It usually takes multiple years for a rebuild to yield positive results in Major League Baseball — unless you’re the Chicago White Sox, apparently.
The White Sox finished last season 72-89 (a 44.7 percent winning percentage). This season they’re 34-18 (a 65.4 percent winning percentage).
Manager Rick Renteria‘s ballclub was one of the more compelling teams in Major League Baseball back in spring training given their electric young offense and offseason additions (Yasmani Grandal, Nomar Mazara, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, and Gio Gonzalez).
Did this optimism project to feature the White Sox being in first place in the American League Central, let alone having the second-best record in the AL? It did not, and therein lies the point: the Chicago White Sox have experienced exponential growth.
The heart and soul of this team is its offense. It’s a unit infused with electric youngsters, accompanied by a slew of highly productive veterans.
Tim Anderson is one of the best hitters in baseball. The shortstop is hitting .366, putting the ball in play with ease, and forcing mistakes with his raw speed; Eloy Jimenez is a homegrown slugger, as he’s hitting .294 with 39 RBIs to his name; Luis Robert has a lot of pop in his bat even though he has struggled to get on base at a consistent clip in his rookie season; while he’s having an underwhelming season compared to his 2019 campaign, Yoan Moncada is a steady, line-drive hitter coming into his own as a reliable third baseman.
Jose Abreu sports a 1.021 OPS and has 52 RBIs to his name; Grandal is one of the best all-around catchers in the sport; when healthy, Encarnacion and Mazara swing power bats; Nick Madrigal and Adam Engel are each hitting above .300.
The White Sox are getting runners on base, driving in runs, and hitting balls over the fence at a high level. Chicago is third in MLB in batting average (.269) and hits (479), fourth in home runs (88), and sixth in runs (273) and OPS (.800).
Imagine what this offense looks like with Moncada back on track and Robert taking the next step: it’s genuinely frightening.
Meanwhile, the White Sox have a dandy starting rotation with upside.
Lucas Giolito is an ace. The right-hander gets splendid movement on his changeup and slider by means of his deceiving, short-arm delivery, and he totals strikeouts at a high rate. Dylan Cease has been the trendy development on their pitching staff, as the second-year starter sports a 3.20 ERA and has been able to evade mid-game catastrophes.
Dane Dunning has made it to the show and been a slick operator, sporting a 2.33 ERA and an 0.93 WHIP across five starts; Keuchel has been superb, sporting a 2.04 ERA across 10 starts. To top of off, the White Sox have a conglomerate of relievers answering the bell out of the bullpen including Evan Marshall, Ross Detwiler, Codi Heuer, Jace Fry, Matt Foster, and veteran closer Alex Colome.
As a whole, their pitching staff is fourth in MLB in ERA (3.46), just two spots behind the division rival Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox are productive and deep in all aspects of the game.
Let’s take a step back.
If one came across the aforementioned production (unnamed), they’d expect it to be from a contender. Well, that contender is the White Sox, and the mere fact that we’re discussing them in this context speaks to the startling nature of their uprising.
Last season the offense was shiny and full of potential. On the hill, it was Giolito and failing projects. Now it’s an elite offense, a functioning and improving rotation, and a lockdown bullpen. This took place in one year.
If you remove the offseason additions to both their lineup and pitching staff the White Sox are still a shoo-in playoff team; the collective growth is astounding, not to mention the fact that some of the bedrock youngsters have taken a step back, if you will.
The Minnesota Twins were coming off a 101-win season with an absurdly deep positional depth chart, and they beefed up their starting rotation in the offseason; the Indians have an MLB starting rotation in both the big leagues and their minor-league ranks — or at least it feels that way — and have an offense of productive, savvy veterans. The White Sox were the third-best team in the AL Central in spring training.
Throw in the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, two firmly embedded rebuilding teams, playing competitive baseball this season and Chicago’s success is that much more impressive. Albeit they’re a yawning 7-9 against the Twins and Indians, the White Sox are also 18-2 against the Tigers and Royals, a testament to them demolishing those beneath them.
Plus, some of those losses came in the opening moments of the regular season where the White Sox came out of the gate slow, losing four of their first five games. They’ve picked up steam as the season goes on and are yet to offer substantial reasoning to believe that they’ll tail off.
There are several MLB teams still trying to find their footing multiple years into a rebuild and some who have such a struggle ahead. In a 162-game season the White Sox looked like a team who could hover around .500 and be in the playoff mix until the cows come home. Fast forward to the present and they’re both a 60- and 162-game contender. This doesn’t typically happen.
The Chicago White Sox bypassed the compressor.