Something we can all agree on: José Abreu headlines the White Sox All-Decade Team is (@whitesox)
The votes are in! Some were right and some were wrong, but we can all agree that it was not the best decade for the White Sox — and the dreary player selections reflect that.Today, we are only looking at the infield. This is not necessarily the strongest group of players, but at least this where some of the easier top player guesses are. Without further ado, let’s start at catcher.
Catcher — Tyler Flowers
With the tallied votes, 64% of you chose White Sox great A.J. Pierzynski, 32% chose Tyler Flowers, 4% chose Omar Narváez. In reality, A.J. definitely has the name recognition and this probably clouded some guesses, but Tyler Flowers had the best fWAR in the 2010s. Now, let’s be honest here, Flowers’ value did not come with the bat, it was all on the defensive side. He had a total of 8.5 fWAR over his tenure from 2010-15. A.J. was the better hitter, 97 wRC+ compared to Flowers’ 84 WRC+, but games played and the lack of defensive ability hurt Pieryznski’s chances at top backstop of the decade. If this were a singular best catching season of the decade, A.J. would win. In 2012, he had the best fWAR for a Sox catcher since 2010, at 3.3. That was his power-resurgence year, when he hit 27 homers for a .223 ISO. That was his last season with the White Sox, as afterward he signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Rangers and eventually retired after the 2016 season. Meanwhile, the best White Sox catcher of the decade, Flowers, is still playing baseball with the Atlanta Braves and actually has been better since his Chicago departure. As a current White Sox fun update, James McCann’s 2019 season qualifies as the fourth-best fWAR year for a Sox catcher in the 2010s.
First Baseman — José Abreu
This time, you all got it right, José Abreu won the vote in convincing fashion (83% of the vote), and the fWAR was not close. The decade started out with Sox great Paul Konerko (who is on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot) ending his career as Abreu’s began. Over the course of the decade, Abreu had a 17.3 fWAR while Paulie ended with a 5.9. Abreu’s first season of his career was also the best season a first baseman had for the Sox in the 2010s, which resulted in a controversial Rookie of the Year award and an now-overlooked fourth-place finish in MVP voting. Over the course of the decade, Abreu led the the league in OPS+ and slugging percentage in 2014, total bases in 2017, and RBIs in 2019. In every season where Abreu played 140 games or more, he had at least 100 RBIs. He hit over .300 twice and had 30 or more homers thrice, while his career slash line is a fantastic .293/.349/.512 for a 132 wRC+. Since entering the league in 2014, Abreu has the seventh-best fWAR among qualified first baseman and the ninth-best wRC+. If you’re more into the baseball card stats, well, Abreu is fourth in homers and second in RBIs since his rookie season. White Sox history with first baseman generally has been good, and Abreu continued that tradition. They have gone from Frank Thomas to Konerko and then to Abreu, and though Abreu is at least going to stay on the White Sox for the 2020 season, some young guys will hopefully take over and excel soon.
Second Baseman — Gordon Beckham
Yes, you read that correctly: Gordon Beckham had the best fWAR among second basemen in the 2010s for the White Sox. Unsurprisingly, most people were wrong in the voting, as Gordo finishes last. First, let me explain the fWAR tabulation: I took out years where a player did not field the position the majority of the season. So, 2019 Yoán Moncada, 2018 Yolmer Sánchez, and Beckham’s 2015 season did not count, as they all played the majority of the time at third those years. It was a close race, though. Gordo finished with 3.3 fWAR, Moncada 3.2, and Yolmer with 2.8 and yes, those are multiple season’s worth of fWAR, not just a single season. To say second base play for the Sox was atrocious over the past 10 years might be an understatement. The Sox only had two seasons where a second baseman had at least 2.0 fWAR, and none of those reached above 2.2 in a season. In 2017, Sánchez had the best fWAR of the decade, but just to understand how truly awful it has been at second this decade let’s take a look at the rest of the single season Top 5s: Tyler Saladino had the third-best fWAR in a single season at second, while Moncada in his first 54 games in 2017 was fourth, and to round out the top five is Brett Lawrie. BRETT LAWRIE. I told you it was not pretty.
Third Baseman — Yoán Moncada
Third base was just about to be as bad as second, but thanks to a position switch between Yolmer and Moncada, it does look a little better. Yes, one season of fWAR did propel Moncada to the top spot, but at least the winner isn’t Todd Frazier, who finished second. The voters were correct on this one, as Moncada ran away with it after his breakout superstar season in 2019; yes, that season did deserve a Top 10 MVP vote, and he should have received more. Obviously, the season Moncada had was the best of the decade for White Sox third baseman, but there’s some other historical significance. Moncada in 2019 had the fifth-best 3B season in White Sox history. It was also the best offensive season among primary third baseman in terms of wRC+ in White Sox history. In the 2010s, Moncada’s 2019 season ranks 35th in fWAR and 21st in wRC+ among all MLB third baseman. The past was not great for the Sox at third, but the future does sure seem to be bright.
Shortstop — Alexei Ramírez
Shortstop was one of the closer votes, probably because of some recency bias as Tim Anderson won the batting title this past season. However, Alexei Ramírez had a far better decade when looking at fWAR. Maybe some people thought that Ramírez’s value came before the decade, but the two best seasons of his career and among White Sox shortstops in the 2010s was his 2010 and 2011 seasons. From 2010-14, the height of Alexei’s career, he was rated the fourth-best shortstop in MLB by fWAR, only behind Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, and Hanley Ramírez. From 2010-12, which was the height of Alexei’s defensive prowess, he was the second-best defensive shortstop in baseball using DRS and UZR. Ramírez was never a heavy hitter over his career, which is another reason why some might not remember how good a shortstop he was, but we seem to have the opposite now in Anderson. Defense is clearly the skill that Anderson lacks, but his bat still led to him having an fWAR of better than 3.0 in the 2019 season. With Anderson and Moncada, it seems like the future is bright heading into the 2020s for the left side of the infield.
Next up … The outfield and DH!