Looking for answers: No simple explanation for White Sox’ massive slide

The White Sox snapped their team-record 14-game losing streak, then made it two straight wins by beating Boston again on Saturday.

Still, there's no telling when their long-term slide will end. The Sox went from 93 wins to 101 losses in just two seasons, shifting from an exciting young playoff contender to worn-out punch line.

Former White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito described the feeling of rolling downhill when he arrived in town with the Red Sox this week.

“I showed up to camp last year and I was excited about the team we had and the talent,” Giolito said. “For a little while, it felt pretty good. Then it became very evident, 'I'm going to get dealt, a lot of others guys are going to get dealt.'

“After that, it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. But I value that now. Looking back on it, it's like, 'All right, cool. I got to experience a lot of strange things last year.' I kind of put that in the bank and learn a lot from it.”

While Giolito was learning, the leftover White Sox have been losing, with a few exceptions.

To celebrate extinguishing the losing streak, let's try to put a finger on where it all went wrong as the Sox dropped from the playoffs to piling up losses.

Being cheap

It's hard to pin too much of the failure on the spending habits of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. This is nuanced category because the Sox spent money in the wrong places at times.

But the one transaction that stands out was letting pitcher Carlos Rodon walk away as a free agent. This happened after the playoff season when Rodon posted a 13-5 record and 2.37 ERA. He was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2014, so the Sox had plenty invested in him.

Now, signing Rodon to a six-year, $162 million deal like the Yankees did in 2023 is probably not recommended, especially with his injury history. But in 2022, when the White Sox were hoping to build on their division title, Rodon signed a one-year deal with the Giants for $21.5 million and set career-highs in starts (31) and innings pitched (178).

Who knows what sort of negotiations took place? But if the White Sox were trying to maximize the potential of that group, Rodon should have been part of the '22 squad.

An argument could also be made the Sox should have tried harder to keep Jose Abreu as a veteran presence. He would have helped last season but is hitting .122 in Houston and has another year on his contract worth $19.5 million. Ouch.

Head-scratching bad luck

There has been plenty of this in recent White Sox history. For starters, Tim Anderson, Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jimenez all played fewer than 100 games in 2022. Jimenez has had a ridiculous run of injuries and is on the IL now.

Somehow, Anderson went from two-time all-star and hitting a game-winning homer into the Iowa corn field to barely playing in Miami. Yoan Moncada has been trending downward since 2019 and is also injured. Catcher Yasmani Grandal went from pretty good in '21 to awful in '22.

Besides losing Rodon, the White Sox did try to fill their biggest lineup needs heading into '22, signing A.J. Pollock for left field and Josh Harrison at second base. Pollock posted an OPS of .881 and .892 the previous two years with the Dodgers, then dropped to .681 with the Sox. Some things you can't explain.

Fans watch during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, Sunday, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

Bad drafts

The Sox have a terrible success rate with first-round picks, going back decades. They really haven't drafted well since 1987-90, when they came up with Jack McDowell, Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura and Alex Fernandez in four straight seasons.

Since taking Chris Sale at No. 13 overall in 2010, the White Sox had big hits with Anderson and Rodon in 2013 and '14, then not much success until taking pitcher Garrett Crochet in 2020.

That's why the Sox have traded star players to rebuild the farm system so often. It's possible Crochet and Robert could be the next to go.

Player development

The White Sox have drafted or acquired plenty of live arms, though you wouldn't know if from the pitching stats. A quick check of StatCast shows a number of pitchers with above average fastballs and below average breaking balls.

The Cubs improved their pitching development a few years ago by hiring Craig Breslow to build an infrastructure that taught players how to throw effective sliders. It appears the White Sox have room to grow in this category.

Among position players, Robert has been the only one on the current roster to make a sizable jump. Gavin Sheets is trending up slightly this year after two years of regression. Andrew Vaughn is sort of the White Sox' version of Ian Happ, good but not great.

It's not all gloom and doom, though. Shortstop Colson Montgomery, the team's first-round pick in 2021, is ranked the No. 10 prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline. The Sox have two impressive left-handed pitchers in Double A Birmingham with Oswego native Noah Schultz and Drew Thorpe, a player they got in the Dylan Cease trade.

For the rest of this year, being healthier might help. The Sox have gone 2-3 since Robert returned from the injured list. Jimenez might start a rehab assignment next week.

What will happen first — the White Sox get back into playoff contention or they move to a new stadium or city? Well, some questions are impossible to answer.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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