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White Sox 2012 Recap: A Bittersweet Surprise

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Oct 5, 2012 7:40PM

Was 2012 a good year for the White Sox or a disappointment? Well, if ever there was a season to say both it was the one that concluded Wednesday. One one hand we, along with most, predicted a sub-.500 season for the South Siders. On the other hand, the surprising Sox spent most of the season in first place but missed the postseason thanks to a terrible 2-10 skid during the final two weeks of the season. When all 162 games were in the book, the White Sox finished the season 85-77, three games back of the Detroit Tigers.

A lot of people questioned GM Kenny Williams moves after 2011's disappointing 79-83 campaign. He basically packed Ozzie Guillen's bags for him when the Florida Marlins came calling (and Ozzie may be packing again soon). Williams hired Robin Ventura, who had never coached or managed at any level, and let the popular Mark Buehrle leave in free agency without so much as making an offer. He traded away slugger Carlos Quentin and closer Sergio Santos, and he expected youth and bounce-back years from veterans to pick up the slack as the team pared its payroll. For the most part, it worked and, where there were holes, Williams worked his magic. Had the 2012 White Sox played even .500 ball after Sept. 15, they'd have stunned the baseball world and made it to the playoffs.

The Good
There was a whole lot of good on the South Side this season. Highly-paid but underperforming veterans bounced back. Adam Dunn rebounded from his epically bad season to hit 41 homers and drive in 96 runs, even if he did strike out 222 times and barely hit .200. Alex Rios had a career year, hitting .304 with 25 homers and 91 RBIs. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski also had a career year at the plate, with 27 homers, 77 RBIs and a .278 batting average. Jake Peavy stayed healthy all season long, making 32 starts. The only White Sox starter to cross 200 innings, he posted a stellar 3.37 ERA although a lack of run support resulted in an 11-12 record.

The youth movement also paid off. Chris Sale lived up to the hype, dominating for the first half of the season before hitting the wall a bit down the stretch. He finished the season 17-8 with an ERA of 3.05 and averaged a strikeout an inning. Jose Quintana, however, was a complete surprise. The 23-year-old made a couple spot starts in May and earned a spot in the rotation when John Danks went on the DL. Quintana also hit the rookie wall, but finished 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA. The bullpen was almost entirely rookies and put forth a reasonably strong effort. Addison Reed earned the closer role early on and racked up 29 saves. Nate Jones posted a 2.39 ERA and a perfect 8-0 record. Dayan Viciedo, in his first season playing every day, hit 25 homers and drove in 78 while making the transition to outfield.

Williams had an uncanny knack for filling thee club's holes. When third baseman Brent Morel injured his back, Williams first signed Orlando Hudson and later traded for Kevin Youkilis to play the hot corner. Youk immediately became a fan favorite and sparked the team's surprising climb into first place. When the Sox needed some help to shore up the starting rotation, Williams landed Francisco Liriano from the Twins. Bullpen help came in the form of Astros closer Brett Myers. And Williams brought back Dewayne Wise after the Yankees cut him. This proved invaluable when leadoff hitter Alejandro De Aza missed time with an injury.

The Bad
There wasn't a whole lot of bad on the South Side in 2012. Perhaps the worst was the loss of expected ace John Danks to injury in mid-May, after inking the southpaw to a $65 million extension in the off-season. Philip Humber tossed a perfect game on April 21, again setting high expectations. But he struggled from there and ended up in the bullpen.

The end of the season swoon that doomed the team was the season's nadir. The White Sox had a three-game advantage over the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 18. By Sept. 25, the teams were tied atop the AL central at 82-72. The White Sox lost four of their next five and eventually fell behind the Tigers by three games when the season ended.

The Ugly
All too often, the White Sox played in front of as many empty seats as paying fans. Averaging just 24,271 fans per game, they were one of seven MLB teams who failed to draw two million fans, despite fielding a exciting and winning team. With the planned closure of the Red Line on the South Side in 2013, we expect to see even fewer turn out. And this all impacts how much payroll the Sox can take on.

What's Next?
In a year that was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Sox still very nearly won the AL Central. While the rookies and younger players are under contract, there are a few key veterans who become free agents, most notably Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis. Williams has said he'd like to bring them all back, but budget remains an issue. Given the aforementioned attendance, what kind of budget will Jerry Reinsdorf give his GM? The White Sox appear to have found their next manager for a while, and want to build upon the success of 2012. Can Williams find a way to do so? If there's anything we've learned during his 12 year tenure, it's to never count him out.