Sunday, July 3, 2022

The 2022 All-Chicago City Baseball Team

-

With the Cubs and White Sox set to continue their season series this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field on the south side, there is no better time to unveil the All-City team than right now.



The White Sox will wrap up their three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, May 26 while the Cubs are finalizing a four-game set with the Reds in Cincinnati. Both teams will enjoy a rare Friday off day before picking up a two-game set Saturday and Sunday. The Cubs tentatively line up for starters Wade Miley and Drew Smyly to pitch, while the Sox will counter with Johnny Cueto and Dylan Cease, a former Cub minor leaguer.

It’s been a disappointing season overall for Chicago’s two clubs, as the White Sox are just above the .500 mark at 22-21 and sit 4.5 games back of the division-leading Minnesota Twins. The Sox are at a negative-33 run differential so far.

On the other side of town, it’s been worse, however. The Cubs are tied for 3rd place in the National League Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9.5 games back of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs are just 18-25.

So let’s take a look at Chicago’s best of the best from the diamond so far in 2022.

Catcher: Willson Contreras, Cubs

This is a no-doubter here, as Contreras is enjoying perhaps his best season as a pro. His .865 OPS (On-base percentage plus slugging) leads all major league catchers and he has been a dominant force for the Cubs’ offense.

Yasmani Grandal has struggled during the season’s first two months. He has just two homers, nine runs batted in, a .174 batting average, and an abysmal .507 OPS. Better days probably lie ahead for one of the game’s better catchers, but it hasn’t been there so far

First Base: Jose Abreu, White Sox

It’s tempting to write in Frank Schwindel’s name here, as the Cubs’ first baseman has been red-hot over the last seven games (six runs, four homers, five RBIs, one double), but you would be hard-pressed to convince anyone that Jose Abreu isn’t the city’s best first baseman. Especially when you consider Schwindel was actually on his way back to the minor leagues as of just two weeks ago.

Abreu, like many Chicago sluggers, has had a cold start to the 2022 season, with just a .229 batting average and only five home runs. However, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is just .252 and his xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average) is .382, so the underlying numbers suggest Abreu will see his stats normalize pretty soon. He is a career .288 hitter with a career slugging percentage over .500 and he heats up when the summer months kick in. So hang in there, Sox fans. Abreu will be fine.

Second Base: Tie

Sorry if this is a cop-out, but it’s hard to write in any Chicago second baseman here and dub him “the city’s best.”

For the Cubs, they have had 23 games from Nick Madrigal (.203/.250/.241 triple-slash line) and 18 games from Jonathan Villar (.248/.288/.349) while the Sox have played Leury Garcia (.188/.200/.277) at second 23 times, and Josh Harrison (.182/.258/.284) 17 times.

Can’t do it. No one makes the All-City team. It has been an eye-sore for both clubs this season.

Shortstop: Tim Anderson, White Sox

Just as Contreras was the runaway favorite at catcher for the All-City team, so, too is Tim Anderson for the shortstop spot. He has been electric offensively for the White Sox and leads all MLB shortstops in OPS with a .908 mark (over 50 points higher than the next shortstop, Jeremy Pena, who is at .851).

Anderson is going against the grain in today’s strikeout-heavy hitting climate, with a career-low 11.1 K% (his career mark is 23.4%). Anderson has the 11th-best mark among all qualified hitters. His .355 batting average is insane and he’s hit five homers with seven steals. You get the point. He’s awesome.

Third Base: Patrick Wisdom, Cubs

Wisdom, to the surprise of some, actually has the 8th-highest OPS of any third baseman in baseball (.768) and is tied for second in homers among third basemen, with 10. He is hitting just .218 and strikes out far too much (61 K’s in 142 at-bats) but it’s a down year for Chicago third basemen, so he gets the slight edge here.

The Sox have been using Jake Burger, Josh Harrison, and Yoan Moncada at third, but none of them have played too great to date.

Burger has a .653 OPS with a 4:28 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and Moncada has just a .432 OPS in his 14 games back since opening the year on the injured list.

Left Field: Ian Happ, Cubs

This is a close call and a tough decision, as the White Sox would normally have Eloy Jimenez as their everyday left fielder and likely representative on the All-City team. But Jimenez has been out for a month with a torn hamstring, leaving A.J. Pollock (22 games) and Andrew Vaughn (12 games) as the team’s primary left fielders.

Pollock has been a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement) player according to Fangraphs.com, at -0.5 with a .228 average and low counting stats. Vaughn has been much better, with an OPS of .809 aided by his strong .462 slugging percentage.

Happ has been really good in left for the Cubs with a .828 OPS, which leads MLB left fielders. He is hitting .275 with an on-base percentage of .386. If Vaughn had more than 91 at-bats, he may be in this slot.

Center Field: Luis Robert, White Sox

It’s hard to deny the pure talent and athleticism that Luis Robert brings to the table. Not only is he a defensive wiz in baseball’s most important outfield spot, but he has the 5th-best OPS of all major league center fielders, at .757. He has dealt with bumps and bruises (and will miss this weekend’s series with minor Covid-related symptoms), but the Cuban outfielder is likely a star in the making.

The Cubs counter with Jason Heyward, Rafael Ortega, and Michael Hermosillo and that is…. well, not in the same universe as Luis Robert.

Right Field: Seiya Suzuki, Cubs

A blistering April propelled Suzuki to land on the All-City team, but he has come back down to earth in May. He is hitting just .203 this month with zero homers, just seven runs, and only seven runs batted in. He has struck out 26 times and walked just seven times.

But his April (.279/.405/.529) numbers were excellent.

Adam Engel has gotten the bulk of the playing time in right for the Sox but is hitting just .216.

Starting Pitchers: Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, and Michael Kopech, White Sox. Marcus Stroman, Cubs

Cease is second in baseball in strikeouts (71) so he is an easy selection here. Giolito has been his typical, awesome self with a 2.63 ERA in 37.2 innings, and Kopech has a 1.29 ERA in 42 innings. That’s not a typo. This is a good White Sox trio.

The Cubs’ starting staff has been a weak spot for the club. Marcus Stroman has looked fine, for the most part, with a 1.15 WHIP and 36:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His ERA is awfully high, however, at 4.71.

There may not be a fifth starter deserving enough to make the All-City team, which is kind of sad and representative of both teams’ struggles this year.

Relief Pitchers: Liam Hendriks and Kendall Graveman, White Sox. David Robertson and Keegan Thompson, Cubs

It’s hard to argue with any of these names on the All-City team.

For the Sox, Hendriks (14 saves, 3.48 ERA) and Graveman (2.91 ERA) have been solid in the season’s first two months.

The Cubs have enjoyed a breakout season from Keegan Thompson (1.54 ERA in eight relief outings, and two starts) and closer David Robertson has turned back the clock to be an effective weapon for late-game situations (1.76 ERA and 0.91 WHIP).

Other likely members of the All-City bullpen would include Aaron Bummer and Matt Foster of the Sox, and Scott Effross and Rowan Wick from the Cubs.

So, which side of town is celebrating with the most All-City team members?

It’s a close call, but the White Sox edge the Cubs with eight All-City members, compared to the Cubs’ seven. If a second baseman were named, it might have been a clean tie at 8, but who wants to see a tie?! And who wants to name a second baseman in a city so lacking in one?!

Let’s see how these All-City team members do this weekend on the south side. It’s Round Two of Cubs vs. Sox.

Chicago SportsNEWS
Recommended for you