Chris Sale has more than lived up to the hype.
The 2013 Chicago White Sox have done everything in their power to be the worst team in the AL Central.
It takes all the energy they can muster to ground into double plays, get picked off second with two outs in the ninth inning, allow passed balls, strike out with the bases loaded and even run into each other on the infield.
Well-deserved criticism aside, it is that time of the year to take stock of the White Sox's winners and losers.
It must be noted here that the biggest losers, as the White Sox play their way into a complete roster overhaul, are the fans. The cacophony of bad baseball on the South Side makes this team incredibly hard to watch at times.
Frankly, the 1989 White Sox were more entertaining.
Now back to the matter at hand. For the sake of brevity and balance, this list will keep it simple. There will be three winners and three losers presented in alternating order.
There are more examples in each category—particularly the losers—that are not included here, but to include everyone would be overkill, and some of the positive performances would be overshadowed.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
Tyler Flowers continues to be applauded by manager Robin Ventura for the way he handles the pitching staff. Their 3.67 ERA with him behind the plate would appear to back those accolades up. Unfortunately, it is a misleading stat.
His seven passed balls, three throwing errors and a 26.0 caught-stealing percentage are a large part of the reason the White Sox are actually giving up 4.15 runs every nine innings he catches, according to Baseball-Reference.
To be sure, the rest of the team is kicking the ball around, but Flowers was supposed to be a defensive improvement over A.J. Pierzynski. If we look back at Pierzynski’s stats from last season, though, the current backstop is hardly an improvement.
From an offensive perspective, Flowers is not the worst hitting catcher in the AL, but the statistics—.214/.267/.374, 7 home runs, 18 RBI—speak for themselves. Yes, he has hit a couple of important home runs, but on the whole, his bat has been as bad as his defense.
All told, Flowers is hurting the White Sox far more than he is helping.
Jose Quintana has not let the White Sox, or their fans, down.
After pitching quite well as a rookie in 2012—6-6, 3.76 ERA, 136.1 IP, 1.350 WHIP—Quintana has actually improved in quite a few categories.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio has gone from 1.93 in 2012 to 2.46, and his batting average against has decreased from .275 a year ago to .245 this season.
If Quintana hopes to take the next step, though, he must limit his pitch count. During his outing against the Houston Astros a couple of weeks ago, for example, he threw 104 pitches in only 4.2 innings.
Even though he is not as efficient as he could be, there is no question that Quintana has emerged as a legitimate starter in the AL.
Most definitely, he is one of the bright spots in an otherwise miserable season.
With the exception of his power numbers—10 home runs, .410 slugging percentage—Alejandro De Aza has regressed in every offensive category.
According to ESPN.com, De Aza ranks last in OPB (.302), batting average (.253) and has the most strikeouts (78) among leadoff hitters with at least 175 at-bats.
Those are not numbers that are conducive to winning baseball games.
De Aza is also having a hard time in the field. While having officially committed only two errors this season, he has routinely misjudged fly balls, missed the cut-off man on multiple occasions and otherwise played hot potato in the outfield.
It was hoped that De Aza would be able to build off of a successful 2012 season and provide a lift at the top of the order.
Unfortunately, that has not happened, and his inability to consistently produce has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the batting order.
Jesse Crain may well end up being the lone representative for the White Sox at the All-Star Game. He has been that good.
After all, Crain set the White Sox record for consecutive scoreless appearances at 29, has compiled a stellar 0.52 ERA and has amassed 46 strikeouts in only 34.2 innings.
Entering the season, it was expected that Crain would be the primary setup man for Addison Reed. He is now being touted by the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers as a potential closer for a contending team if the White Sox trade him.
During what is turning into a lost season, Crain is one of the biggest winners.
Adam Dunn is having another terrible season.
Adam Dunn is a walking contradiction.
He has slugged 20 home runs, driven in 48 runs and has a .460 slugging percentage, all of which lead the White Sox.
Dunn also leads the team with 89 strikeouts, and his .303 OBP is almost 65 points below his career average. To top it all off, he is hitting .194 and has two more singles (22) than long balls.
It’s not that the White Sox were hoping Dunn would find a secret formula and become a better hitter when the 2013 season began. Oh wait. That’s right. They were.
During spring training, hitting coach Jeff Manto had Dunn change his entire approach at the plate. When that did not work, Manto and Dunn tried “five or six different” adjustments, according to CSNChicago’s Dan Hayes.
It is now the end of June, and Dunn remains unable to hit for a high average.
It must be noted that Dunn’s stats this season are almost identical to the ones he put up in 2012 when he won the Sporting News AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
How quickly the perception of a player’s performance can change when their team is struggling.
Chris Sale has fallen victim to bad defense on more than one occasion.
If it weren’t for bad luck, Chris Sale would have no luck at all.
Sale currently ranks fifth in the AL with a 2.75 ERA and has a .199 BAA while collecting 104 strikeouts in 98.1 innings pitched en route to a 5-6 record. The record belies the dominance.
Take his start against the Astros three weeks ago. Sale tossed a complete game, did not give up an earned run and recorded 14 K’s, yet lost 2-0 thanks to shoddy defense.
His last start versus the New York Mets is another example. He was in line for the victory, but Gordon Beckham decided that running over the mound and into Conor Gillaspie on a pop-up was a good idea.
Realistically, the lefty could be 4-1 in June and 9-3 overall.
Sale is absolutely electric, and he is outperforming the five-year, 32.5 million contract extension he signed during spring training.
By a wide margin, he is the best player on the White Sox.