History says the 2020 White Sox CAN WIN 90 games…
As we White Sox fans trudge head long into the 2020 season, one which undoubtedly will have it’s highlights and moments of soul crushing nothingness, I thought it might be important to turn away (for the moment) from projections and spring training games and twitter polls and look at recent history for a potential parable on what the 2020 White Sox can be. We all remember the 2019 White Sox, they had some fun moments, even had a few good players, but they kinda stunk. The 2020 White Sox are going to need to be better and will probably be just one Lou Brown inspired Rachel Phelps gag from being a playoff team.
That’s right, the White Sox need ABOUT an 18 game improvement over the 2019 season to have theyselfs sniffing around a playoff spot. See the table below, in the 2 wild card era (since 2012) we haz a whopping 11 teams that have pulled off this gambit. Seems promising, but let’s take a little closer look to see which ones are 2020 White Soxian type teams and which ones ain’t.
Now, I think I want to do this in a definitive style, so I’ll start with the teams that while pulling off this feat, look fucking NOTHING like our White Sox….LFG!
2014 Astros improved from 51 wins to 70 wins, but that’s just them not trying to be putrid
2013 Red Sox improved from 69 wins to 97 wins and a World Series victory, but let’s be honest, this was a dead-cat bounce team. The youngest position player starter was 24, Will Middlebrooks and he was horrible. The rest of the starters were 28 and older. The pitching was all established vets, including 38 year old Koji Uehara leading the team in saves.
2013 Indians were also a bit of a dead cat bounce team. They got 147 league average innings from 27 year old upstart Corey Kluber, some great relief work from newcomer Cody Allen and the 26 and 27 year old Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana posted OPS+ of 130 and 135 respectively, but this team had tons of veterans on it, including the geriatric Jason Giambi checking in with 216 PA from the DH spot (he wasn’t good).
2015 Rangers are a team I’ll remember forever because they edged out the Astros by 2 games in the division and Chorizy and I had infinite Astros to win the AL West +2800….we did end up hedging some back, but could’ve been a monster payday. Anyways, this wasn’t a particularly young team although they got help from 21 years old Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo, as well as 22 year old Delino DeShields Jr. Jr., but their best players were Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo, all above the age of 30. On the pitching side, they traded for Cole Hamels and got excellence when he arrived, and they also got 184 innings of 124 ERA+ from Yovani Gallardo. God damn, this is making me madder by the second that Chorizy and I didn’t cash those AL West futures. FUCK!!
2018 A’s are a microcosm of what the A’s always fucking do. They find veterans that nobody wants that turn in great performances, like 17 starts from Edwin Jackson with a 125 ERA+ or Blake Treinen throwing 80 1/3 IP with a 0.78 ERA. They also were smart enough to get 48 HR from Khris Davis (no, the other one) and oh they also had the Matt’s (Chapman and Olson) young players in their own right play like GOT DAMN superstars. Fucking love Billy Beane!
NOW….we get on to the matches….
2014 Angels were a team full of above average hitting vets on the offensive side, lead by a 22 year old Mike Trout crushing every fucking thing in sight. The pitching was a tale of youth as Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards turned in sparkling performances, getting help from other young hurlers in Hector Santiago (yep that, Hector Santiago) and Tyler Skaggs #RIPIP. Vets Joe Smith and Huston Street were basically unhittable out of the bullpen.
2015 Cubs look A LOT like a potential 90 win White Sox team would look. They got basically all contributions from the YOUTS on offense, with the only regulars above 30, as Chris Coghlan (remember him??) and Miguel Montero. This team had young stars in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, a potentially less baby-mama punchy Addy Russell and Jorge Soler. They also got some punch from part-time players Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber. On the pitching side, they got a once in a lifetime performance from the “Pilates and Beard” infused Jake Arrieta. Try and envision the young kids coming along at the plate and on defense and Lucas Giolito 229 IP of a 1.77 ERA and you got the 2015 Cubs.
2017 Twins also have significant similarities to the 2020 White Sox in that they had a bunch of young players contributing, but still had veteran stalwarts leading the charge. The one dynamic change was a 23 year old Byron Buxton putting up a 5.1 bWAR season with only a 93 OPS+. Luis Robert has the talent to be a dominant two way player in much the same ways Buxton is (I’d say with some less glove, some more power). This team had young pitching come along as well, but still had veteran Ervin Santana (Remember him? This was before his hand looked like Chubbs Peterson’s) leading the rotation. It was an odd year where 85 wins got you in the playoffs, but who’s to say that couldn’t happen in 2020?
2017 Diamondbacks were lead by a killer young pitching staff, Corbin, Ray, Walker and Godley threw 664 innings of well above league average ball, leading this squad to a playoff birth. That’s the kind of movement you dream on with Lopez, Cease, Giolito and Kopech…..Oh and they still had Zack Greinke leading their staff. I dominant starting pitching staff.
2018 Braves were good and young basically everywhere. A 20 year old Ronald Acuna showing up and posting a .917 OPS is mighty helpful. This is what you see when you squint real hard about the 2020 White Sox, a young team that turns one more player into a star and gets good production from the rest of the pile.
2019 Twins are the 2017 Twins after a regression year and lots of mid low level free agent reinforcements to go along with some “interesting” internal developments. They are a testament to what can be done on a mid-market budget in the modern era if you are aggressive in addressing your needs. I don’t see the White Sox quite in this spot, although when we are looking back on 2020, it is possible I will see them that way.
So it looks like there are quite a few comps for the coming of age 2020 White Sox. This hardly makes 90 wins a foregone conclusion, but if you wipe off the lenses of your wire rimmed spectacles you can just see what it might look like if it comes into focus.