With a disappointing 76-86 season now complete, Doug Padilla hands out a full-season report card for the Chicago White Sox.
Before the season began, the front office got an A for filling needs, but that assessment came before the club took the field for the first time. Look, aerospace engineers aren't lauded for building a pretty rocket; they get acclaim for one that can reach lofty destinations. The White Sox never got off the launching pad this year, and because of that there is no passing grade. White Sox vice president Kenny Williams said it all at midseason: Blame the front office, not the manager.
Manager Robin Ventura
Would a different manager have helped Melky Cabrera settle in faster, or helped Jeff Samardzija out of his second-half funk faster? Maybe. Maybe not. The reality is that no metric has ever shown that a manager can make more than a few games' difference, meaning the White Sox were likely a sub-.500 team no matter who was in the driver's seat. It's obvious now that anything short of a well-oiled machine next season means a change on the bench is coming.
The staff ace was pure gold in the middle of the season when his strikeout totals soared and his dominance was unyielding. Sure, he got off to a slow start after a spring training foot injury, and there were some second-half bumps, but Sale showed why players don't exactly race to the batter's box on days the lanky lefty pitches. Based on his 274 strikeouts alone, his season was a winner.
The issue with the right-hander's brutal second half wasn't just the fact he was getting crushed, but that he couldn't detect a simple mechanical adjustment for nearly two months. He showed his max potential in his last two outings, but that was too little, too late after a 9.24 ERA in a nine-start stretch from the start of August to mid-September.
How does a guy keep delivering steady outings and continue to fly under the radar? If there is one thing Quintana has figured out, it is how to lie in the weeds and avoid an upswell of attention. Blame defense, a lack of run support, and an undependable bullpen behind him for the fact he won just nine games and has never reached double digits in the win column despite a 3.46 career ERA over 119 starts, as well as throwing 200 innings in each of the past three seasons.
His first half was awful, but in the second half, the veteran left-hander showed some life. An increase in velocity during the second half shows that Danks continues to trend upward, a full three years after shoulder surgery. Can he keep getting stronger as he gets older?
His early command issues were glaring, but understandable for a young rookie. What was impressive was that the left-hander seemed to grow start after start, showing at times how dominating he can be. If Rodon continues to develop his new changeup to go along with a plus slider and fastball, the sky is the limit.
Closers who can command $46 million contracts should be as dependable as the dawn, yet Robertson had his days when the sun was not shining bright. By his own admission, Robertson said it was the worst season of his career. He had seven blown saves and an 11.57 ERA over a seven-outing stretch late in the season, overshadowing his streak of 26 consecutive batters retired at one point this year.
Not as dependable in the second half as he was in the first, Duke's post-All-Star break outings were a battle. But the lefty showed he can induce the ground ball double play when needed, and was solid when it came to the limited number of inherited runners he allowed to score.
The right-hander was also among the number of White Sox relievers who had to battle as the season went on. His 4.07 ERA was more than double what it was in 2014, when he burst onto the scene as one of the few bright spots in an overwhelmed bullpen. Putnam gave up seven home runs after allowing just two last season.
A 2.73 ERA in the middle of July swelled to over 4.00 by September, but a week on the shelf proved to be what Petricka needed, as the right-hander closed with six consecutive scoreless outings while being used sparingly. Wasn't what he was in 2014, but still solid.
That 3.99 ERA for the season might not look like much, but the left-hander dominated down the stretch, returning from a midseason back injury to post a 1.35 ERA over his last 31 appearances. Over his last 24 outings, he allowed just two earned runs.
There was no way to sugarcoat it, as the conclusion to the right-hander's season was a nightmare. Webb gave up 13 earned runs over his last five outings (39.00 ERA) and had a 16.20 ERA over his last 10. The White Sox still like his arm, and could chalk up his woes to a second-half back injury that landed him on the DL.
Just seeing the right-hander return from Tommy John surgery was huge, while the six consecutive scoreless outings he delivered upon his August return were a bonus. His 19 innings over the final two months were a solid springboard for next season.
All told, he was the White Sox's best reliever, not necessarily blowing away opponents, but thriving with late pitch movement. His 22⅓-inning scoreless streak at the end of the season was the longest active streak in baseball. He was a steal at $1.5 million this season, but as a free agent will probably price himself out of the White Sox's bullpen next year.
Solid behind the plate again, but it was yet another year when Flower's offense did not meet his potential. It's not out of the question that he returns as the starting catcher next season, but the White Sox will most definitely be shopping for an upgrade at the position this winter.
Couldn't have asked anything more from a backup. Was a solid veteran presence on the field and in the clubhouse. It's unfortunate his experience with Samardzija couldn't have yielded better second-half results for the pitcher.
Another 30-home run, 100-RBI season puts Abreu among the better right-handed hitters in the game as a run producer to anchor the lineup around. To his credit, he even improved with the glove, although his decision-making in the field was questionable on a few occasions.
His glove is second to none, and he even turned things around on offense after a slow start. Sanchez managed to establish himself as the club's second baseman of the future, but still can't rest since Micah Johnson is pushing him from behind.
His level of play was down considerably from his All-Star form of 2014, and it could spell an end to his White Sox tenure. The club does hold a $10 million option on the veteran, and indications are they're torn on which way to go.
A versatile, plus defender, Saladino made quite the impression after arriving just before the All-Star break. Struggled for stretches offensively, but at the very least looks to be a lock for the 2016 roster as a utility infielder, and has an outside shot at the starting shortstop spot if Ramirez is set free.
The White Sox desperately need power hitters, which makes Olt's late-season arrival intriguing, but his defense looked raw at best. Power-hitting third basemen are hard to come by these days, which means Olt could get a shot next season with a solid spring.
Beckham gave the White Sox the defense they needed from a utility man, but once again, his bat never came around. A free agent now, Beckham appears to have played his last game in a White Sox uniform.
Never came anywhere near what was expected of him as one of the few power producers in the lineup. Switching to a new league and a new role (designated hitter) was too much to overcome, not to mention some nagging injuries he dealt with all season.
It took a while to settle in with his new club, but once he did the offense finally had a dependable leader. He was a solid influence in the clubhouse; unfortunately by the time his season turned around he couldn't help the club dig out of its deep hole.
Another White Sox regular who started slow only to turn it on late, Eaton made an impressive charge toward 100 runs scored, finishing with 98. His defense got better in the second half after a brutal start, and all that improvement came despite a bum shoulder that required an arthroscopic cleanup this week.
Another player expected to provide power and run production -- along with LaRoche -- and couldn't. Defense was an issue as well. The reality is that it was Garcia's first full season in the majors, and at 24 years old, the club is not done with this project just yet.
A versatile defender who delivered clutch at-bats, with speed on the bases and solid defense -- what more could be asked from a fourth outfielder? The only blemish on an otherwise solid year was a midseason hamstring injury.
A surprise roster addition in August, Thompson made the best impression of any young White Sox player this side of Rodon. He proved that his celebrated defense was legit and showed that his bat can play at the game's highest level as well.