The Chicago White Sox are kicking the ball around a bit, and that is a problem. See, if the early defensive struggles continue for the White Sox, they may quickly find themselves out of contention in the race for the AL Central.
Last year, the Sox led the American League in fielding percentage (.988) and all of baseball in unearned runs allowed (30). They were superb.
The 2013 campaign—to this point, at least—has been a different story. They have already committed seven errors, surrendering four unearned runs in the process. It is all very out of character.
Two games stand out in particular.
During the second game of the season against the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox committed three errors during a 5-2 victory. The poor defense led to an unearned run and nearly cost Jake Peavy a win.
Then, against the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, Jose Quintana’s error covering first base sparked a five-run fifth inning. Quintana said that the “error changed the inning” for him (via Scot Gregor, Daily Herald).
It also changed the game. And even though the White Sox were able to come back to tie the affair late, they would eventually fall to the Mariners 9-7 in extra innings.
While the deluge of runs that followed Quintana’s miscue is squarely on the young left-hander's shoulders, the fact remains that poor defense led to a loss.
To be sure, there have been some phenomenal plays made already this season.
Gordon Beckham had Lorenzo Cain wishing he could pull the ball during the series with the Royals. The two line drives he snared remain the defensive highlights of the young season.
On Sunday, Dayan Vicideo made Justin Smoak look downright slow when he nailed him at second base trying to stretch a single into a double.
It is also hard to find much fault when the White Sox just finished a six-game homestand to open the season with four wins.
That said, the White Sox do not appear to have the type of offense that can overcome repeated fielding gaffes which lead to unearned runs. Seven errors in six games is an alarming trend to start the year and may be something the White Sox can withstand at U.S. Cellular Field.
Nationals Park—where they kick off a 10-game road trip on Tuesday against Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals—may not be as kind to bad defense.
As we learned in 2012, each game is important.
The White Sox cannot afford to let any of them slip away.