Underachievers? I Don’t Think So

Kenny Williams isn’t happy with his team. He believes he put together a playoff contender, but that the players just haven’t played up to their abilities, and he’s willing to say so publicly.

“They are underachievers,” Williams said before the White Sox played the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. “We’re not playing up to our capabilities. Period.”

I’m curious, though – who exactly on his team was he expecting more from? The White Sox are fourth in baseball in pitcher win value, so I’m pretty sure he’s not complaining about a pitching staff that is one of the best in the game. The problem has to be the offense, right?

Aging veterans such as Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Paul Konerko have been about as productive as you could have expected, and they were the core of the run producers. AJ Pierzynski is having one of the best years of his career, despite getting up there in age. Scott Podsednik came back from the dead to provide decent offense in center field. Gordon Beckham was a pleasant surprise just a year after being drafted. Alexei Ramirez transitioned from second base to shortstop nicely, and while his power has diminished, his overall offensive performance is similar to last season.

Really, the only significant underachiever on offense is Carlos Quentin. He has taken a big step back from last year’s breakout season, but injuries have been a lingering problem for him all year and regression should have been expected anyway. Does Williams really believe that Quentin should have matched his 2008 totals while playing through plantar fasciitis?

I’m sorry Mr. Williams, but your offense isn’t full of underachievers. It’s just not very good. The best players are just a bit above average, and your roster lacks any position players that are legitimate stars. Pierzynski is probably your best everyday player, and that’s a pretty big problem.

The failure of the 2009 White Sox isn’t a work ethic or motivational problem. It’s a talent problem. You didn’t build a team with enough of it to contend. That’s not the players’ fault.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Joe R
14 years ago

To be fair, the White Sox did get a big, heaping pile of nothingness out of Quentin and Rios this season. Betemit’s his own fault and should’ve never traded Swisher.

Outside of that, Konerko’s having his best offensive season in a few years, Podsednik was downright mashing for his standards, and everyone else was pretty much what you’d have expected. So what else could Williams have expected, it looks like a relatively average team to me.