Which individual effort stands out as the most disappointing, though?
Sure, arguments could be made for Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and just about everyone else, but the answer has to be Jeff Keppinger.
When the White Sox signed Keppinger to a three-year deal worth $12 million, many (myself included) thought that he would provide the solution to at least two problems. He would be a mainstay at third base, and provide the team with a long-awaited answer in the two-hole.
He failed in both.
Keppinger was a disappointment batting second, even though White Sox manager Robin Ventura gave him ample time to work things out. In 20 April games in the second spot, for example, he hit a woeful .202, and because he did not draw a single walk and hit two sacrifice flies, compiled an OBP of .198. He looked as bad at the plate as one can possibly imagine.
The month of May was not much better as Keppinger hit a meager .245. By that time, however, he was no longer the No. 2 hitter, having been dropped in the order to sixth or seventh. It was a failure of the greatest magnitude.
To be sure, he is not the only reason the White Sox have scored the second-fewest runs in MLB, but when the second hitter in the lineup starts the season as poorly as he did, the prognosis for sustained success is not good.
His offensive metrics are so bad that it took a bit of digging to find one other than his batting averages in June (.317) and August (.316) that is remotely positive. It does exist, however. In 41 at-bats hitting eighth, Keppinger is batting .421, with seven RBI, three walks and has an OPS of .911.
That’s right Sox fans, Keppinger is the best No. 8 hitter on the team!
On defense, he has played a few different positions this season, which has provided Ventura with a bit of flexibility, but he has been underwhelming at second base (.995 fielding percentage) and below average at third (.955). He's been better than platoon-partner Conor Gillaspie in the field, but then again, that's not saying very much.
Keppinger's performance this season also muddles the infield situation next year. Alexei Ramirez, for instance, is a valuable piece who would garner the Sox at least one top-flight prospect in any trade this offseason. With multiple middle infielders seemingly ready to take advantage of an opportunity for more playing time, there may never be a better time to trade the veteran shortstop.
It is also in the team's best interests to find out if Marcus Semien can continue to play well at the hot corner. If he can, perhaps Ramirez can still be moved, and Keppinger opens the 2014 season as the fourth infielder. If they do not feel comfortable with Semien's abilities, however, the White Sox will once again head into the offseason with a giant question mark at third base.
Now some may point to the fact that, after a 3-for-5 performance against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Keppinger has raised his batting average to .252. That is true, but his -1.3 oWAR and .595 OPS says much more about his contributions to the White Sox than any increase in generic metrics do.
Again, he did not single-handedly prevent the White Sox from starting the season strong, nor is he the reason that they are on the verge of losing 100 games.
Keppinger is, however, the biggest disappointment in what is a forgettable season.
All statistics cited in the piece were taken from baseball-reference.com.