The Astros are coming! The Astros are coming!
They themselves are no strangers to advanced warning systems, but these 2021 Chicago White Sox seem prepared and equipped to handle whatever the Houstonians have in store. Battling through injury, PR snafus, culture clashes, and more on the way to a division title, this Sox team has proven it has the ability to not only weather a storm, but thrive in it.
The 2021 regular season was notable for several reasons, most having to do with incoming septuagenarian and Hall of Fame baseball person, Tony La Russa. Brought in to inject some much-needed experience to a young group and to hopefully be able to get it over the hump of playoff participation trophy award winners.
With a rash of injuries beginning in the spring and permeating through most of the 162-game schedule, any ideas of a smooth ride went out the window. Through the constantly shifting lineup cards, this Sox team was able to find a startling consistency in their constant inconsistencies.
For only the second time in team history, and first time in a full regular season (way back in 1905!) the 2021 White Sox finished the regular season with a winning record in each month. Finishing the season with 93 victories, it goes without saying that you expect wins to pile up somewhere, but when we look a bit deeper into how and when these wins occurred, we can begin to see the key trait of this team in a season of Chaos.
In 2021, the Sox had 16 separate players appear in the Top 5 on the team for wRC+ over a given month. Only twice did the same player finish in the top spot: Yasmani Grandal in August and September. Of these 16 players, nine appeared multiple times in the Top 5, and five others were not even on the final version of the regular season roster.
From April to October, the Sox consistently, or rather inconsistently, found ways to have guys step up and produce just as the team needed it. From Yermín Mercedes’ heroic April while José Abreu and Grandal languished, Nick Madrigal’s torrid June, or the unlikely trio of Adam Engel, Seby Zavala, and Andrew Vaughn carrying the team through the dog days of August, the White Sox seemed destined for success.
Every day throughout the season it appeared that someone new was stepping in and playing a big role in winning ballgames. Combine this next-man-up mentality with a starting pitching staff that was rock-solid from beginning to end, and a bullpen that got stronger as health and personnel improved, and you can begin to see why this version of the White Sox seems ready to handle anything in the coming postseason.
Heading into Thursday’s ALDS opener, there are still plenty of questions left to be answered. Will Tony indeed be able to leverage his winning experience into postseason success in Chicago? Will the Sox be able to finally turn the page on injury concerns and stay relatively healthy on a title run? Will the fan base be able to survive a title run with more than a single loss, as happened the last time this franchise won a World Series?
Only time will tell what the future of this team brings. Baseball’s postseason continues to be one of the most unpredictable outcomes to predict, year-in and year-out, but through a combination of a strong core of players, veteran manager, and deft player development and acquisition, all the pieces fell together to create the opportunity that lays before them now.
We may not know exactly the story of the 2021 Chicago White Sox is going to end, but what we do know from watching this team over 162 games is that everyone on the 26-man roster is more than ready to write their name down in White Sox history.
The playoffs may be unpredictable, but that is exactly where the Sox feel most comfortable.