The 2020 White Sox met expectations, no more, no less

The White Sox’s October run was brief, but at least they actually made it to October. The Twins and Indians both bowed out after two-game sweeps, meaning they stalled out on the last day of September. The depth of the AL Central failed to rise to the occasion, but the White Sox represented themselves the best of the bunch.

And given the circumstances, the White Sox represented themselves well enough.

That kinda reads like a loser’s standards for a $10 billion industry, but I try to maintain some sense of internal consistency, and here are the elements I’m trying to square up:

The projections said Rick Hahn built the best third-place team in the American League, and the White Sox finished as the best third-place team in the American League. The team had a shortage of starting pitching options and also a bad run of health in the bullpen at the trade deadline, but the front office added no arms.

For his part, Rick Renteria, a guy who has at best a passing interest in the opener or other alternate-starter strategies, had to patch together a bullpen game in a do-or-die scenario. Contestants in “The Great British Bake Off” will practice techniques and desserts that aren’t in their wheelhouse for the times it’s necessary for getting by, but Renteria’s unwillingness to experiment resulted in him winging his way through a mixture he’d seldom studied, and he spent much of the game in a position Paul Hollywood would identify as “soggy bottom.”

“A competitive loss in a best-of-three series against a team with a better record” kinda feels like the expected outcome, does it not? It’s on the White Sox to make me expect more, and they didn’t get me there.

Some of it wasn’t in their control. The pandemic halted the normal pipeline of developing reinforcements and rehabbing injured or ailing players, which doesn’t help a team with a one-ply roster. Two of their top position players were physically compromised when the postseason arrived, and they lost their primary weapon for Game 3 with forearm tightness just as Garrett Crochet appeared to be on his way to validating Renteria’s strategy.

But the White Sox also passed on trying to bolster the team at the deadline. You can look at the Phillies bullpen in September or Mike Clevinger’s absence from San Diego’s postseason roster to show that late-August acquisitions wouldn’t have been guaranteed to help, but the inaction signaled that Hahn was more comfortable being a year away than trying to make this team into more of an immediate threat. That left Carlos Rodón as the biggest potential September pitching addition, and look how well that went.

So in the end, the White Sox lost because their lineup was susceptible to deep, right-handed pitching staffs, they lacked the starting pitching depth to absorb a Dallas Keuchel dud, and their manager isn’t adept at cobbling together effective pitching performances without a conventional starter. Some of the talent wasn’t there. Some of the available talent didn’t perform. Some of the strategy didn’t work. The White Sox came up short because they were short. It makes too much sense to get all that upset.

* * * * * * * * *

For a year that could have been lost, the White Sox managed to net a whole bunch of positives out of 2020. Luis Robert looks like the real deal, with the 487-foot homer the latest evidence of his necessary adjustments from his September slump. Nick Madrigal’s offense isn’t the issue with him. Dane Dunning was healthy and surprisingly effective despite no proper minor-league rehab. Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito backed up their breakouts. Hahn’s big free-agent swings paid off, and José Abreu might’ve used the first year of an overly charitable three-year deal to win the dang MVP.

Most importantly, the White Sox navigated the season without any complications from the pandemic. Yoán Moncada dealt with issues while recovering from COVID-19, which he’d contracted before the season, but the White Sox seemed to adhere well enough to the protocols that allowed the season to exist.

The Sox have problems to address, but there’s no mystery what they are — a right fielder and a bat that can DH, preferably lefty for one or both. They could use a veteran starter of some acclaim. They’ll have to mull the futures at closer and backup catcher after the wildly successful team-control periods of James McCann and Alex Colomé lapse. And just like every other team, they could use a minor league season to give their depth a proper structure.

How the Sox and the rest of the league will go about solving these problems remains a great mystery than usual. The pandemic is going to alter the offseason calendar and compel teams to make unusual financial decisions, and there’s no longer an official agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.

The White Sox should be stepping on the gas. They should be an enviable destination for quality players, and the Offseason Plan Project will offer plenty of ideas on whom the front office should attempt to lure in order to complete a roster that can topple the Twins. Whether the White Sox front office and ownership can overcome this environment to see it through is the open matter we’ll be following for the next several months.

* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of “several months,” I’d like to extend a special thanks to the Sox Machine community for sticking with us through all of the uncertainty the COVID-19 outbreak generated. When I learned at the start of the year that my wife and I would be moving to Nashville and I had the opportunity to pursue Sox Machine full-time, I imagined frequent trips to Birmingham, occasional trips to North Carolina, in-person looks at draft prospects at Vanderbilt, and live events in Chicago. Instead, the entire world was grounded, and I haven’t traveled outside of the metro area since I got here.

Your support allows Sox Machine to remain feasible. I greatly appreciate your generosity, especially given just how difficult everything is right now, and I intend to repay you in the form of a new White Sox Outsider.

Thanks to Josh for his work directing the Sox Machine Podcast and our draft coverage, and for bringing so many ideas to the table. Thanks to Patrick, Ted and Greg for another great year of opponent previews, Sporcle Saturdays, Wake-Up Calls and so much other assistance. Thanks to Billy for his handsome designs all over Sox Machine, and thanks to Carl for allowing us to showcase his artwork.

If you found Sox Machine this year, I encourage you to stick around. We’ll be spending the rest of the month dissecting the postseason, reviewing the regular season, following the October action, and launching the Offseason Plan Project in a couple weeks. After that, we’ll be tracking winter news, delving into history and oddities, recommending things to each other, and who knows what else we’ll dig up. I guess we’ll all find out how much content a COVID winter will provide for us, but if the league slows down, we’ll find ways to work around it on a daily basis. It’d be dumb to stop just as things are starting to look good.

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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As Cirensica

We are the ones that should thank you all for providing so much great White Sox content, and even more specially in this year of important changes and pandemia. Looking forward to the offseason plans.


It’s not the content going forward, it’s the discontent. (I couldn’t help myself.)


Yeah, I don’t think this can be overstated, especially over the last week or two…

Some of it wasn’t in their control. The pandemic halted the normal pipeline of developing reinforcements and rehabbing injured or ailing players

Overall, a tremendously fun season, resulting in a postseason berth that didn’t feel like it was out of nowhere. I’d say they have a good shot of finally making it to the postseason two years in a row. Thanks for the great takes, day in and day out!


As many others will likely continue to add, thank you again for another great season of White Sox content!

Jim – I skipped a lot of reading in the early days of the pandemic, and so somehow missed that you live in Nashville now. I’ve been living in Nashville since 2014. Love it here, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed the city so far (even without getting to experience much of it).

I’ll keep an eye out for Sox Machine gear around the city. If between the two of us we find enough other Sox fans down here, maybe as a group we can catch a game and a beer together sometime.


Thanks Jim, Josh and everyone else for guiding us through this season. There certainly is a lot to look forward to in 2021.

It is now obvious that the championship window is wide open. I think the Sox are better positioned than the Twins to move forward. Though the Sox were slightly short of quality starting pitching, they have so many potential options going forward behind Giolito and Keuchel. The obvious ones are Dunning, Cease and Kopech, with possible options Stiever, Lopez and Rodon, though Lopez and Rodon should be groomed for the bullpen (if they keep Rodon). I would love to see Bauer or Stroman added, though realistically, adding Quintana, Odorizzi or Minor would help stabilize the back end of the rotation. Colome is going to be a difficult decision. Do you give 3 years to him, when Heuer or Bummer are very capable of handling the 9th inning? And unfortunately, I fear the worst for Crochet. Having him back there next year would be like trading for Josh Hader, but I’m afraid we’ll get the news that he needs TJS very soon. But a bullpen headlined by Bummer, Heuer, Foster, Marshall, with possible help from Lopez, Burdi, Rodon, Cordero, Fry is pretty good. Burdi’s stuff looked fantastic. I think with a regular spring training, he could really be a weapon next year.

On the offensive side, I think McCann has played his way out of the Sox plans. You can’t pay a backup catcher what he is going to get. I really like the idea someone mentioned on another thread of adding both Brantley and Pederson. The Sox are susceptible to very strong right-handed pitching. Putting a Pederson/Engel platoon in right, and having Abreu, Vaughn, Eloy and Brantley cover 1b/LF/DH would really give the Sox some quality depth. And get Moncada healthy!!

As far as Ricky goes, I’m just not sure he is the guy to take this team to a championship. His biggest issue is he can’t think 2 or 3 steps ahead. When Crochet got hurt, he didn’t adjust his plan one bit. You’ve got to trust your best relievers, and he didn’t trust Bummer or Heuer, which left him having to bring in Matt Foster in the highest leverage situation of the game. That was just too much to ask of a guy who 3 months ago wasn’t expected to be on the team. That being said, he deserves to continue to lead this team. He learned from last year that the bunt is not an offensive weapon. Maybe he’ll learn to trust his studs more next year.

Can’t wait to see everyone’s O.P.P. Thanks again Jim, et al, for another great year of analysis.


Peterson hit .180 against right handed pitching this year. That seems like another platoon destined to fail.

George Springer seems like the homerun signing. He had a wrc + 155 against right handed pitching.


Yeah but I just don’t like him. Damn trashcan hitter.


It’s been a weird 2 months for Nomar Mazara, but I just don’t see the White Sox moving on from him this offseason. He’s still fairly young, has more upside than Joc Pederson, and started to look much better the last couple weeks. He reworked his swing and barely got a chance to get comfortable with it. Hahn wouldn’t have traded for him if he didn’t see potential (and I’m guessing the Steele Walker sunk cost will be at least a partial factor, as well).

That being said, Mazara’s presence should in no way preclude the Sox from signing one or another talented outfielder away from the Astros.


Lots of guys struggled in this strange season – Yelich, Semien…. I could imagine Mazara getting a mulligan


Wait what Mazara has more upside than Joc Pederson???


I second the idea of two left handed hitting additions. I think I would go with Brantley and La Stella though. I really enjoy the versatility that La Stella could provide.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I dreaded every time LaStella came up this series. I think he would be a great addition. Did he have any injury history before last year?


5 catchers in MLB made at least 10 million in 2020. Does McCann find that somewhere as the fallback to Realmuto? We can’t afford that.

I also think the Sox find a cheap defense first catcher to take ~70 games behind the plate. McCann is not in the cards, as much as I wish he were.


If McCann isn’t only looking for a starting role with a club, I would look to sign him to a 3 year deal. Great insurance for Grandal, he’d continue to catch Giolito, he’s great with Dunning and other young pitchers, Grandal can still DH when he starts, he’s 30 years old. Would we be overpaying for the catcher position? Yes, probably. I think it’s worth it since a lot of money was saved missing big free agents and signing young players to long term, affordable deals. 4 years doesn’t seem far fetched either since his legs would largely be saved. Obviously another club could give him the starting job and dollars he likely wants but I hope that doesn’t happen and he’d rather stay here with Lucas and company.


That was the GBBO equivalent of Ricky remaking his cake batter 3 times, completely running out of time to do any decorating.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

You hate to say the entire season’s success came down to a single game but the Sox’ inability/unwillingness to try out an opener despite the clear need to down the stretch and it ending up being exactly what was needed for game 3 stings. On the bright side, I guess, had they progressed they likely would have needed at least 2 bullpen games in subsequent series and I don’t think anyone aside from their potential opponents would have liked to have seen that.

I still have my doubts that as a whole the organization will add the right pieces to fill the obvious roster deficiencies but it’s nice to finally have a competitive team that doesn’t hinge on FA acquisitions. It’s hard to see the core on offense getting much better – perhaps Robert can provide more consistent production but I’d say everyone else that will be around for the next 3-4 years hit their median outcome, if not higher.

The 2020 season will be memorable but largely not for what happened on field. I wonder what the take aways from this season will be in 10 years. I have a feeling it will be mostly individual accomplishments.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

Oh and can I recommend a SoxMachine virtual chili cookoff? I love trying new recipes.

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Thanks to Jim, Josh, PNoles, Greg, and the whole Sox machine crew. In good times and bad, this place is a source of enjoyment… and comfort. It’s lonely being a Sox fan in Kentucky—and even more so during a pandemic!

You all just continue to churn out great content. It’s genuinely a joy. If you’re a semi-regular reader around here, I’d *highly* recommend joining the Patreon team. Aside from the fantastic extra content you’ll get (and lack of ads), you get to help these guys continue what they are doing. I wish I could give more, but the content I get for even a few dollars per month feels like theft.

Thanks, too, for all the commenters this season for indulging my own interest in White Sox minutiae and for so often putting to words how frustrated or joyful I was feeling. I look forward to an offseason with more of the same!

lil jimmy

” their lineup was susceptible to deep, right-handed pitching staffs,”
Same as it always was, same as it always was… same as it always, always was…


Luckily very few people throw with their right hand.


Love the Paul Hollywood reference


yeah, I’m not as optimistic as the rest of you are. Good season, but you have to take advantage of the opportunity when you make the playoffs, especially under such fluky circumstances as this year. The loss yesterday really stings, and there’s no guarantee the Sox will get another chance to advance in the playoffs. Maybe if the playoffs are expanded again next year the Sox will be in the mix, but they are still a long way away from being a consistent playoff team.
Here’s why I’m pessimistic:
1) The pitching staff is weak and unlikely to replicate what success there was this year. We only have two reliable starters, one of whom will be 33 next year. Cease and Lopez were awful this year, and Dunning has 7 starts in his career. Who knows what will happen with Kopech. There is no reason to think that any of them can even be a league average starter. Rodon should be DFAed. There’s no help coming from the farm. The bullpen was a strength this year, but that’s always high variance, especially given how weird this year was. Odds are that one or more of Foster, Heuer, and Marshall will regress in a big way next year, and Colome will be gone; that’ll leave big holes to be patched in the pen as well.
2) To consistently win, you have to get production from cheap non-stars as well as from your big names. Jim and Josh (and others) have hammered this point home again and again – the Sox can draft or acquire stars, but they’re terrible at filling in the margins, especially with position players. Nothing has really changed in that regard. Mazara was their attempt to get a guy who could develop into more than he’s shown so far, but that didn’t work out. I suppose Engel has developed into a respectable bench piece, but McCann will be gone. Encarnacion was a reasonable flyer, but flopped. If any of their stars get hurt or regress, they don’t have the depth to compensate, and we can’t count on guys like Vaughn who got no meaningful reps this year to contribute.
3) The Sox went 21-3 against the Royals/Tigers/Pirates and were way under .500 against decent teams. It’s possible (probable) that the Tigers and Royals will be just as bad next year, and Cleveland will probably be a worse team next year. So the relative weakness of their division will help the Sox, but it doesn’t bode well for a long playoff run.
Sorry to piss on the parade but that’s how I see it.


I feel like many are overly optimistic about the pitching situation simply because there are a lot of names. But that quantity doesn’t necessarily translate into a competitive rotation. Kopech last pitched in ’18 and only 14.1 major league innings with a 6.16 FIP. And the Sox will be careful with him so I wouldn’t count on getting much. Cease and Lopez don’t look like locks for a competitive rotation.Flores, Lambert and Stiever are just guys right now. Dunning looks the closest to a lock out of spring training, and even he didn’t finish strong. I am hoping the Sox look to add two starters instead of only one and set themselves up to cover for likely injuries.


I think you need to compare the White Sox situation to most of the other teams around baseball. Yes, the White Sox need to add depth to their starting staff. But so does almost every other team in baseball. Look at the pitchers other teams used in the playoffs. The A’s started Mike Fiers in game 3, the Yankees were going to start JA Happ. The Padres have no good options after Lamet and Clevinger went down. Starting pitching depth is a league-wide problem, and many of those teams’ fans are saying the same thing we are saying here. It is a long shot at best that the Sox could add 2 quality starters this offseason. There are around 10 free agent starters that I would consider quality starters, and about 25 teams that will be looking for quality starting pitching depth. Bauer and Stroman are the class of the free agent market. To get one of those 2 would be fantastic. But adding one of Quintana, Odorizzi, Minor, or a handful of other pitchers that are available would help. I would much rather take my chances on Dunning, Cease, Kopech, Stiever, Lopez than sign someone like Gio Gonzalez, or the 30 other free agents pitchers just like him. Compare the Sox to the Twins. They have Maeda, Berrios and Pineda. Odorizzi and Hill are free agents, Dobnak is a journeyman at best, and they really have no one else. If the Sox can add one quality starter, then they need 2 of their young guys to step up. I like the odds that 2 of Dunning, Cease, Kopech, Lopez, Stiever, even Rodon step up.


Great points. We have some decent talent in the pipeline. Just need a couple to fulfill their promise. Looks like Dunning is on the way to doing just that.

One of the better takeaways from this season is we learned a lot about a lot of our players, hopefully enough to be able to make long term decisions. Don’t think we can count on Cease and López as viable long term starters. Rodon should not be back. With Kopech coming back, we have the makings of a good staff 1-4 (w/Dunning). Will be interesting to see how Hahn plays that, especially with a suddenly deep and young bullpen. Will he go out and spend for a quality starter that can bee relied upon to pitch in they playoffs? What about a closer?

For positional players, RF is really the only question mark. I think we know what Mazara is, so we should be in the market for a RF. Vaughn will replace EE (thank God) and Collins will probably take over for McCann (is what it is).

All in all, not too terrible. Many less holes to fill than previous years.


I certainly wouldn’t count out Cease. He has the best stuff of any of the young guys. He just needs to trust it and attack hitters instead of nibbling like he does. He was very aggressive in that one inning in game 2. I would like to see more of that next year.
Yes, the best thing about this year is that we did learn a lot about our young guys. That will certainly help going into next year.


I think they should sign Trevor Bauer and make Lopez and Cease follow him around with a notepad so they can improve their pitching.


Other teams had issues with postseason starters because of injuries. The Sox literally only had 2 starters, not because of late season injuries but because guys couldn’t perform. Count Dunning if you want to be generous. The A’s had 4 starting options for the post-season, even if they were not all outstading. If you want to compare the Sox to what happened to San Diego in preparing for the post-season then pretend Keuchel and Giolito were injured.
Besides free-agents, trades are an option. I made this same depth comment going into this season and received basically the same reply that the Sox had so much depth because of all these unproven names. I expect the same in a year.


So you’d rather have Fiers or JA Happ than Dunning? And who was San Diego’s 3rd starter? Chris Paddack? No thanks.


I am hopeful Cease puts it all together and can become a legit #3. But I don’t think Hahn can count on that. If Crochet’s injury is serious (TJ?) then a reliable starter is needed.


Great summary for the season, Jim. It mirrors my feelings almost exactly. I know this might be an unpopular opinion here, but I kept coming back to the thought that winning it all this year was always going to have the asterisk next to the championship, like, this year wasn’t a real season. Too many weird circumstances, players opting out, no fans, etc. It would have been bittersweet for me. That being said, if this season shows us anything, it’s how important starting pitching is in the playoffs. I felt that we needed TWO top FA pitchers last winter, and we only got one…and Keuchel still seems more like a 3 than a 2 to me. Rodon and Lopez look to me like failed experiments. Anyways, you probably have lots of ideas for future pieces to write, but I have been waiting for a post comparing McCann and Grandal over the last two seasons (include Grandal’s season with MIL). I know, I know…McCann is going away, but I got the sense that Mcann is a bit better of a game manager, and his offense has been pretty dang good. If you have a day where the news is slow, I for one would be very interested in seeing a breakdown. Keep doing what your doing.


I hear ya about potential asterisk, but seeing the emotions of the players during this first round shows me it’s legit. They all want it. I did too. But I get that it was unrealistic for this team. But signs are pointing up and already excited for next year.


I’d like to extend a special thanks to the Sox Machine community for sticking with us through all of the uncertainty the COVID-19 outbreak generated.

I mean if we stuck with you guys though the uncertainty and overall dread of the 2016 White Sox season a global pandemic isnt so bad.

To Err is Herrmann

I also want to thank Jim, Josh, Greg, pnoles and the Sox Machine community and crew for another great season of entertaining and enlightening White Sox coverage. There is only one other White Sox fan in the borderlands city I like in 40 miles from Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Given what we know of Mr. Reinsdorf, I am not holding out hope for a spending splurge to put the White Sox into World Series contention, but who knows. I am not studious enough to know what closers and starters are on the market now, but there has to be 2-3 major signings just for pitching. I wish we had a chance to see where Mazara was going, but we never expected more than .250 and 15-20 home runs, so they need at least one OF free agent and then either a platoon at DH or a new DH. That’s a lot of money and a lot of. competition for those players. However, not to go for it when we have this phenomenal core of talent seems like a total waste. But then again, I have been a Sox fan for 49 years. It’s not like I am a starry-eyed optimist. Thanks again, Sox Machine. You’ve been a real highlight in 2020.


Fans of the other 29 teams don’t know what they’re missing — Sox Machine’s insight and lucidity are second to no other sports medium’s. Special thanks for making such an extraordinary effort to post daily during those bleak months before the season started….


Should we take anything from how the AL / NL Central fared in the playoffs? Did not playing the East or West make it appear teams were stronger than they were or was it just a fluke?


Thanks Jim, Josh and crew. I don’t post much but I’m a long time daily reader, and this site and community are very important to me. Through this very difficult spring and summer you guys have been a bright spot every day. Not many sports fandoms have an online community as dedicated, smart and fun as what you guys provide us. Thanks and I’m already excited for the offseason and next year.


I want to thank you Jim and also Josh, Greg, pnoles and all of your supporting staff for the outstanding Sox coverage you provide. You are an oasis of information that is severely lacking in Chicago MSM. The overwhelming Cub bias can be maddening and what Sox coverage that exists is superficial or dismissive (hello Paul Sullivan). I have been a Sox fan since 1965 (ask me about the 1960’s era Sox sometime) and am greatly appreciative of the great in depth information and analysis that Sox Machine provides. Keep up the great work and I look forward to your off season posts as I sip coffee in my Dan (He’s on the team for next year!) Johnson mug.