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Grading the White Sox after an underwhelming first half

Vinnie Duber Avatar
July 18, 2022

Well that was something.

The White Sox finished the first half of the season at 46-46 and are three games behind the first-place Twins in the AL Central standings. The Guardians have also been a game better.

Despite a nice weekend in Minnesota, they’re still nowhere close to where everyone thought they’d be when the season started.

This was a team with World Series expectations, pegged to be among baseball’s best squads. But they haven’t scored much, haven’t shown any power, have made consistent mistakes in the field and on the base paths and have dealt with an avalanche of injuries.

But as the White Sox showed in taking three of four games in Minnesota, they’re not dead yet.

Not in the AL Central, where neither of the teams ahead of them in the standings, the Twins and Guardians, have proven capable of running away and hiding with the division crown, like the White Sox did a year ago. The White Sox can still win this division and make the postseason for a third consecutive year.

As anyone involved with this team will tell you, the talent is there, and that’s inarguable. The lineup is stacked with MVPs, All Stars and Silver Sluggers. There are Cy Young types, past and present, in the rotation. The closer is baseball’s best. The manager has three rings on his fingers.

But therein lies the frustration.

We know what has happened already. And so while hoping for brighter days in the second half, here’s a player-by-player breakdown of the first half.

José Abreu: A+

90 games, .304/.387/.470, 12 homers, 54 RBI, 52 runs

Abreu is being Abreu. The escape from the slow start has been dramatic with Abreu reaching his typical levels of production in a blink. In some areas, he’s better than ever, particularly when it comes to walking. He’s seeing the ball terrifically and, surprise, has been his team’s best hitter. Not bad for a guy who hinted this might be his last go-round with the White Sox.

Tim Anderson: A

65 games, .310/.351/.416, 6 homers, 24 RBI, 44 runs, 11 SB

Anderson is still the most important player on this team, a leader who does everything on and off the field. Anderson’s bat has been much the same it has in recent years, hitting for a high average and wearing out right field. The power has yet to arrive — a team-wide issue — but he’s still TA, built for big moments like homering at Yankee Stadium.

Tanner Banks: B+

1-0, 3.05 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 33 K, 38.1 IP

The journeyman rookie was a feel-good story when he made the Opening Day roster, and he’s stuck around with the White Sox experiencing a shortage of lefties in the bullpen. He didn’t give up a run in April, and he’s bounced back in the middle of the summer after his ERA shot up in May. Banks might not be Aaron Bummer or Garrett Crochet, but he’s been very reliable.

Jake Burger: B

51 games, .250/.302/.458, 8 homers, 26 RBI, 20 runs

Burger has gotten some unanticipated opportunities with Yoán Moncada’s various injuries, and he’s made the most of them. He ranks near the top of the team in home runs despite fewer at-bats. His defensive issues at third base kept his grade from being higher – and have kept him from more playing time, likely – but he’s been a solid fill-in.

Dylan Cease: A+

9-4, 2.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 150 Ks, 104.2 IP

What more is there to say about Cease? The guy entered the season with high hopes to surpass his breakout year in 2021, and boy has he. He’s All-Star caliber, and he’s a Cy Young candidate. The strikeout numbers have been ridiculous. The only question now is how good he can be. His teammates and coaches think this is just the beginning.

Johnny Cueto
(Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

Johnny Cueto: A

4-4, 2.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 58 Ks, 74 IP

Considering the expectations that come along with a minor league flier, Cueto has been phenomenal. More than any other White Sox pitcher, Dylan Cease included, Cueto has given the team a consistent chance to win every time he’s taken the hill. He’s helped the bullpen with consistent longevity in almost every start. And he’s been a pretty fun presence, too.

Adam Engel: D+

68 games, .256/.309/.375, 2 homers, 14 RBI, 24 runs

Engel was a popular name to get a lot of playing time in the outfield after his offensive ability caught up to his defensive wizardry in recent seasons. But he hasn’t hit well in 2022, his OPS as low as it’s been since the rebuilding seasons of 2017 and 2018. Engel is still extraordinarily valuable as a defender and base runner but hasn’t shown the same bat he did last year.

Matt Foster: C-

1-2, 4.71 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 37 Ks, 40.2 IP

Foster took a turn earlier in the season as a surprise late-inning option out of the bullpen. But the bounceback story was derailed a bit as his ERA shot up during a miserable stretch in the middle of June. No longer in that late-inning mix, Foster is not frequently called on in key situations these days.

Leury García: F

67 games, .205/.232/.262, 2 homers, 15 RBI, 26 runs

I know you don’t want to see García in the lineup anymore. That’s unlikely to happen, though, the White Sox giving him that three-year deal in the offseason in large part because of their fondness for his versatility and clubhouse presence. But undoubtedly, he has had a miserable year at the plate. And he knows it, at one point saying he feels “like shit” up there.

Lucas Giolito: C

6-5, 4.69 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 102 Ks, 88.1 IP

It’s been a bumpy ride at times for Giolito, who has both flashed why he’s the ace of this staff and been sent into weeks-long stretches of searching for himself. The good news moving forward is that Giolito has been here before, and he shedded his status as the “WORST PITCHER IN BASEBALL” by working with Ethan Katz, currently the White Sox’ pitching coach.

Yasmani Grandal: F

50 games, .185/.294/.237, 2 homers, 15 RBI, 6 runs

You hate to flunk someone for something out of their control, and Grandal was bothered by the aftereffects of his offseason knee surgery before he hit the IL for a lengthy stay spurred by a back issue. He’s expected back to start the second half, and he’ll have to look like he did upon injury return last year to escape the woeful offensive numbers he’s put up so far in 2022.

Kendall Graveman: A

3-1, 2.21 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 39 Ks, 40.2 IP

Graveman has been, as advertised, an effective late-inning reliever who can be relied on in high leverage situations. For all the uproar over how the White Sox allocated their resources this offseason, Graveman’s addition has proven worth it to this point. It hasn’t always looked pretty, maybe, but he’s been about as good of a setup man as you could ask for.

Josh Harrison: B-

66 games, .232/.304/.367, 4 homers, 17 RBI, 30 runs

Surprising as it might be, Harrison has seemingly solidified second base with a torrent stretch at the plate following some big-time struggles early in the season. Along with terrific defense, the offensive numbers have come around, turning second base from perhaps the White Sox’ biggest deadline need to a position that has its starter for the rest of the campaign.

Liam Hendriks
May 17, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Liam Hendriks (31) celebrates after the win over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Liam Hendriks: A

18 saves, 2.35 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 45 Ks, 30.2 IP

The only knock on Hendriks’ first half was the time he missed while recovering from an arm injury, during which he revealed he’s pitched with a torn UCL for more than a decade. No matter, apparently, as he’s continued to do his thing as the best closer in baseball. Every time he takes the mound, the White Sox expect dominance. And they usually get it.

Eloy Jiménez: D-

19 games, .197/.239/.303, 2 homers, 13 RBI, 4 runs

Jiménez again had months of his season wiped away with an injury, his horrid luck continuing after last year’s pectoral tear. Considering his importance to the lineup – he was expected to be a 30- or 40-homer guy – it was a crushing absence. When he was in there, the numbers weren’t superb, either. He could make one of the biggest differences in the second half.

Joe Kelly: F

0-2, 7.56 ERA, 1.98 WHIP, 23 Ks, 16.2 IP

It’s been tough sledding for Kelly, who has had two injured-list stints amid some serious struggles on the mound. His ERA nearly hit double digits at one point, the investment the White Sox made in him not paying off the way the one in Kendall Graveman has at the back end of the ‘pen. He knows that the most important innings come later, but it hasn’t been pretty to date.

Michael Kopech: B+

3-6, 3.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 74 Ks, 83 IP

Have we seen the best of Kopech? Probably not. But the flashes of brilliance have been blinding. He’s seemingly been impacted by the knee injury that ended a June start after just eight pitches. But at other times, he’s looked like the Kopech that’s long been promised. It’ll be interesting to see how the team manages his workload in the second half.

Reynaldo López: A-

4-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 44 Ks, 42 IP

One time the rebuild’s most promising young starter, López has turned into a very reliable reliever for Tony La Russa, who calls on him quite regularly. He’s been mostly excellent in that middle-relief role this season, throwing gas – which he credits to Johnny Cueto insisting he run more. It’s given the bullpen a big boost without Garrett Crochet.

Lance Lynn: F

1-3, 7.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 35 Ks, 36 IP

So far, Lynn has summed up his return from a two-month injury absence as “horse shit.” I’ll let him speak for himself there, but the results have not been good. You can point to the long layoff and the fact that his spring training was interrupted, making it difficult for him to get into that normal rhythm. Whatever it is, he needs to turn it around if the White Sox are going to rally.

Davis Martin: A-

1-3, 4.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 20 Ks, 27 IP

Martin hasn’t pitched much, but he’s served admirably in his role as the team’s No. 6 starter, on the Charlotte shuttle and doing it well. As a spot starter, he’s given the White Sox repeated chances to win. It might not give him an outsized job as the season rolls on, but any injury to a starter would see him as the first man called on to fill in. And it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Reese McGuire: D

51 games, .228/.265/.290, 0 homers, 10 RBI, 12 runs

McGuire has been a solid defensive presence behind the plate. But he’s done little on the offensive side, hence a ton of playing time for Seby Zavala while Yasmani Grandal has been on the injured list. 

Danny Mendick: B+

31 games, .289/.343/.443, 3 homers, 15 RBI, 22 runs

Mendick made one of the more memorable base-running mistakes of the first half, but he stepped up big, if only briefly, before tearing his ACL and getting knocked out for the year. His fill-in duty while Tim Anderson was on the IL with a groin injury seemed to have him pegged for an expanded roll. Alas, the injury bug kept chomping down on the South Siders.

Yoán Moncada: F

48 games, .213/.263/.337, 5 homers, 23 RBI, 19 runs

Much like Yasmani Grandal, it seems unfair to flunk Moncada for uncontrollable injuries. And Moncada has had his share. Unfortunately for him, the offensive numbers were mostly horrendous when he was able to take the field. He showed signs of a turnaround late in the first half, and boy could the White Sox use it. They’ll need him to be himself in the second half.

AJ Pollock: C-

73 games, .227/.268/.333, 4 homers, 26 RBI, 30 runs

Pollock was the big position-player acquisition before the season started, but like much of the rest of the lineup, he hasn’t delivered on the promise of his preseason expectations. Coming off a career year with the Dodgers in 2021, Pollock currently owns one of the lowest batting averages in his time as a major leaguer.

Luis Robert
(Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

Luis Robert: C

74 games, .301/.334/.461, 12 homers, 54 RBI, 48 runs

Robert has not been bad, but he definitely hasn’t been great. And considering he was being hyped as a preseason MVP candidate, he too is playing below expectations. Often flummoxed by pitches outside the zone, he has had noticeable holes in his offensive game. That said, he’s still got a high average and has contributed far more than some of his teammates.

José Ruiz: C

1-0, 3.62 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 41 Ks, 37.1 IP

Ruiz had a bulging ERA in mid-June, but he’s lowered it significantly with pretty much untouchable stuff since. His name still strangely conjures fear in the hearts of a lot of White Sox fans, but he’s been a reliable option out of the ‘pen – and a frequently used one – over the last two seasons.

Gavin Sheets: C-

66 games, .224/.288/.371, 7 homers, 22 RBI, 16 runs

Sheets was sent down to the minors amid some serious first-half struggles. But working with Charlotte hitting coach Chris Johnson paid off, and his return to the majors has seen much better results. Sheets is an all-important source of left-handed pop for these White Sox, and though it took a while, he’s finally producing that kind of power.

Andrew Vaughn: A-

72 games, .301/.350/.470, 10 homers, 48 RBI, 36 runs

Though persistent soreness has kept him from showing off his versatility in the outfield, Vaughn has been mostly terrific offensively for the White Sox in his sophomore season. Carrying an unflappable approach to the plate each time up, he’s helped solidify the DH position and given the South Siders a good, reliable hitter in a season short on them.

Seby Zavala: B+

26 games, .286/.337/.440, 2 homers, 15 RBI, 12 runs

After he hit .183 in 2021, it’s fair to wonder who that is wearing Zavala’s jersey out there, especially since he lost the beard. But he’s been really good at the dish filling the roster spot of the injured Yasmani Grandal. Good enough, in fact, to make plenty wonder if he’ll stick around – rather than Reese McGuire – when Grandal returns in the second half.

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