th no-hitter in White Sox history against the Indians.
Other than a few mishaps, the starting staff as a whole has been a major positive for this team, especially recently. On the season, White Sox starters have combined for 0.6 WAR, which is fourth-best in the American League.
All in all, White Sox fans should be really proud of this team so far this season.
There have been significant obstacles and lackluster performances to overcome, and that has driven a fair amount of frustration and criticism from the fan base.
Perspective is key, however. To endure all the unfortunate situations described above and still clock in at fourth on MLB.com’s Power Rankings is something to celebrate.
Some of these issues are sure to work themselves out. If they can return some of their key players, avoid further injuries, get their stars back in line and hitting with RISP, and get this bullpen pitching to its potential, it’s scary to think what this 2021 White Sox team can be.