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White Sox Thu Jun 18 2015

No Offense, but the White Sox Can't Hit

Chicago White SoxWhen you sit and think about it, it's perfect that the White Sox are 28-37. They have the talent to be much better, but in reality, the Sox should be much worse.

The team's Pythagorean win-loss record 24-41 and the Sox's run differential is negative-69. The problem has been twofold: The defense has been awful, ranking last in Baseball Prospectus's Defensive Efficiency. That has marred the pitching: The defense has bumped Chris Sale from excellent to just great, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon from good to average and John Danks from potentially feisty to dreadful. Jeff Samardzija hasn't gotten any help from his fielders, either.

But the offense has been just as abysmal.

The Sox are last in the American League in runs (223), hits (511), doubles (84) and home runs (45), on-base percentage (.292) and slugging (.346). The Sox trail the 14th-best team in most categories by a wide margin. A quick look on FanGraphs shows that while they aren't striking out at an obscene rate, they are pounding balls into the ground. They lead the AL in ground ball/fly ball ratio by a wide margin. Grounders are bad news for offense, especially in the current shift-heavy era.

It's even getting to the point where the 2015 White Sox are historically bad at the plate, at least within the context of the franchise. Dating back to 1914 (the default start date for the wonderful Baseball-Reference Play Index tool), this year's OPS, a horrific .638, is the seventh-lowest in team history, beating out war-torn 1942 and 1944 teams, the Dead-Ball Era 1914 club and the 1966-68 Sox teams. Like, those teams had guys who were taxidermists and car salesmen in the offseason batting fifth in the lineup; the 2015 Sox are full-time baseballers.

As for the aforementioned OBP, the simplest yet most-important metric in today's game, the 2015 team is third-worst in Sox history.

What makes this especially disheartening is that this is the lineup that management was satisfied with going into this year. They haven't suffered any injuries to major players, they haven't made any trades. Only second base has been in flux between Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez. Meanwhile, only Jose Abreu has had success at the plate, with 12 homers and a line of .283/.340/.494. Adam LaRoche has a solid 109 OPS-plus, as does Avisail Garcia (who has batted .172 over the last 28 days). Otherwise everyone else is below average by that metric, and Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio, with 171 plate appearances between them, have OPS-plusses of 8. Eight.

While guys like Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham will probably stay around their current numbers for the rest of the year, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera are been better hitters than what their stats show now. They could bounce back a little, as could Adam Eaton, who reached base at a decent rate last year (.362 OBP). The defense remains a separate issue, but the offense could drift back into bad-to-mediocre territory, up from historically bad.

 
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