Oh, how baseball moves fast.
Two seasons ago, the Chicago White Sox were dwellers at the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. Of their future pieces that were called up, Tim Anderson, Yóan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, to name a few, none had given any reason for certainty or optimism.
But in 2020, José Abreu, the lone bright spot on that team and many White Sox before it, and Anderson have emerged as not only AL MVP candidates, but MVP frontrunners.
The most important checkmark for an MVP is how successful their team is. Unless that player is Mike Trout, whether or not their performances elevate the team’s season should be baked into the MVP evaluation process. And Anderson and Abreu have done just that, with the White Sox clinching a playoff berth, after defeating the Minnesota Twins 3-2 today, marking their first postseason appearance since 2008.
Tim Anderson was only 15 years old in 2008. Abreu was an exciting name in Cuban baseball. The White Sox had Ken Griffey Jr. in their outfield and John Danks was the best pitcher in their rotation. And although they played 103 more games than this Sox team will, the 2020 team played with much greater star power, and none shone more brightly than Anderson and Abreu.
Anderson, the 2019 AL Batting Title winner, picked up right where he left off and showed that hitting for average can still lead to winning. After an 0-for-4 day at the plate today, he’s fallen behind only the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu for the best average in the AL. Entering today his .373 average had him tied with LeMahieu, but he’s “fallen” to .365 after today. His 175 wRC+ is third in the AL and he has a wOBA is at .426, also third in the AL. And while he’s BABIP is a very high .436, the highest in the AL, it was high last year as well, indicating that he may simply be someone who puts the ball into good parts of the field.
As for Abreu, his stats scream power-hitter, much more than Anderson’s do. He’s also had more dramatic moments, like his tear through the Cubs or his game-winning infield single today. He’s long been the frontman of the White Sox, the beacon of hope when times were tough, their only All-Star for years. This year, he’s hit 16 home runs, tied with Mike Trout and behind only Luke Voit. As far as batting average, he also has hit a terrific .327. In fact, his slash line of .327/.367/.629 is arguably better than Anderson’s .374/.410/.596, insofar as to how high his slugging is. He has a 168 wRC+ and a terrific .415 wOBA.
And at the end of the day, the White Sox have won because of them. After another tough year last season, the White Sox have the best record in the AL and the second-best in baseball, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. They obviously received countless contributions from players like Luis Robert, a Rookie of the Year favorite, and James McCann, Eloy Jiménez and Dallas Keuchel, to name only a few of many possible selections. But Abreu and Anderson were the catalysts, the two faces you think of when you think of the White Sox, possibly the best team in the AL.
The question to answer, if voting for Anderson or Abreu, and that may be a hard call to make and may even split the votes, opening the door up for other possible candidates. But if you ask either of them, they’re chasing different hardware. It’s clear that this White Sox team is more than just a fun team to be excited about in the future. You should be excited about them now. With the cast around Abreu and Anderson, with Keuchel and Giolito anchoring their rotation, they are an incredibly dangerous team in October. One through nine, there isn’t a single batter who doesn’t have any reason to scare a pitcher at the plate. With their ticket already punched, this October could be a special one for the South Side.