Chicago White Sox Pitchers and Bad Luck in 2014


Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox are off to a 2-3 start early in the 2014 MLB campaign, which has been carried by a surprisingly potent offensive attack. How has the pitching staff held up it’s end of the bargain so far? As is always the case when discussing statistics this early in the season, small sample size warnings must apply. Nevertheless, the White Sox’ team pitching stats are telling an interesting tale through five games.

According to the team’s pitching page over at FanGraphs, the staff is tied for third place having amassed 0.8 WAR as a unit thus far. More interesting, however, is the fact that the Sox pitchers as a whole have posted a robust .344 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) in the early going. For comparison’s sake, over the full 2013 season the highest BABIP allowed by any team was a .314 clip by the Colorado Rockies. This means that when Sox pitchers are allowing hitters to make contact this season, those batted balls are falling in for hits at a much higher than normal rate.

Furthermore, the staff has only stranded 59.4% of baserunners to this point. This is an alarmingly low number that comes in over 10% lower than the Houston Astros’ league-worst 70.0% strand rate in 2013. This type of number simply speaks to bad luck, and in tandem with their BABIP, helps to explain part of the reason the White Sox have allowed a large number of runs so far this year.

Another important factor in explaining these statistics is the White Sox’ defense. Good defensive teams help their pitching staff by getting outs on balls that should be hits, in addition to consistently making routine plays. I’m reserving judgment on the quality of the team’s defense until they have a larger body of work in 2014.

If the White Sox can improve from last year’s below-average defensive effort (FanGraphs defensive ratings had the team 22nd with a negative rating in 2013) and the pitching staff sees their luck normalize, the South Siders should be able to go as far as their offense can carry them in 2014.