Uncontroversial assertion: The White Sox offense has been terrible this year. They’re 28th in the majors in runs scored while playing in a hitter-friendly park. The only teams behind them are the Dodgers and Marlins – two teams with pitchers instead of DHs. The Marlins were going to be a 1-man team this year, and with Giancarlo Stanton on the DL they are now a 0-man team. Even so, the Marlins are ahead of the White Sox in OBP. That’s because the White Sox have the worst team OBP in the majors – although they have rallied from having what would have been one of the worst BB% of all time to merely being 29thin the majors in that department.
Much has been made on Twitter of the injuries that have plagued the White Sox. It certainly hurts to have John Danks and Gavin Floyd unavailable, but they seem wholly irrelevant to the team’s offensive struggles. Besides, the White Sox are still 10th in the majors in ERA despite their absence, so it’s hard to say that pitching is really the problem in the grand scheme of things.
The injuries on offense are as follows: Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham, and Angel Sanchez. Angel Sanchez is garbage. Dayan Viciedo and Gordon Beckham are guys for whom the White Sox (and their fanbase) have or had varying degrees of high hopes. But let’s be realistic – what is actually missing from the White Sox offense in these injuries? Unless something changes, Dayan Viciedo is a hacker at the plate who mashes lefties, is utterly helpless against righties, and the owner of a career .261/.302/.435 mark. While he’s better than the guy who is picking up most of his PAs in absentia – DeWayne Wise – his absence is hardly the difference between a productive offense and this “worst in the AL” abomination we’ve experienced. Meanwhile, Gordon Beckham has managed a .239/.303/.361 line over his past ~1700PAs, and his replacement on the roster in Tyler Greene has hit .292/.346/.500 in a tiny, unsustainable sample.
*Out of 15 AL Teams.
Unsurprisingly, this offense is a trainwreck across the board, except for Alex Rios who is hitting just fine. I was impressed to see that Jeff Keppinger has managed to tank the 3B position despite the fact that Conor Gillaspie has hit an admirable .319/.368/.522 over 76PAs so far. Alexei Ramirez is holding his own just fine, especially when you consider how good his glove is.
An interesting thing is that the White Sox swing at the 5th highest rate in the majors, but only swing at pitches out of the zone with the 17th highest frequency. So they’re swinging a lot, but generally at pitches in the zone – the 6th highest rate of swings at pitches in the zone. Depressingly, this could just mean that White Sox hitters are so ineffectual at the moment that pitchers can just pound the zone with impunity and the White Sox are powerless to do anything about it.
So how is this offense going to improve? Well, Paul Konerko and Alejandro de Aza are better hitters than they’ve been so far this year. I’d like to think Adam Dunn could improve, but we’ve seen him vanish for a whole year at a time not too long ago, and he has aged even further away from his prime than he had in 2011. Tyler Flowers can probably be a league average hitter for his position if his batting average grows to around .230-.240, which shouldn’t be an unrealistic hope for him. Jeff Keppinger can probably OPS around .700 instead of .400.
So where does that leave us, even if all of those nice things come true? Just how much better do Konerko and de Aza have to hit to carry all of that mediocrity? Is that even attainable? This team is probably closer to the 20th best offense in the majors instead of 30th than they are now, but for a team with a payroll of $118 million, it’s looking pretty grim. Looking to the minors…well, Carlos Sanchez might be around to give them a boost in September, but he’s 21 and still adjusting to advanced pitching. Dayan Viciedo and Gordon Beckham may be the only cavalry the White Sox have to ride in and save the day, and frankly, they might not have enough firepower to get the job done.