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Building the Best White Sox Lineup of the Past 20 Years

by Adam Kaplan

Recently for this site, I wrote about building the best White Sox rotation based on single-season performances from the past 20 years. You can check out the article in full here. As the lockout, unfortunately, continues to drag on, and I still would like something to write about, I decided to apply the rotation concept to the lineup.

Based solely on an individual single season, I am creating a lineup consisting of nine different players – one player for each of the 8 defensive positions plus a DH. I also created 5 bench spots. The 2021 White Sox carried 14 position players in the ALDS, and so I selected 14 position players for this super team.

But first, some parameters:

  • In order to be eligible for a particular starting position, the player needed to have played the majority of their games at said starting position. This includes DH as well.
  • Only one season per player can be selected.
  • Once a player has been selected, either for a starting position or the bench, they are ineligible to be selected again.
  • Players must have played the full season on the White Sox.
  • Only seasons played for the White Sox from 2001-2021 were eligible.

Now that we got the fine print out of the way, here is how I built the best White Sox lineup from the past 20 years.


First Base

2020 José Abreu
2.6 fWAR, 165 wRC+, .317/.370/.617, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 60 games, Silver Slugger, AL MVP

The White Sox have really only had two first basemen within the past 20 years – Paul Konerko and José Abreu – so that made narrowing down the selection a lot easier for me. As much as I love Paul Konerko, Abreu has been by far and away the better player during their respective tenures on the South Side. The real tough decision for me was whether I should select Abreu’s rookie season in 2014 where he won AL ROY or 2020’s MVP season. Abreu put up similar numbers both seasons and to his credit, did it over a full season in 2014 versus only 60 games during the pandemic shortened season. However, the MVP was deciding factor for me, and the 2020 COVID season still counts.

RUNNER UP: 2010 Paul Konerko
3.6 fWAR, 158 wRC+, .312/.393/.584, 39 HR, 149 games


Second Base

2001 Ray Durham
3.9 fWAR, 108 wRC+, .267/.337/.466, 20 HR, 23 SB, 152 games

While doing research for another article, I came across a post from the now-defunct Grantland which stated about Rick Hahn’s mini-rebuild in 2015, “Despite the biggest and best offseason haul in the 114-year history of the franchise, the roster still has holes, especially at second base.”

Well, time is a flat circle as the Sox are still looking to improve at second base in 2022. Needless to say, this position has not been one of strength for the Pale Hose through the recent iteration of the franchise. Overall, the best second baseman the team has had throughout the past two decades has been Tadahito Iguchi, but even his best season doesn’t fully compare to Ray Durham‘s best during this given time frame.

RUNNER UP: 2005 Tadahito Iguchi
3.3 fWAR, 105 wRC+, .278/.342/.438, 15 HR, 15 SB, 135 games


Shortstop

2019 Tim Anderson
3.4 fWAR, 128 wRC+, .335/.357/.508, 18 HR, 17 SB, 123 games, AL batting champion

Between guys like Juan Uribe and Alexei Ramirez (who will come up later on this list), the White Sox have had some pretty good and fan-favorite shortstops to root for these past 20 years. However, none of them have been able to hold a candle to the charisma and hit ability that TA7 has brought to the team. Technically, his 2020 season was his best season offensively (141 wRC+), but he only played in 49 of 60 games, and at some point, I have to draw the line. Plus, having the best batting average throughout an entire season with a subpar team around him in 2019 is far more impressive to me than what he did during the COVID season.

RUNNER UP: 2004 Juan Uribe
3.5 fWAR, 110 wRC+, .283/.327/.506, 23 HR, 9 SB, 134 games


Third Base

2019 Yoán Moncada
5.6 fWAR, 139 wRC+, .315/.367/.548, 25 HR, 10 SB, 132 games

It’s pretty funny how the vocal opponents of Yoán Moncada love to trash his 2021 season when it clearly would have made this list if it weren’t for Yo-Yo’s 2019 campaign. Being frustrated that Moncada last season wasn’t as good or better than his 2019 campaign is one thing, but his 4.5 fWAR in 2021 was lightyears ahead of anyone else the Sox has thrown at third base.

RUNNER UP: 2001 José Valentín
3.3 fWAR, 118 wRC+, .258/.336/.509, 28 HR, 9 SB, 124 games (66 3B, 43 SS)


Left Field

2008 Carlos Quentin
4.7 fWAR, 152 wRC+, .288/.394/.571, 36 HR, 7 SB, 130 games, All-Star, Silver Slugger, 5th in AL MVP voting

The winner of left field supremacy is from the battle of the Carloses: Lee vs. Quentin. In terms of fWAR, 2004 El Caballo wins this hands down. His 5.5 fWAR destroys Quentin’s 4.7. However, in terms of roster construction, I want big boppers in my lineup. While Carlos Lee‘s 2004 season was, as Larry David would say: pretty, pretty good, (he slashed .305/.366/.525 with 31 home runs) he’s overtaken by Carlos Quentin‘s break out season. Carlos Lee is by far the better defender, that’s why his fWAR is higher, but I don’t care. Give me the better bat here.

RUNNER UP: 2004 Carlos Lee
5.5 fWAR, 127 wRC+, .305/.366/.525, 31 HR, 11 SB, 153 games


Center Field

2004 Aaron Rowand
5.8 fWAR, 131 wRC+, .310/.361/.544, 24 HR, 17 SB, 140 games (126 CF, 12 RF)

Aaron Rowand‘s 2004 season was incredible and the competition for his crown is not close. His 5.8 fWAR was one of the best among all Sox outfielders these past two decades. Rowand would be rewarded a year later by being a significant contributor to the 2005 World Series champions.

RUNNER UP: 2010 Álex Ríos
3.3 fWAR, 109 wRC+, .284/.334/.457, 21 HR, 34 SB, 147 games


Right Field

2002 Magglio Ordóñez
4.5 fWAR, 155 wRC+,.320/.381/.597, 38 HRs, 7 SBs, 153 games, Silver Slugger, 8th in AL MVP Voting

Like Carlos Quentin, my other corner outfield spot is sacrificing defense for offense (sort of, you’ll see in a second). Adam Eaton‘s best season on the South Side saw him post a whopping 5.9 fWAR; however, he did with a wRC+ of only 117. Stellar defense with literally above-average offense is obviously excellent, and I would take that over the Sox current right field situation 1000 times out of 100, but it doesn’t fit how I want to construct my roster.

As such, I need to decide between Magglio Ordóñez and Jermaine Dye. I have more love in my heart for J.D. (he did win the MVP in the World Series after all), but his best offensive season for the White Sox, his 2006 campaign, was almost identical to Mags’ 2002 offensive season. Here, the defense was the tiebreaker. Magglio Ordóñez wasn’t an amazing outfielder, but Dye’s outfield play was so bad, that he was worth 1.5 less WAR than Ordóñez despite similar offensive output.

Further, the benefit of having Magglio Ordóñez on this team is now we get to shout “Oh-We-Oh Maaaaaa-glio!”

RUNNER UP: 2006 Jermaine Dye
3.0 fWAR, 151 wRC+, .315/.385/.622, 44 HR, 7 SB, 146 games, All-Star, Silver Slugger, 5th in AL MVP voting


CATCHER

2021 Yasmani Grandal
3.7 fWAR, 159 wRC+, .240/.420/.520, 23 HR, 93 games

During the 2021 playoffs, a fan of Sox On 35th asked about Martín Maldonaldo’s value defensively to the Houston Astros compared to what Yasmani Grandal provided the Chicago White Sox. You can check out my full response here, but what I said in part was that while Grandal is obviously the better player, Maldonaldo is a better fit for the Astros. Houston can score runs with the other eight players on their team to make up for the zero offensively they’re basically getting from their catcher position and can live with Martín Maldonaldo thanks to the defense he provides. At first glance, I wanted to use that same approach for my starting catcher for this exercise; I’ll have offense everywhere else, so go defense with catcher. However, the Sox have not had a great defensive catcher over the past 20 years. I even reached out on the Sox On 35th Slack to double-check to ensure no one slipped my mind, and both Ed and Chris from Sox In The Basement confirmed that the last great defensive catchers the Sox had were Ron Karkovice, who last played Major League baseball well before the 2001 season, and Charles Johnson‘s partial 2000 season, which is also ineligible for this list.

As such, I went with the best offensive catcher the Sox have had since 2001, and that was Yasmani Grandal‘s season last year. Even though Yaz missed a significant amount of time, his 3.7 fWAR was by far and away the best from the catcher position since 2001. In 42 fewer games, Grandal still ended up posting 0.4 more Wins Above Replacement than A.J. Pierzynski‘s best season (the runner up to 2021 Yasmani Grandal). Considering Yasmani Grandal was the best catcher in the AL Central last season, the notion that he ever got criticized solely because he took a bunch of walks early in the season was absurd. Why do we like Yaz?

Normally games played matters to me for this exercise; however, Yasmani Grandal’s 2021 season was too good to pass up. Plus, all teams normally carry two catchers anyways (and as you will eventually see below with my bench, so do I) that this super team will be able to live with the significant amount of games missed by Yaz.

RUNNER UP: 2012 A.J. Pierzynski
3.3 fWAR, 119 wRC+, .278/.326/.501, 27 HR, 135 games


Designated Hitter

2006 Jim Thome
4.8 fWAR, 153 wRC+, .288/.416/.598, 42 HR, 143 games, All-Star

As magical as the 2005 World Series team was, and as much fun as it was last year being the best team in the AL Central, my personal favorite team from the past 20 years is the 2006 White Sox. Sure they fell short down the stretch and didn’t make the playoffs, and that obviously sucked, but they were competitive most of the season. Jim Thome was a large reason for that. The Sox offense was fine in 2005, but it needed a jolt of power, and the Pride of Peoria was the missing link. The combination of Thome in the heart of the order with Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye made my heart flutter.

RUNNER UP: 2003 Frank Thomas
4.2 fWAR, 147 wRC+, .267/.390/.562, 42 HR, 153 games


My Lineup

  1. 2021 Yasmani Grandal (C)
  2. 2019 Tim Anderson (SS)
  3. 2006 Jim Thome (DH)
  4. 2020 José Abreu (1B)
  5. 2008 Carlos Quentin (LF)
  6. 2002 Magglio Ordóñez (RF)
  7. 2019 Yoán Moncada (3B)
  8. 2004 Aaron Rowand (CF)
  9. 2001 Ray Durham (2B)

If you want to know more about why I have Yaz leading off and TA batting second, check out a recent article I did for Sox on 35th entitled: Should Tim Anderson Continue to Lead Off?.


Bench

CATCHER

2020 James McCann
1.5 fWAR, 142 wRC+, .289/.360/.536, 7 HR, 31 games

Between Yasmani Grandal’s 2021 season where he missed significant time due to injury and James McCann‘s season splitting time with Yaz during the shortened COVID season, I know I’m ultimately hanging my hat on smaller sample sizes. Still, 2020 was an actual season of baseball that crowned MVPs and a World Series champion, and James McCann was quite good in it. Not only was he coming off of an All-Star 2019 season, but the debate between keeping McCann and trading Grandal away prior to the 2021 season was a real (albeit dumb) moment White Sox fans had. Maybe McCann wouldn’t have been able to keep up his 60 game pace throughout a 162 game season, but he was still one of the best catchers in the AL in 2020 and I believe worthy of a spot on this list. If you want to say that A.J. Pierzynski should be one of the two catchers, I’m not going to argue very hard with you, but James McCann is my selection.

INFIELDERS

2011 Alexei Ramirez
4.2 fWAR, 97 wRC+, .269/.328/.399, 15 HR, 7 SB, 158 games

I have plenty of offense, so now I need some defensive replacements. Ramirez can play both second base and shortstop and can play them at an elite level. His offense isn’t the greatest (his wRC+ under 100 is by definition below average) but it’s not bad enough where it would be a significant impediment to this team I’ve created. This is a no-brainer.

2006 Joe Crede
3.9 fWAR, 106 wRC+, .283/.323/.506, 30 HRs, 150 games

I thought long and hard about putting Frank Thomas here (at to a lesser extent, Paul Konerko). Thomas’s best season during the allotted time frame was his 2003 season where he slashed .267/.390/.562 with 42 home runs, good for a wRC+ of 147. On some level, it’s pretty dumb leaving him off of this team. On the other hand, I already have plenty of offense with my starters, Thomas doesn’t provide any defensive flexibility (he actually makes things worse since he was only a DH at this point in his career) and, as mentioned earlier, Jim Thome’s 2006 season as a DH was just outright better.

As such, I chose a player who could actually play defense and someone who could play third base if needed. Joe Crede also provides some pop off of the bench. Obviously nowhere close to the power of Frank Thomas, but Crede did hit 30 HRs in 2006.

OUTFIELDERS

2016 Adam Eaton
5.9 fWAR, 117 wRC+, .284/.362/.428, 14 HR, 14 SB, 157 games

It’s hard to say a guy with a 5.9 fWAR is the perfect bench guy, but for this exercise, Adam Eaton is the perfect bench guy. He’s useful mainly for his defense and can play all three outfield spots if need be. Further, he can steal a base or hit a home run if necessary. Additionally, the rest of my bench are all righties, so it’s good to have a lefty.

2021 Luis Robert
3.2 fWAR, 157 wRC+, .338/.378/.567, 13 HR, 6 SB, 68 games

When Luis Robert was playing for the Chicago White Sox in 2021, he was incredible at the plate. A 3.2 fWAR in only 68 games is absurd. This is why Sox fans right now are calling him an MVP candidate. Though games played does matter in this exercise, and his limited time does prevent him from being a starter. But as the 5th outfielder on this team? It’s just fine.

Robert can provide whatever offensive off of the bench that’s missing by the selection of Joe Crede over Frank Thomas while also being able to play all three outfield positions if necessary. He’s also better suited for center over the 2016 version of Adam Eaton, who had the best season of his career when he switched from center field to right field.

Despite the current trend, the White Sox have had some great one-hit-wonder seasons from right fielders, including Álex Ríos’s 2012 season, Avisaíl García‘s 2017 season, and the aforementioned 2006 campaign from Jermaine Dye. Plus, the previously mentioned 2004 season Carlos Lee had in left field. All of these seasons were in consideration for the final outfield spot. However, because this is a bench spot, I’m prioritizing defense above offense, and all of these players had varying levels of poor defensive play. Further, when Robert was playing, he still produced better offensively than all of these guys.

Lastly, I did not want to complete this post without at least mentioning Scott Podsednik‘s 2005 season. He played above-average defense, stole a butt load of bases (59) while doing so at a pretty darn good clip (72% SB%) while hitting .290 with a respectable .351 OBP. In theory, he would also be a good candidate to come off of the bench as well. Ultimately though, his wRC+ was only 88 – which would easily be the worst out of any player mentioned in this post – and his fWAR was only 1.9. Give me Robert’s partial 2021 season over Scotty Pod’s 2005 season any day.


What are your thoughts on this lineup and this bench? What does your team look like? Let us know in the comments below!


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Featured Image: Chicago White Sox / Twitter


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