One writer’s MLB 2023 season preview

Mar 25, 2023 - 9:25 PM
MLB: <a href=Chicago White Sox at San Diego Padres" src="" />
Staying strong: Dylan Cease finds himself on top of the White Sox WAR leaderboard once again. | Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 season left White Sox fans appalled. I, for one, have never felt less proud of being a fan in 20 years. The team underperformed every sane person’s prediction, and the general manager — who is still the general manager — dodged accountability. Amazingly, the only accountability from the 2022 White Sox came out of the most unlikely source of all, former manager Tony La Russa, in his last press conference of the season, announcing his retirement. Until the team turns the bad vibes around, most fans’ outlooks will be negative.

So, it is an unpopular prediction that a decent amount of things will go right for the White Sox in 2023 — but that is where I find myself.

When analyzing this roster, one thing that jumped out at me was, “I knew they had no depth, but wow, I did not realize the bench was quite this thin.” However, for a change, the South Siders do not have to rely heavily on the bench, as the team will remain fairly healthy. At some point, the injury-related luck is bound to swing in their favor, and 2023 is that season.

In 2023, Luis Robert Jr. finally will be able to show us what he can do when he stays on the field for more than 100 games (and not playing injured). Robert appears in 141 games, flexing his many tools, falling just short of the four-WAR mark. Eloy Jiménez also remains healthy most of the season, and he finishes seventh in all of baseball with 35 home runs.

On the pitching side, Dylan Cease will experience some regression from his outstanding 2022 season, but he still leads the entire team in WAR. Lucas Giolito also provides a lot of support for the rotation, bouncing back from a disappointing season. He falls just short of his 2019 performance, when this dude was an All-Star. Elsewhere in the rotation, Michael Kopech makes it to the 130-inning mark for the first time, but [redacted] is basically 2022 Dallas Keuchel.

Looking at the schedule, the South Siders will experience a spark from rookie manager Pedro Grifol and race out to a 17-12 record by the end of April. May goes almost as well, as the White Sox go 16-13 to put themselves at the top of the AL Central standings by four games. That 33-25 start proves to be unsustainable, as the team struggles through a relatively soft June schedule. At the All-Star break, the White Sox find themselves at 49-43, clinging to a paper-thin lead in the weak AL Central.

The entire second half of the season is a roller coaster for the White Sox and their fans. On Tuesday, they look great, and everyone believes in them; by Friday, everything looks terrible. Wash, rinse, repeat. The White Sox enter September with a 69-65 record, two games behind with the persistent Guardians for the division lead.

In early September, the White Sox finally catch fire, going on their best run of the season. Heading into the final series of the regular season, the White Sox (85-74) hold a one-game lead over Cleveland (84-75). Cleveland holds the tiebreaker, though, so the White Sox cannot afford to sleep through the strong Padres at home.

And, oh no ...

September 29: Padres 11, White Sox 0
September 30: Padres 9, White Sox 2
October 1: Padres 7, White Sox 6 after San Diego scores three in the top of the ninth

Welp, those results mean that the Guardians only need to win one out of three against the Tigers:

September 29: Tigers 8, Guardians 1
September 30: Tigers 4, Guardians 3
October 1: Tigers 1, Guardians 0

You’ve got to be kidding. The White Sox just ... stumbled into the playoffs, and more, won the division! Sure, it is one of the worst divisions ever, but they win it.

The White Sox needed an enormous amount of luck to make the playoffs, but their luck runs out in their playoff series against the Rays. Despite good performances from Cease and Giolito, the South Siders come up short in both games. The offense combines for only three runs, as the White Sox fail their quest for a post-2005 playoff series victory.

Tampa Bay’s great postseason continues against Houston, who miss out on the ALCS for the first time in seemingly forever. Meanwhile, in one of the more feel-good stories of the season, the Rangers defeat the Blue Jays in the Wild Card round. However, the big, bad Yankees say “Enough is enough” to the Rangers’ surprising season and beat them in the ALDS. That sets up a matchup between two AL East teams in the ALCS, and after a 2-2 tie through four games, the Yankees dominate Games 5 and 6.

In the NL, the Cardinals get their revenge on the Phillies for 2022’s Wild Card result. Then, in one of the stronger Wild Card matchups in recent memory, the Mets grind out a close win over the Dodgers. Aichi Prefecture’s own Kodai Senga wins NL Rookie of the Year and plays a large role in the Mets’ 2-1 series victory over LA.

The Mets’ run ends when the Braves defeat them handily in the NLDS, and San Diego turns out the lights on the Cardinals’ season. Led by a red-hot Manny Machado, the Padres advance in six games to face the Yankees.

In a World Series for the memories, there are a ton of back-and-forths. The Yankees enter with 27 World Series titles, while the Padres are still on zero. As a result, most fans are rooting for the Padres, and incredibly, they get it done. The home team wins every game, and because San Diego finished one game better than New York in the regular season, the Series goes their way.

Remember that last White Sox series of the season? Looks like the South Siders played a role in the World Series after all.

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