2015 in 3 words: Sale, Abreu, inconsistency

Ace and slugger lead the White Sox, but too much else goes awry

2015 in 3 words: Sale, Abreu, inconsistency

CHICAGO -- Consistently Inconsistent.

Those words were not the ones general manager Rick Hahn, manager Robin Ventura and the entire organization envisioned attaching to this team before the 2015 season began. They would have accepted American League Central champions or at the very least, playoff contender.

The plethora of impact offseason moves made by Hahn might have elevated outside expectations to an unrealistic level. But with the talent running through this group, the 2015 White Sox should not have had a high-water mark of one over .500 at 18-17 on May 18.

"It never really came together on a consistent basis," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "Way too many ups and downs. There are always ups and downs, but we've had probably double."

"We all knew we had a very, very good team for the season," said White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "But also we had too many new faces, and probably it was a little hard to build the chemistry."

One of the maddening White Sox problems became that with every small step forward, they took one or two steps back. As an example, they won seven in a row during a road trip to Cleveland and Boston leading into the non-waiver Trade Deadline, looking like the team many had hoped for during Spring Training, only to go 2-8 over their next 10.

If the pitching was putting up quality numbers, which it did for most of the season behind Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, then the offense was missing. If the team started hitting, behind another solid season from Abreu and impressive second halves from Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera, then the pitching would disappear.

Ventura, who has one year left on his current deal and will return in 2016, received much of the outside blame for the team's shortcomings. But in the end, this group never really played like a contender from Day 1.

"Disappointing. We all expected more," White Sox starting pitcher John Danks said. "We just really couldn't put it together for a long stretch."

Record: 76-86, fourth place, AL Central

Defining moments: On Opening Day in Kansas City, with Sale on the disabled list due to a foot injury suffered at the start of Spring Training, Jeff Samardzija took the mound and allowed five runs over six innings in a 10-1 loss. The defending American League champion Royals went on to sweep a three-game series from the White Sox. Samardzija struggled and the offense didn't produce on Opening Day, which became a theme running throughout the 2015 campaign.

On July 30, the White Sox had a seven-game winning streak, had climbed within one game of .500 and had Sale on the mound at Fenway Park but got shut down by Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright. The team's winning streak put it back on the fringe of contention and probably stopped management from making moves at the non-waiver Trade Deadline with one eye still focused on the postseason.

What went right: Quintana continued to be the definition of quality. The southpaw ranked in the top 10 in ERA and quality starts for AL starters.

Quintana strikes out nine

After being a liability with pitchers working out of position in 2014, the bullpen proved to be a strong suit. Veteran closer David Robertson, as well as Zach Duke and Matt Albers, provided late-inning stability.

Carlos Sanchez struggled with the bat when he first joined the team in May, but his glovework never wavered at second base. Sanchez helped stabilize an inconsistent infield defense.

Tyler Saladino's first big league hit was a run-scoring triple off of Jon Lester in the Cubs-White Sox showdown at Wrigley Field, and he never showed a fear of the big moment despite his rookie status. Saladino has the ability to play any spot around the infield.

There were more swings and misses by opponents facing Sale than from a group of bad golfers on a tough course.

Abreu showed absolutely no signs of a sophomore slump.

Rodon wasn't quite a prime Rookie of the Year candidate. But the highly touted prospect began the development into a front-end starter for years to come.

Rodon's first complete game

What went wrong: The offense struggled mightily, especially early on, putting the team in a hole from which it could never escape. As hitting coach Todd Steverson pointed out, it wasn't so much the approach but more the team's inability to score.

The original infield defense of Conor Gillaspie, Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson, from third to second, didn't provide the consistent support for a starting staff that only counted Sale as a strikeout pitcher. So the White Sox made changes at third and second.

Avisail Garcia completed just his first full season as a big leaguer so he has room to develop. But the White Sox need a better power stroke from the right fielder and need him to refine his approach within the strike zone.

Eaton and Cabrera did not hit early in the season when only Abreu and Garcia could get untracked. Adam LaRoche never could get a feel at the plate in his first season as a full-time designated hitter.

Biggest surprise: Trayce Thompson represented a positive suprise, making an impact with the bat upon his Major League arrival, not to mention flashing extra-base potential. But the biggest surprise overall had to be Samardzija's disastrous 1-8 run after the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Samardzija lost all six August starts after posting a 2.27 ERA in July.

Hitter of the Year: Abreu stood as the lone consistent force among a rough offensive year team-wise from start to finish. His numbers weren't quite as overpowering as his Rookie of the Year campaign, but he still pushed a .290 average, 30-homer and 101-RBI stat line.

Abreu's historic production

Pitcher of the Year: It's difficult to come up with any other choice than Sale, even with the excellence shown by Quintana and Rodon. Although he didn't have a September to remember, Sale topped the AL in strikeouts and set the franchise single-season record by breaking Ed Walsh's previous mark of 269 from 1908. Sale also recorded eight straight games with double-digit strikeouts from May 23 to June 30.

Rookie of the Year: Rodon closed out the season with eight straight quality starts, walking just 21 during that stretch, as opposed to 50 previously. His makeup was termed as off the charts when he arrived in '14, and he showed a mound maturity with the way he attacked the zone as the season progressed.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.