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Can Alex Rios Rebound?

Hey all.  My name is Riley Schmitt and I am a blogger here at Rant Sports.  I am also a huge White Sox fan.  You can expect numerous articles from me on the day-to-day actions of the Chicago White Sox.  With that being said, let’s get to the topic at hand.

Alex Rios is one of the most maddening baseball players in the league.  A potential five-tool player, Rios is lucky to be a one-tool player on most days.  The boo-birds are out in full force whenever he makes an out.  His stat line would look awful if he didn’t bat in the same lineup as Adam Dunn.  With Rios on the hook for 50.5 million until 2015 (or 38 if they buy him out), his contract is an albatross.  White Sox fans everywhere are asking the same thing:  can Alex Rios rebound and become a successful player?

While in Toronto, Rios was seen as the next big thing.  He made two All-Star teams by the age of 26.  He was a threat to hit .300.  Averaging 25 home runs and 90 RBIs wasn’t out of the question.  However, things changed before the 2008 season.  Rios signed a 7 year, 68 million dollar contract.  After that, Rios slowly began to decline.  In 2009, Rios was in a free fall and was placed on waivers.  Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams took the risk and acquired Rios to be the center fielder for years to come.

2010 started off great for Rios.  He was one of the best Sox players in the beginning of the year.  In May of 2010, Rios managed to OPS 1.106, by far his best split of the season.  After May, Rios began a slow decline.  His power began to vanish, and his stats took a nosedive.  At the end of the year, Rios sported respectable stats.  He hit .284, had 21 home runs and 88 RBIs, stole 34 bases, and OPS’d a respectable .791 (all stats can be found here).

2011 has been a nightmare for Rios and Sox fans alike.  Rios has barely cracked the Mendoza Line and only has six home runs.  He is just 3 of 34 with a runner on third base.  His OPS of .551 is the worst of all qualified players in the MLB.  Alongside of Adam Dunn, who’s struggles are also well-noted, Rios has been a target of angry Sox fans.  Lately, Rios’s defense and hustle have drawn the ire of many.  All season, Rios has taken lazy routes to fly balls, and has failed to cut balls off in the gap.  In Saturday’s game, Rios’s slow play of a ball to center allowed a run to score from first base on a single.  That simply can’t happen.  For a player who had Gold Glove potential, Rios’s defense has been an ugly affair all year.

His WAR (wins above replacement) is negative 1.1.  In simple terms, this means Rios has cost the White Sox one game this year.  That is unacceptable.  Sabermetrics aren’t the easiest thing to explain, but a minor leaguer could play in place of Rios, and be expected to be worth zero wins.  By playing Rios, the Sox are costing themselves games.

The White Sox need to find a way to save Rios.  His contract is one of the worst in baseball.  No other team will take on the money owed to Rios.  He’s more than likely on the roster until they are able to buy him out.  Right now, I would give Rios an extended break.  They recently called up Alejandro De Aza, who should get the bulk of starts in center.  Rios will probably play against left-handed pitchers, because his stats are average against lefties.  De Aza needs to start against righties, because Rios looks just lost at the plate.  Maybe an extended break, and playing him in favorable match-ups can save Rios’s stats.

In my opinion, Alex Rios is just about done as a baseball player.  His body language is awful, and it doesn’t look like he’s having fun.  He’s pressing in every facet of the game, and it shows nightly.  The Sox fans have run out of patience for him.  Ozzie Guillen needs to swallow his pride and bench Rios.  The name of the game is to win baseball games.  Alex Rios doesn’t help you right now.  For his sake and the Sox sake, Rios should be getting comfortable on the bench for the foreseeable future.