Rick Hahn spent a lot of dough to revamp the offense and add more pop to the lineup, and all the White Sox did offensively this year is finish second in the AL in runs scored behind the Yankees, while leading the AL in home runs, and they had the second-best batting average as a team in the AL behind *checks notes* the Red Sox? The Boston Red Sox. Okay.
The improved offense was led by two mainstays, in likely AL MVP Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. Abreu’s 2.8 WAR was 2nd in the American League behind New York’s DJ LeMahieu, who won the AL batting title from Tim Anderson late in the season. Anderson, for his credit posted a 2.2 WAR on the season.
Abreu was signed in the offseason to a 3-year deal, which was criticized in some quarters, but proved his worth by slashing .317/.370/.617 with 19 homers and 60 RBI while playing all 60 games in the regular season. In his first career postseason series, he hit for a .286 average with a home run and 2 runs batted in. Oakland clearly gameplanned to not let Abreu beat them, and that helped them get past the Sox in games 2 and 3 after his homer in game 1.
More impressively was his home run barrage at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. He homered six times in total over those three games, which was more than Kris Bryant (1), Jason Heyward (1), Javier Baez (2), Anthony Rizzo (4), and Kyle Schwarber (5) hit at Wrigley Field in their 30-game home schedule. If there was ever a more telling stat for how weird the 2020 MLB season was, this might be it.
Anderson, meanwhile, was the spark at the top of the order with a .322 average on the season, proving that his batting title in 2019 was no fluke. He missed 11 games early in the season due to an ankle injury, but once he returned, he got hot at the plate, and so too did the rest of the team. His absence corresponded to the Sox swoon early in the year, and once he returned, the Sox offense shifted into high gear, bludgeoning teams in the process. He may have won the batting title again this year, save a late season slump that seemed to affect the majority of the lineup.
He did turn it on in the playoff series vs. Oakland, posting an absurd .643 batting average in the series, on 9 hits in 14 at-bats. He made MLB history as the first player ever to have three consecutive hits in three postseason games. He wasn’t the reason the Sox lost the series, that much can be said.
The rest of the offense saw flashes of brilliance from guys like Yasmani Grandal, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Then there was Edwin Encarnacion who, while he hit a handful of dingers, was a major disappointment this year.
Robert, as a rookie, showed why he’s worth the hype, posting a 1.6 WAR in 2020. He showcased his power, hitting tape-measure shots, including a 487-foot bomb in the winner-take-all third game in Oakland. He also displayed the speed to beat out infield hits and steal bases, and even made a highlight-reel catch in centerfield in Kansas City. But he also has some learning to do, as he mis-timed jumps on balls at the wall. He also struggled mightily down the stretch as the Sox tried to clinch the division title. He’ll have to figure out how to adjust back to the league, as they learn how he hits, and quickly.
Eloy Jimenez had a fine year with a 1.1 WAR but it was hobbled by injuries, particularly at the end of the season. His bruised foot, injured sliding in to home plate in Cleveland, held him out of the lineup for the last 3 regular season games against the Cubs, and nearly the entire playoff series in Oakland. He only had 2 at bats in that series, recording a double that sparked a rally in the third, but he left immediately after due to that injury.
Edwin Encarnacion simply didn’t work out. He hit a full 100 points below his career average with a paltry .157 batting average on the year. His 25 total hits were only six fewer than Jose Abreu’s home run total of 19. He was signed to be the Sox answer to Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz, and he simply wasn’t it. I can’t think of one game that the Sox won due to his efforts. He certainly contributed to some of those victories, but you can’t say that any of those would have been losses if not for his contributions.
As far as Yoan Moncada goes, it’s tough to fairly grade his performance this year, since he was still clearly feeling the effects of his COVID-19 diagnosis just before the shortened season got underway. He had his moments, but you could tell he wasn’t his usual self. The hope here is he gets the rest and a full recovery this offseason, and he returns to the high level of play we’ve seen before.
Overall, it was a very good year for the Sox offense, but there is room for improvement, particularly in the DH spot and right field. Nomar Mazara (GRADE: C) didn’t show his power stroke until very late in the season, and that’s when he finally started to produce. Nick Madrigal (GRADE: A-) showed excellent bat-to-ball skills as a rookie and provides nice balance to the power elsewhere in the lineup as a contact hitter who can help set the table for those boppers behind him. The catching duo of James McCann (GRADE: B+) and Yasmani Grandal (GRADE: B-) give the Sox a multitude of options with the lineup and allows flexibility to give both backstops the rest they need.
OVERALL GRADE: B+