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Revisiting White Sox Predictions at the Quarter Mark

by Noah Phalen

It has been a polarizing month and a half to kick off the 2022 Major League Baseball season. Offensive numbers are at an all-time low across the league, several surprising players are breaking out, while other consistent superstars have been scuffling. It’s been a particularly turbulent start for the Chicago White Sox, who have already seen several significant injuries, an eight-game losing streak, a six-game winning streak, a 9th inning collapse, several early breakouts, and a few possible regressions. As of now, the team sits at 21-20, four games back in the AL Central.

In the days before Opening Day 2022, several members of the Sox On 35th team recorded their predictions for the outcome of the White Sox 2022 campaign. Now, as the season reaches its quarter mark, we have decided to re-visit our predictions and make new ones. Where do our aspirations for the White Sox stand as the team hovers around .500 for its first 40 games? How have our opinions on the team changed since Opening Day? We asked our contributors the same questions as in the preseason, and they reflect on their responses:

Check out the team’s preseason predictions HERE.


Record

Jordan Lazowski (@jlazowski14) | Editor in Chief

Preseason: 94-68, 1st Place in AL Central
Current: 90-72, 1st Place in AL Central

For as frustrating as this team has been, they’re still the best team in the division. In order to finish with 90 wins, the White Sox would have to finish the season 69-52, which isn’t a ridiculous pace to ask for from a team that’s as good as the White Sox. There’s a lot of panic around this team, yet little of it is really warranted. This team isn’t going to walk a lot, and as a result, it’s going to be prone to stretches of struggles similar to what we’ve seen so far to start 2022. The biggest thing, however, is that veterans like Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, and – until this week – AJ Pollock were struggling to hit. Both Pollock and Abreu have shown signs of life this past week, and Grandal has taken better swings recently, even without any results to match. Let’s not forget, too, that Lance Lynn will be coming back, and the Twins aren’t actually particularly good.

This team will be fine, everyone. I’m not telling you not to panic, because 40 games is a decent sample size and I get the reason people are panicking. However, I’m also not going to encourage panicking or wild changes in predictions. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and I’m not going to be swayed into doom and gloom too much by these 40 games.

Nik Gaur (@Gaur_Nik) | Managing Editor

Preseason: 92-70, 1st Place in AL Central
Current: 88-74, 1st Place in AL Central

I still don’t see the Twins as anything more than an ~86 win team this year, and I expect the White Sox to have a sustained hot streak or two to lead them to another division title.

Adam Kaplan (@MillennialSox)- Contributor

Preseason: 93-69, 1st Place in AL Central
Current: 81-81, 3rd Place in AL Central

I think it’s funny that White Sox fans, given our history and DNA, looked at last year and still went, “of course things will go perfect and we’ll win the division again”- completely overlooking how terrible it’s been for us. The White Sox have gotten off to a horrible start, and frankly, this should have been expected by anyone who has been a Sox fan for longer than a year. As of this writing, since the All Star Break of 2021, the White Sox are 57-52. That’s an 84-85 win pace over a 162 game season.

Outside of the fact that the White Sox offense is anemic, and I don’t think it will get better, the Minnesota Twins currently have a 4 game advantage over the Sox, and a much easier schedule in the near future. The Twins have a good rotation, and just enough offense to keep them in games (and they still score more runs than the Sox despite the apparent talent differential). I expect the Twins to lead the division by the Trade Deadline, and unlike the South Siders, they actually have assets to help fill in some of their flaws at that time. I also think the Cleveland Guardians are a better overall team than the Sox. They have a darn good rotation, and their offense boasts one of the best batting averages in the league, which is helpful since power is down everywhere. A rotation that will eventually consist of Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, and Michael Kopech will help keep the Sox into games, but I fear the Pale Hose have put themselves in too much a hole from the get go to eventually right the ship.

Noah Phalen (@noahs_ark_2x2)- Contributor

Previous: 94-68, 1st Place in AL Central
Current: 86-76, T-1st in AL Central

The White Sox are one more long winning streak away from getting themselves back into good shape for the division, and I think they’re capable of that. However, the AL Central won’t be a walk in the park this year, as the Sox have shows with a 7-12 record against them so far. I think the Twins are a good, not great team, and will be competitive. Ultimately, I think it will be close, and a late game or two will decide the division.

Thatcher Zalewski (@tzalewski25)– Contributor

Previous: 95-67, 1st Place in AL Central
Current: 91-71, 1st Place in AL Central

Even with the slow start the White Sox are having, they will turn it around and win the division. Once they get hot, they aren’t slowing down. The White Sox have shown the flashes of a team capable of winning another AL Central crown. However, the team as a whole needs to polish some things up and find a way to jump past the Twins. 

Tommy Gross (@Tommy_gro)- Contributor

Previous: N/A
Current: 86-76, 1st Place in AL Central

The year hasn’t gone as well as we would have hoped. The hitting has been pretty poor this year as we are 26th in wOBA, which makes us the fourth-worst in the league. I have stayed optimistic throughout the season thinking better days are going to come. I still think we are early in the season and can turn this bad stretch around given time. The pitching for the team has been solid this year, and I believe the hitting can turn around and will turn around soon. We are 14th in the league in xwOBA, which means that we are still unlucky and that our wOBA is likely to go up in time. This team is in a batting slump. They should do what all good hitters do when they are in slumps: be patient. This team needs to start taking pitches, working counts, and taking walks. Once we start doing that, we will see a better offensive team out there.


Team MVP

Jordan Lazowski

Previous: Yoan Moncada
Current: Yoan Moncada

So far, the answer to this question has either been Luis Robert or Tim Anderson. But, it’s a long season, and for the most part, I would like to stand by my initial predictions wherever possible. This is one of those cases, as Moncada has shown that his power from 2019 might be making a return this season. I remain confident here.

Nik Gaur

Previous: Luis Robert
Current: Luis Robert

Luis Robert has been everything he was supposed to be this season, and he still has been considerably unlucky at the plate (even relative to the rest of the league and factoring in the new baseballs).

Adam Kaplan

Previous: Luis Robert
Current: Luis Robert

It feels like every time I write a recap for Sox On 35th, the headline ends up being about Luis Robert. Whether it’s because he stole two bases to help give the Sox the go-ahead run or because he walked off the game, the offense right now is basically being carried by Robert. A special shout out to Tim Anderson who, as I write this, is slashing .328/.363/.484 on the year, but his atrocious defense so far makes him ineligible for Team MVP me. 

Noah Phalen

Previous: Luis Robert
Current: Luis Robert

In one of the more unsurprising developments in 2022, Luis Robert has been an absolute pleasure to watch. He started flashing his potential towards the end of 2021 and has picked up where he left off. If there’s any criticism of Robert, its that he swings the bat too much, and often makes outs chasing a pitcher’s pitch. If Luis can learn to be patient at the plate, he’s got potential to be a perennial MVP candidate. He’s been the best all-around player on the White Sox this year though, and there’s no reason to think that’ll change. Honorable mention to Tim Anderson, who may have gotten my vote if he weren’t struggling so bad on defense.

Thatcher Zalewski

Previous: Yasmani Grandal
Current: Tim Anderson

The White Sox go when Tim Anderson goes, and TA has been going as of late. He has been a massive part of the White Sox offense this year, and he is trying to get the rest of the team back on the same path as the leadoff hitter. A big part of the change in predictions is that Yasmani has had a slow start to the year. He hasn’t picked up where he left off last season. While on the other hand, Anderson has been just hitting as of late and carrying the White Sox offense. 

Tommy Gross

Previous: N/A
Current: Luis Robert

La Pantera is having such a great season this year. His line at the time of this writing is .301/.338/.472 with a .358 wOBA and a .416 xwOBA. He is absolutely crushing the ball right now and the xwOBA shows that this is no fluke either. He is also playing great defense this year as he is only one of two players on the White Sox that has a positive OAA (Outs Above Average). Hopefully, he can keep this up for the rest of the season.


Team Cy Young

Jordan Lazowski

Previous: Dylan Cease
Current: Dylan Cease

#CyCease isn’t losing any momentum, folks. Hate to break it to you if you thought I’d change my answer here. He’s striking out 37% of hitters and has a 3.09 ERA/2.22 xERA/2.16 FIP. Great things are coming for Cease, don’t let the start against the Yankees convince you otherwise.

Nik Gaur

Previous: Lucas Giolito
Current: Lucas Giolito

Call me crazy, but I’ve seen enough from Giolito this year to make me feel comfortable about this prediction in spite of tremendous starts from Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. I don’t think you could really go wrong with any of those three, however.

Adam Kaplan

Previous: Reynaldo Lopez
Current: Dylan Cease

At the time of the original article, I wanted to write about Lance Lynn. However, the hefty veteran required surgery right before the article was set to post, so I changed my response to ReyLo – mainly because I didn’t want to talk about Cease or Lucas Giolito, and I didn’t have much faith in either Dallas Keuchel, Vince Velasquez, or Michael Kopech. I also assumed because Lopez did very well starting games in the second half of 2021 that he would be given a rotation spot by now. I was clearly wrong about that.

I still believe in Lance Lynn going forward, and think from this point on he will be the second best starting pitcher on the staff, but it’s hard to deny the dominance that Dylan Cease has proved. I don’t see any reason why he won’t be able to do this all year. I assume others in this section will go into more depth and detail about Cease, and they’re right, but I will say this. If Dylan Cease wants a legitimate shot at the AL Cy Young, which should very much be in his sights, he needs to cool it on the walks. In 2021, among qualified starters, Dylan Cease had the second worst BB/9 in the majors at 3.69. In 2022, as of my writing, Cease is the 7th worst at 3.50 BB/9. If he can bring down his walks to 2 a game instead of 3+, the sky will be the limit for him.

Noah Phalen

Previous: Lucas Giolito
Current: Michael Kopech

Dylan Cease’s tremendous start to the season cannot be understated, as he currently leads Major League Baseball in strikeouts, but my pick here is Michael Kopech. Coming into the season, Kopech was a bit of a question mark, and he’s been anything but that so far this year. Low run support and bullpen collapses have prevented him from earning a win yet this season, but Kopech has done a tremendous job of stepping up with early injuries to the rotation. He’s still young and once he refines his craft, the sky’s the limit.

Thatcher Zalewski-

Previous: Lance Lynn
Current: Dylan Cease

My original pick of Lance Lynn was made before his injury. If he were still healthy, he would probably still be my pick. However, with Cease showing tremendous growth this year, it is almost hard not to change my choice to Cease. Dylan Cease has been dealing for the majority of the year and really only showed struggles against the Yankees, where he still struck out 11. He is looking like a Cy Young candidate for the White Sox and the entire American League. 

Tommy Gross-

Previous: N/A
Current: Dylan Cease

Dylan has been phenomenal this season. He has a 3.09 ERA and a league-leading 67 strikeouts at the time I’m writing this. His slider has been extremely consistent this year as he has a lot more command with that pitch in comparison to last year. Opponents are currently batting .182 against that pitch this season. Not to mention he is doing all of this with a sick
mustache. I definitely believe it is hypnotic to some of these batters he’s facing and is definitely contributing to his success this season.


Regression Candidate

Jordan Lazowski

Previous: Gavin Sheets
Current: Gavin Sheets

Through 41 games, I haven’t been wrong on this prediction. Sheets has looked lost at the plate at times, and many of his at-bats have him looking as though he would be better served in Charlotte. What’s keeping Sheets here is the lack of a left-handed alternative for the White Sox. Sheets’ walk rate has dropped a bit, his ISO is down almost 100 points, and it appears he’s taking more defensive swings than usual. This is a game of adjustments – Sheets needs to make his now, because if not, this season isn’t going to get better for him.

Nik Gaur

Previous: Gavin Sheets
Current: Gavin Sheets

You could probably pick from a dozen names here, but I’m sticking with Sheets, who has been disappointing overall even with a brief power surge at home recently, mostly because the expected stats of some other potential picks (Abreu, Pollock, Grandal, etc.) suggest that positive regression could come. 

Adam Kaplan

Previous: Yasmani Grandal
Current: Jose Abreu

I still hold true to my Yaz pick, and I unfortunately have been proven correct so far, but I wanted to highlight Abreu just because he’s been brutal. And unlike Yaz, I don’t think this is going to get better, at least not significantly. I still have faith that the walks and homers are coming from Grandal. I don’t have that same faith with Abreu. I absolutely love Jose as a player and what he’s done for the Sox organization; however, I think his 30/100 days are long behind him. I know Abreu tends to be a slow starter throughout his career, but this feels different. I hope I am eventually proven wrong. 

Noah Phalen

Previous: Lance Lynn
Current: Lance Lynn

I’m not worried about Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, or A.J. Pollock. Abreu has been very unlucky in the early going, Grandal will be fine when he starts taking walks again, and A.J. Pollock has started to heat it up recently. I am, however, still worried about Lance Lynn. Lynn has yet to pitch for the White Sox this season, though he shouldn’t be more than a few weeks away. Lynn’s age, recent injury, and high fastball percentage make me slightly worried. However, I’m excited for Lynn to come back. Anything that gets Dallas Keuchel off the team is fine with me.

Thatcher Zalewski

Previous: Michael Kopech
Current: A.J. Pollock

Well, this was a wrong prediction, but that’s the fun with making predictions. Kopech has shown that he is even better as a starter and has done a great job as a starting pitcher in 2022. Now AJ Pollock, on the other hand, was someone everyone considered an answer to the hole in right field. While it is still early in the year, Pollock hasn’t done what most fans expected him to do as the right fielder for the White Sox. 

Tommy Gross

Previous: N/A
Current: Ryan Burr

Ryan Burr just got sent down to Triple-A Charlotte as I’m writing this. In the majors, he currently has a 6.00 ERA which was a large increase from last year’s 2.45 ERA. Ryan Burr was not expected to continue pitching at that same level going into this year as last year’s 2.45 ERA was slightly embellished, considering he had a FIP of 4.23. Hopefully, sometime in the minors will
help him better establish his pitches and increase his confidence. I hope Ryan Burr can bounce back and have that ERA around 4.50 that he usually sits at.


X-Factor

Jordan Lazowski

Previous: Internal Improvements Over 2021
Current: Offensive Approach

File “Offensive Approach” as a sub-category of “Internal Improvements Over 2021” – I’m just getting more specific with this prediction. The White Sox currently lead baseball in O-Swing% (percentage of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone) are are dead last – by a lot – in walk rate. It should not surprise you that some of the best teams in baseball have the lowest O-Swing% and highest walk rates.

This White Sox team is incredibly talented and has shown an ability to walk and work counts better in the past. Their swing-first approaches will cause them to get into slumps like they’ve been in early in the season. How they respond and refine their approaches will be critical to their 2022 success. I’m not asking for a team of Joey Votto’s who don’t swing at anything – I’m asking for a team of hitters who don’t swing at EVERYTHING. A happy medium can – and needs to – exist.

Nik Gaur

Previous: Health of Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly
Current: The offensive approach

I still think the health of Graveman and Kelly will be very important to monitor, and we’ve already seen some interesting usage patterns with Graveman, but I can’t help but go with the offense here. The team has been far too undisciplined at the plate and has not hit for nearly enough power to offset it

Adam Kaplan

Previous: Coaching
Current: Coaching

In 2021, the White Sox did a lot of little things poorly. It feels like the team does even worse now. This Sox team feels so sloppy from top to bottom. I understand many players need to execute better, but when there’s this many issues, it’s hard for this not to feel like a systematic failure. 

As of this writing, the Sox have the worst offensive BB% (6.2%), the offense has seen the 3rd fewest amount of pitches (4,943), are the 5th worst team in terms of swinging at the first pitch (26.7%), and have the 3rd worst Chase % (30.9%). The undisciplined offense is why the Sox have scored the 5th fewest runs so far. Further, pursuant to both Fangraphs’ defensive statistic (Def) and Outs Above Average (OAA), the Pale Hose are the worst defensive team in the league.
I still believe in the rotation and bullpen going forward, but you can’t be THIS bad offensively AND fielding, and this feels to me more than just “players just need to execute”.

Noah Phalen

Previous: Michael Kopech
Current: Offensive Approach

The starting pitching has held up surprisingly well this season with the exception of Vince Velasquez and Dallas Keuchel, who shouldn’t be in the rotation when it’s fully healthy. The area that most people thought was a strength, the offense, has been the biggest weakness for the Sox so far this season. While the home run numbers are actually quite similar to this point last year, the main difference is the walks. The White Sox are swinging at everything and largely have not been taking walks. Luis Robert and Tim Anderson are among the highest in the league at first pitch swing percentage and swing percentage in general. If the White Sox start working more counts and taking more walks, the offense will be fine. Otherwise, we could be in for a disappointing season.

Thatcher Zalewski-

Previous: Dallas Keuchel
Current: Yasmani Grandal

With the offense struggling to start the season, the White Sox need catcher Yasmani Grandal to get going. Off to a slow start, Grandal has continued to bat in the middle of the order for the White Sox. His bat will need to pick it up for him to be considered a middle of the bat guy. Grandal is perfectly capable of being an All-Star for the White Sox, but his lack of offense has had Sox fans questioning if Grandal will ever pick it up. 

Tommy Gross

Previous: N/A
Current: Tony La Russa

Tony La Russa is the X-Factor of this team. The manager has to take responsibility for the struggles of this team. If we can’t turn this team around, he is the guy you have to point the finger at. If he starts putting out better lineups and making good, consistent coaching decisions and we still aren’t playing well by then, we have a whole other issue. Tony has shown that he is
exactly what we expected. He is out of date with today’s game and has to realize it isn’t 2011 anymore. As I mentioned before, Tony can change, these lineups are looking better every day and I hope to see better decision making going forward. I would also include Frank Menechino on this list, but I didn’t want to say coaching because Ethan Katz has been coaching very well
for us this season.


Bold Prediction

Jordan Lazowski

Previous: New: Yoan Moncada finishes top 5 in MVP voting
Current: Dylan Cease starts the All-Star Game for the American League

I still believe in Yoan Moncada, but I think a month of games missed probably would take him out of any MVP voting. So, my prediction is going to change in favor of Dylan Cease, who I believe will ride a hot first half all the way to the mound in the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. It will be the perfect storyline for Cease, who we all believe will go on to bigger things throughout his career – though this will be a nice start.

Nik Gaur

Previous: Michael Kopech pitches 120+ innings with an ERA under 3
Current: Same

There are plenty of new bold predictions I could go with, but this one looks so good as of now that I kind of have to stick with it.

Adam Kaplan

Previous: Yoan Moncada hits better than he did in 2019
Current: Andrew Vaughn makes his first all-star game

A large reason for my initial prediction was that I assumed MLB would start juicing balls again like they did in 2019 to make up for the lockout stunt they pulled in the offseason. Juiced balls would mean for a more exciting season for Moncada. As it turns out, MLB went the exact opposite direction and now power and offense is down across the board.

As such, I’ll steal Justin Salgado’s original Bold Prediction. It’s unlikely to happen, but Andrew Vaughn is still one of the Sox’s better offensive weapons this year. AV has vastly improved his hitting against right handers and now is more clutch with RISP and 2 outs in the inning. Vaughn has a 135 wRC+ on the year, and I fully expect him to get better as the season goes along. 

Noah Phalen

Previous: Eloy Jimenez leads the league in homers
Current: Tim Anderson wins his second batting title

With Eloy Jimenez suffering a significant injury and missing several weeks of the season, I think the chances of him leading the league in homers is minimal. I’ll invest in TA here, as he’s been hitting everything in sight recently. His defense is not where it should be this season, but he could easily make up for it by winning his second batting title.

Thatcher Zalewski

Previous: White Sox Will Have Three Of The Top Five Vote Getters in AL Cy Young Voting
Current: Oscar Colas gets called up at some point this year
 

I am changing my prediction because I don’t think Kopech and or Lynn will have the innings or stats to get that top-five finish. However, Cease and Giolito definitely are capable of doing it. Now Colas has been raking for the Dash in High-A this year. If the White Sox continue to have struggles and might miss out on the playoffs, there is certainly the possibility of Colas joining the big league club in 2022. 

Tommy Gross

Previous: N/A
Current: The White Sox are still going to win the AL Central

With everything said, the White Sox are still going to win the division. This team is better than they are playing and I believe they will turn around. Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal usually start the season slow and pick up pace around the All-Star break. Abreu is in the top 1% of the league in exit velocity and that will soon transition to hits and even extra base hits. I still believe in this team. The division isn’t as strong as we thought it would be even with the Twins and the Guardians being slightly above average. We can turn this around and win the division and I believe we will.


How Far Will the Sox Go in the Playoffs?

Jordan Lazowski

Previous: Lose in the World Series
Current: Lose in the World Series

I largely believe the playoffs are a crapshoot. I haven’t changed my prediction about the Sox’ ability to get there, and therefore, I won’t change my prediction on what happens once they get there. 40 games is too few to make wild changes to predictions. I haven’t been encouraged by results, but I’m not prepared to make changes to predictions just yet.

Nik Gaur

Previous: Lose in the ALCS
Current: Lose in the ALCS

I’ve started to lose faith in the offense, but it’s a long season, and since I still think this team makes the playoffs, the odds of them winning a playoff series should not be significantly different in my head than they were six weeks ago. That said, another first round exit feels like a pretty safe bet as well.

Adam Kaplan

Previous: Win the World Series
Current: Miss The Playoffs

If you look at the talent the Chicago White Sox have on paper, it’s not hard to think they can go far in the playoffs. But if you look at the underlying stats and how these players are actually performing, I’m pessimistic this team will even be able to make the playoffs. For the longest time, I refused to believe the weak AL Central was a large reason for the Sox success in winning the division in 2021. However, in the Cold Light of Day, the criticism feels extremely valid. 

Noah Phalen

Previous: Lose in the ALCS
Current: Lose in the first round

If, and that’s a big if, the White Sox can get their act together enough to make the playoffs, I don’t think they’ll last long. Winning the division would allow them to play the entire first round at home, which would definitely help. However, a first round matchup would likely be with Toronto, Tampa, or the Angels. None of those are great matchups for this team that is largely the same as the team that looked completely overmatched in the playoffs last season. As I’ve said before, the playoffs are usually a crapshoot, so I could be completely off-base here, but I don’t think this team is equipped for a deep playoff run.

Thatcher Zalewski

Previous: Win the World Series
Current: Lose in the ALCS

The White Sox fan in me wanted to keep my original prediction. It is hard to keep that prediction with the way the Sox have been playing recently. We have seen how good the White Sox can be. But we have also seen how bad this team can get. The 2022 White Sox are capable of winning the World Series, but a common theme with these predictions is that they will need to find a way to turn it around.

Tommy Gross

Previous: N/A
Current: Lose in the ALCS

I still believe this team can win a playoff series, but that’s about all. I still think they are a bit away from the World Series, but I believe they can make the playoffs and win a series. I think they can beat any team not named the Houston Astros in the ALDS, but after that, my confidence drops. The Yankees look really good this year and they are definitely going to hard to beat if the Sox play them in the ALCS. Who knows though. Usually the best team in the league doesn’t win the World Series. Anything can happen.


Some of our writers have kept their previous optimism – others have become incredibly pessimistic. Where do you fall on the scale? Let us know your thoughts about our updated predictions!


Follow us @SoxOn35th for more updates throughout the season!

Featured Image: Los White Sox / Twitter


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