White Sox unable to build on strong start in '16

White Sox unable to build on strong start in '16

CHICAGO -- The phrase "mired in mediocrity" was used by White Sox general manager Rick Hahn to describe his team's standing as the end of the 2016 season approached.

But this past campaign was a bit different than the last three, in which the White Sox finished under .500 and out of playoff contention by the time September began. The White Sox started the year with a 23-10 mark and held a six-game lead in the American League Central as of May 9.

Even a .500 record over the next 129 games would have put the White Sox in prime position for at least an AL Wild Card spot. That break-even mark was not met, as the White Sox fell short of the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

On the last day of the season, Robin Ventura announced that he would not be returning as the manager in 2017, and on Monday morning, the White Sox announced that Rick Renteria is replacing him.

Offseason to bring familiar questions for Sox

Here's a look at the up-and-down moments from the 2016 White Sox season.

Record: 78-84, fourth place in the AL Central.

Defining moment: The White Sox record stood at 44-41 with one series at home to go before the All-Star break against the Atlanta Braves. But the National League's worst team hit Chris Sale hard in a first-game loss and local product Mike Foltynewicz shut down the White Sox in the finale to give the Braves a series win. The White Sox started the second half with a 1-7 mark, including getting swept over three games in Anaheim, and they basically were out of any real playoff hope.

What went right: Sale not only was Cy Young worthy yet again, but his plan to avoid striking out every hitter with every pitch paid huge dividends. The White Sox ace finished with six complete games and had a stretch of six straight starts into the season's final weeks in which he worked at least eight innings.

Todd Frazier, a key offseason acquisition in a three-team trade with the Dodgers and Reds, showed off massive power. He also played solid defense at third base and was a clubhouse leader as expected. Jose Quintana earned his first All-Star nod, while Carlos Rodon put together a strong second half. The rotation was buoyed by the addition of Miguel Gonzalez's consistency. Nate Jones established himself as a dominant setup man. The hard-throwing righty pitched a full season with good health after battling back issues and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2014 campaign and all but 19 games in '15.

Must C: White Sox triple play

The team recorded three triple plays, including the rare 9-3-2-6-2-5 variety on April 22 at home against the AL West champion Rangers. Outfielder J.B. Shuck pitched an inning and reliever Matt Albers doubled and scored the game-winning run against the Mets on June 1.

What went wrong: Every team comes to expect a few bad losses over the course of a 162-game season, but the White Sox had to absorb far too many gut punches. The May 27-29 games in Kansas City stand as prime examples, as does the July 18 game in Seattle, when Sale had a one-hitter and a three-run lead through eight, only to have Seattle score four off of closer David Robertson in the ninth.

Injuries piled up as the season progressed. They were key injuries, with center fielder Austin Jackson, relievers Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka and second baseman Brett Lawrie all missing significant time due to season-ending maladies.

Veteran right-handed starter Mat Latos and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins had solid starts for the White Sox, contributing to the team's impressive 17-8 April, but they were gone in early June. John Danks, a true clubhouse leader and a fixture for the White Sox for a decade, was designated for assignment after an 0-4 April.

Frazier's power numbers were outstanding, as mentioned above. But he hit less than .200 with runners in scoring position.

Anderson's solo homer

Biggest surprise: After the great team start, there weren't many things absolutely turning out better than expected. Shortstop Tim Anderson wasn't in that category. His offense was polished, aside from not having a propensity to draw walks. And Anderson's defense at shortstop was ahead of what people thought. Any question as to whether he could handle shortstop, which he always believed was the position where he would stay, were erased during a strong rookie campaign.

Hitter of the Year: Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera were the most consistent hitters from start to finish. But in terms of having the greatest impact with the bat, this honor once again goes to Jose Abreu. Yes, Abreu did not homer in July and was not near his best when the White Sox were riding the crest of contention. But his hard-hitting finish proved the White Sox still have a devastating force in the middle of their order.

Pitcher of the Year: It's difficult to match Sale's production on the mound. The left-hander reached 200 strikeouts for a fourth straight season, marking the first pitcher in franchise history to achieve such a feat. He also topped 200 innings for the second straight season and third time in his career, setting a single-season high in innings pitched. Sale won his first nine starts, posting a 1.58 ERA during that impressive stretch.

Rookie of the Year: The addition of Omar Narvaez behind the plate, at first out of injury necessity, put the rookie on the map for future work. But talk of the White Sox top rookie begins and ends with Anderson.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.