After winning a Wild Card slot in 2020 and running away with the Central Division title in 2021, the White Sox looked like an easy lock to make a third straight post-season appearance this October. Unfortunately, something (or somethings) went wrong along the way and after a long season where nothing ever seemed to click, the team was officially eliminated on Sunday after dropping six straight against the Guardians and the Tigers. So where did things fall apart? Let’s take a deeper look.
After injuries rocked the White Sox in 2021, they revamped their strength and conditioning staff, hoping a new program would help stem the tide. Unfortunately, the lockout prevented the new staff from working with the players, leaving them to their own devices. GM Rick Hahn said in June that, between the lockout and the shortened spring training, the new program “got stymied a little bit this offseason” and that it would “be difficult in-season to perhaps change the results over the next few weeks and months in terms of health.” Boy, was he not kidding.
Things started at the end of spring training, when lefty reliever Garrett Crochet went down for the year with an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery. Two days later, starter Lance Lynn left his final spring tune-up with a bum knee, putting him on the shelf until the middle of June. Finally, before the White Sox arrived in Detroit for their season opener, Yoan Moncada suffered an oblique strain that knocked him out for a month and may have sunk his entire season. Relief pitcher Joe Kelly, signed during the offseason, also started the season on the IL rehabbing an injury from the year before and wasn’t activated until May.
Outfielder AJ Pollock left the second game of the year with a hamstring injury, missing over three weeks. The same day, Lucas Giolito was placed on the IL with an abdominal strain, keeping him out for nearly two weeks. The day he was activated, Eloy Jimenez was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring suffered that day against the Twins. It would be two and a half months before he returned. This was all before the calendar turned to May!
Things never let up. Andrew Vaughn missed time in May after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. Aaron Bummer suffered a right knee strain that kept him out for two weeks. Lucas Giolito and Luis Robert both missed time in May thanks to bouts with COVID. Joe Kelly went back on the IL with a hamstring strain. Tim Anderson missed three weeks with a groin strain, the same injury that kept Vince Velasquez for two weeks.
Aaron Bummer suffered another injury in mid-June which kept him out until September. Yasmani Grandal was felled with lower back spasms for six weeks. A right forearm strain put Liam Hendriks on the shelf for nearly three weeks. A strained hamstring took down Yoan Moncada for nearly three weeks. Adam Engel fell victim to the same injury for two weeks. On July 6th, Jake Burger went down with a bruised hand following a hit by pitch, Vince Velasquez was felled by a blister on his right index finger, and Danny Mendick was lost for the year with a torn ACL. We just now are getting to the All-Star break. Shall I keep going?
Luis Robert was shut down with blurred vision. A lower back strain put Reynaldo Lopez on the shelf. A torn finger ligament knocked out Tim Anderson for the remainder of the year on August 9th. Another lower back strain took down Leury Garcia. A bum knee sent Michael Kopech to the IL, while another hamstring strain stopped Yoan Moncada for the third time this year. Kopech was felled again with a shoulder strain on September 7th. Finally, after suffering with a wrist injury for nearly a month and a half, Luis Robert was shut down and placed on the IL on Saturday with the 2022 title all but wrapped up for the Guardians.
Aside from the sheer number of injuries, this meant that the White Sox were very rarely at anything approaching full strength. Some piece of the puzzle was always missing, and usually two or three pieces. The bullpen injuries led to some early overwork for guys like Kendall Graveman, which impacted his performance in the second half. Because of this, the White Sox never seemed to gel or to be able to string wins together to pull ahead.