Think that's bad? You should see him hit. (Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE)

Holes in the White Sox Offense

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Over the course of Kenny Williams’ tenure, the White Sox usually had at least one spot on their roster producing ghastly results. There have been many seasons where the team may have been much improved had the White Sox been able to get, say, the 20th best production in the majors at a given position instead of the 30th. What’s troubling and frustrating about this tendency is that by the very nature of the problem it should be easy to find someone who can hit better than “among the worst in the majors at his position.”

We saw it in 2012 with the third base position. Even with the acquisition of a fully paid-for Kevin Youkilis in exchange for a bag of magic beans the White Sox still only managed a .215/.295/.332 line from their third basemen, good for 29th in the majors. The White Sox, despite trying to compete every season for the past decade without rebuilding, have found themselves with problems that they simply cannot correct. The Mariners managed to get a .314 wOBA for 2012 – if the White Sox could have pulled that off, might they have won one or two more games? If you only missed the playoffs by three games, isn’t that a big deal?

Sadly, this has been a staple of the Kenny Williams regime – and 2012 was actually a happier version of how this tale usually goes. 2011 is probably the most extreme example of this, where the White Sox were getting some of the worst production in the majors at a multitude of positions and were either unwilling or unable to improve it to even the “acceptable” level. Here is where the White Sox ranked at various positions by wRC+ in 2011:

2011

wRC+ MLB Rank
3B

64

29th
CF

80

t26th
LF

79

28th
2B

67

29th

Obviously, 2011 was a year where a lot of unpredictable things went horribly wrong (and some predictable things like Juan Pierre also went horribly wrong). But what was so frustrating was that given how bad the production was, you’d think it would make it that much easier to find something – anything – that would at least be an improvement.

One only has to go back to 2010 to find another egregious example of this failure. The White Sox decided that Mark Kotsay, for the same amount of money, would be a better DH than Jim Thome. On its face, this is absurd, and it cost the White Sox dearly. But it wasn’t just DH where they were simultaneously abysmal and unable to find a solution:

2010

wRC+ MLB Rank
DH

82

13th
LF

80

26th

Note: The DH rank is amongst AL teams only, for obvious reasons, meaning they were 2nd to last. We are also seeing that in both 2010 and 2011, Juan Pierre was a stone around the neck of this team. Once again: production that should be easy to improve upon on a team that is trying to make the playoffs, and there was inability or unwillingness to do so.

You can do this for a lot of seasons:

2009

wRC+ MLB Rank
CF

72

30th
2B

71

t25th

 

2007

wRC+ MLB Rank
SS

66

t26th
LF

77

t28th
CF

71

30th

2004

wRC+ MLB Rank
RF

71

30th

Even 2006, where the White Sox won 90 games, there were some black holes in the lineup.

2006

wRC+ MLB Rank
CF

74

t27th
LF

81

28th

In 2006 they had the benefit of absurdly good seasons from Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, and Paul Konerko as well as several productive bench players to mask a lot of these failings. However, the point remains: more often than not Kenny Williams puts together offenses that have huge weaknesses that drag down the entire lineup, and he could not recognize it, or could not do anything about it.

The White Sox seem to do a few very difficult things really well, such as assembling and maintaining strong starting pitching, and getting good production and health out of aging veterans. Unfortunately, under Kenny Williams the White Sox got a lot of the easy things really wrong, such as finding even mediocre talent to patch gaping holes, and finding bats for positions where bats are plentiful like DH and LF. Rick Hahn is now in charge of putting the White Sox together, and it is my hope that he is better at stopping the bleeding at problem positions than his predecessor. With a payroll up around $100 million it should be possible to avoid having positions that rank in the bottom 15% of the league in terms of offense.

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