On Sunday, the White Sox were officially and inexorably eliminated from postseason contention. And so the time has come to eulogize their 2013 season ...
What went right
Little, obviously. By the standards of a team that's on pace to lose 97 games, though, the pitching staff wasn't bad. They ranked sixth in the AL in rotation ERA and third in bullpen ERA. And those numbers come despite the hitter-friendly nature of U.S. Cellular Field. They also come despite what was a sub-optimal team defense in 2013. Also of positive note is that GM Rick Hahn was able to add a bit of young talent via July and August trades (Avisail Garcia in particular was a nice get).
What went wrong
Everything that wasn't the pitching. The Sox rank last in the AL in runs scored (yes, behind even the Astros), and the fielding corps ranks 14th in the AL in fielding percentage and has a below-average defensive efficiency rating. The offense, though, was the real problem. To put a finer point on it, the Sox's current total of 527 runs scored would rank next-to-last ... in the DH-less National League. Unfortunately for the South Siders, they also had one of the AL's oldest lineups. Perhaps most painfully of all, they went 0-4 against the Cubs.
MVP: Chris Sale. Hitter's home park, a lacking defense -- It scarcely mattered to the gangly lefty, who in 187 2/3 innings has pitched to a 2.97 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 4.98 K/BB ratio. He'll soon notch the first 200-strikeout season of his young career, and keep in mind that he's still just 24 years of age. Lucky for the Sox, he's potentially locked up through 2019.
LVP: Jeff Keppinger gets the nod. In 426 plate appearances this season, the utility infielder has "hit" .244/.271/.301, which is good for an OPS+ of 53. Somehow, he was intentionally walked on one occason. Tyler Flowers gets some down-ballot votes, but at least he handled a vaguely successful pitching staff.
Gameplan heading into the offseason
On with the belated rebuilding process. That means bidding adieu to Konerko, and that means seeking out trade opportunities for returning vets like John Danks and Alexei Ramirez. If the Sox must eat salary in order to flip those two, then so be it. They badly need more young talent in the system, so consider that the cost of doing business. Like any other rebuilding club, they should also seek out sign-to-a-one-year-deal-and-trade-in-July opportunities on the market, whatever those might shape up to be.
As for the unknowns, will Adam Dunn really retire? (Probably not.) Will Robin Ventura be retained? Does he even want to return? He has the measured temperament that can benefit young players, so the Sox would probably be wise to entice Ventura back to the dugout for another (long) season.
Ridiculously premature prediction for 2014
Last place in the AL Central by a not-insubstantial margin. Another All-Star season for Sale. Many more broadcast-booth instances like this ...