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White Sox Defensive Woes Proving Costly With No Viable Solution in Sight

Defense has been one of the White Sox’s most glaring issues so far this season. Should it not improve, it could prove to be their downfall.

Yoan Moncada Chicago White Sox Defense Errors
Photo: Bally Sports Cleveland

We all saw it last season. The Chicago White Sox were not a team that inspired a tremendous amount of confidence defensively. That was apparent for a number of different reasons, and, like many in the fanbase, I hoped it would be a point of emphasis this winter. However, the team chose not to address this concern in any real meaningful way. Rather, the Sox have allowed the problem to fester and it’s already rearing its ugly head through the first six weeks of the 2022 season.

Error-Prone

Entering play Monday, the White Sox rank fifth in all of Major League Baseball with 26 team errors. That leaves them one error behind a quartet of rebuilding clubs: Pittsburgh, Arizona, Washington, and Oakland. It goes without saying this is not a group you want to be associated with statistically, particularly if you fancy yourself a viable World Series contender.

Those of us that observe this team on a day-in-day-out basis know what we are seeing with our eyes. These errors largely are not a function of players with excellent range getting to balls that average defenders wouldn’t. Instead, they have been unforced errors, largely. And those errors are costing the team games, most recently during the meltdown that occurred last Monday in the ninth inning against Cleveland.

Left Side, Weak Side

No player has been more prone to these blips than shortstop Tim Anderson. TA earned praise last season for his improvement in the field as he put together one of the most consistent defensive seasons of his young career. He completed the 2021 campaign committing only 10 errors. Well, here in 2022 he has committed a league-high nine errors in a 13-game stretch that began in Cleveland a few weeks back.

Again, many of these errors have been of the unforced variety as we’ve seen Anderson rush throws that are either pulling Jose Abreu off the bag or missing him entirely. The impact of these miscues on the pitching staff already, cannot be understated. During Anderson’s two-error inning in Cleveland, Dallas Keuchel wasn’t able to stop the bleeding that ultimately led to him allowing 10 runs. Last week against the Guardians, two more errors from Tim allowed the floodgates to open in the catastrophic ninth-inning collapse.

But this issue extends beyond Tim Anderson. His left-side counterparts Jake Burger and the recently returned Yoan Moncada have added to the problem. Couple this with a pair of first basemen playing corner outfield spots (more on that later) contributing to the unforced errors, and this team has simply been a giant mess on the defensive side of the ball.

Out of Position

As if the unforced errors aren’t enough of an issue, the Chicago White Sox’s poor roster construction has forced square pegs into round holes in the form of Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets attempting to play corner outfield positions. The issues with these two have manifested themselves quickly, as Vaughn’s lack of range is preventing him from making plays that even average left fielders would execute.

Meanwhile, Sheets most notably botched a routine fly ball right at him that would’ve ended the top of the first against Cleveland last week.

Sheets himself has shown that he doesn’t possess the athleticism required to be anything more than a 1B/DH. I hope with every fiber of my being that Tony La Russa does the right thing in Kansas City’s expansive outfield this week and does not put this team behind the eight ball by playing either alongside Luis Robert and/or Adam Engel.

Old Adage

There’s an old adage that seemingly goes back to this game’s beginnings, “pitching and defense win championships.” If that is the case, then the White Sox as presently constituted are anything but a championship-caliber team. Being a top-five team in the league in terms of team errors is not going to position the White Sox to be a viable threat come October.

I did some independent research and went back to the turn of the century to see how many teams have finished top five in team errors and went on to win the pennant. The answer was one, that’s it. One single team consistently gave teams extra outs and was able to overcome it. The 2012 San Francisco Giants, in the heart of their championship dynasty, found a way to work past their constant defensive miscues en route to beating the Detroit Tigers to win their second of three championships a decade ago.

Seeing only a single solitary team be able to excel in other facets of the game to negate a poor defensive showing doesn’t inspire a tremendous amount of confidence for the Sox at this point. Now, I know errors are not a tremendous measure of overall team defense and efficiency. However, as we’ve seen with our eyes, this team consistently giving its opposition four and five outs in an inning has not been something they can overcome for a host of other reasons.

Solution Unclear

We sit 33 games into a 162-game marathon, and an issue that plagued the Chicago White Sox a year ago continues to do so. How do they go about fixing these issues? Frankly, I have no idea. Roster construction flaws will, in my view, prevent the team from addressing the problem in a meaningful manner.

It appears as though the White Sox will simply have to rely on players that are here performing closer to career norms or in some places overperforming. The collective leadership of this team finding ways to put players in the best position to be successful will prove to be important as well. The hope is that as the season progresses, they are able to maneuver enough pieces so that they aren’t forced to put 1B/DH types in vital corner outfield spots and compromise an already questionable group.

Can the South Siders’ defense improve over the remainder of the season? Sure. But I feel fairly certain that if it doesn’t, it will be one of the leading culprits in preventing the Sox from reaching their preseason aspirations and it will represent another wasted year of a competitive window.

NEXT: Chicago White Sox Turn to Johnny Cueto with Lucas Giolito Still Sidelined

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Former scrub JUCO pitcher

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