Fixing The White Sox Part 1: Defense
The Sox have suffered through a frustrating 2009 season, and it's not getting any better.
After surprisingly winning the 2008 AL Central title, they have limped along on the fringe of the race all year. They currently sit at 73-80 and 9 games behind the division-leading Tigers, nearly mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Even during this down year, some things look good for the White Sox. The rotation should be very strong next season and there is talent among the position players and bullpen.
However, the team will have to fix a few issues if they want to be a legitimate contender next year.
Issue #1—The Defense
The Sox have been one of the weakest defensive teams in the league this year. They've committed 111 errors on the year and allowed a whopping 69 un-earned runs. If you feel like using more advanced metrics, the Sox have an Ultimate Zone Rating of -40.1, which translates to about 4 wins below an average defense.
There will likely be some improvement, even with no off-season moves.
Third base has statistically been one of the Sox worst positions (-9.6 UZR), but they've gotten better as the season has gone on. Josh Fields struggled and so did Gordon Beckham early in his major league career, which makes sense considering he had never played third. However, Beckham got better as the season advanced and should be around average if he is left there next year.
Their outfield should also be better defensively almost by default. Jermaine Dye, who has become a liability with his lack of range, is unlikely to return. Even if Carlos Quentin, who was below average in left, moves to right field it would be an improvement.
Alex Rios will also take over in center field, where he should be an upgrade over Podsednik and at least a push with the early tandem of Dwayne Wise and Brian Anderson.
That may not be enough to totally solve the problem though. The Sox are still average or worse at virtually every position on the diamond defensively. Some of their players will have to improve.
Scott Podsednik appears to be likely to be back in left field. While on paper his performance looks solid, any Sox fan could tell you he's less than ideal out there. He has good make-up speed but can take some strange routes to the ball (especially near the wall) and has a poor arm.
Alexei Ramirez will also probably be back barring a surprise acquisition. The shortstops that are free agents look less than impressive and acquiring an upgrade over Alexei would be difficult. Though he has plenty of talent, he makes far too many errors. He will have to improve his focus and consistency to help the team.
There were similar issues with Jayson Nix and Chris Getz. One of them will likely start at second base as things stand right now. Both have good range but have similar lapses to Ramirez.
Will acquisitions help their defense at all? I don't know if it's too likely. Guys like Orlando Hudson, Orlando Cabrera, Adrian Beltre and Chone Figgins could all help their defense. Cabrera is probably not an option considering that he left the Sox on unfriendly terms before last year. Beltre could be an interesting addition, but that would take some lineup shuffling.
Chone Figgins and Orlando Hudson seem like guys the Sox might pursue though. Both players are good fits at the top of the order that can get on base and are considered solid defensive players. Will they have enough money to go get one of those guys? Will Kenny Williams ignore their Type A status and give up their second round pick to get them? That's another story.
Unless some drastic moves are made, their defense is unlikely to be well above average. However, it should probably be at least a little better than last year.
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