White Sox baserunning not up to par this season


The Chicago White Sox were supposed to be fast this season. So fast, that no longer would out-slugging the opposition be a necessity.

And how could you not agree?

They signed Emilio Bonifacio, promoted Micah Johnson, return Alexei Ramirez and have both Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia completely healthy to start the season.

Four of those five are everyday players and hit in different regions of the White Sox lineup. Bonifacio is the only reserve but makes for the perfect pinch hitter late in games and can spell every position on the diamond that’s not pitcher or catcher.

They also hired former major leaguer Vince Coleman to be the team’s new baserunning coach. Coleman led the National League six times in steals and is sixth all-time in that category with 752 for his career.

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All that speed can only help you win games right?

Well, their speed has not been an issue this season. It has been the way they’ve used it that has attributed to the White Sox being one of the worst teams in the American League a month and a half into the season.

Let me give you some stats.

The White Sox have stolen just seven bases all season which is the lowest among AL teams. They’ve been caught stealing 10 times which is tied for the third most in the AL. In fact, they are the only team in the AL who has been caught more times than they have been successful.

The five mentioned above have attempted just 14 stolen bases this season and been successful six times.

According to Fangraphs, the White Sox are the worst base running team in baseball and it’s not even close.

Their BsR stat (which is their version of baserunning WAR) has the White Sox at an alarming -9.9. The next closest team is the Colorado Rockies at -5.9.

Last season their BsR was an AL worst -14.2. So even with a faster bunch this season, the White Sox are still the worst baserunning team in baseball.

When looking for a reason for this, look no further than those five players.

Apr 19, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson (7) dives back to first safe in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson has been the White Sox best baserunner this season and that is no surprise. But that is not to say he has done well.

After building up a reputation by stealing 84 bases two years ago in the minors, he is just 3-5 in stolen base attempts, been picked off once and has made multiple outs at third and home. For the season, he currently has a BsR of 0.4 (which is about average).

His lack of success in the running department could be a reason for a lack of aggressiveness.

According to Baseball Reference, Johnson has been on first or second without a runner ahead of him 36 times this season. That means he has attempted to steal just 19 percent of the time he has had the opportunity to do so.

To put that in perspective, the top five in the AL in stolen bases this season are Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Brett Gardner and Jake Marisnick.

All but Marisnick have had more opportunities but the percentage of their aggressiveness goes 21%, 25%, 28%, 21% and 31% respectively.

If the argument can be made for Johnson to be more aggressive, then his teammates are really timid.

Eaton and Ramirez, the team’s two best base stealers from 2014 are each just 1-2 in stolen bases. Bonifacio has barely played all season and is 0-1 in steal attempts. Garcia is tied for third in AL in being caught stealing. He is 1-4 in his attempts.

All four have negative BsR numbers and have ran less than 10 percent of the time they have had opportunities.

Were we right to put such high expectations on this team’s baserunning capabilities? Maybe not.

Ramirez is 33 years old and won’t be getting any younger.

Eaton vowed to show he was better than his 15 stolen bases last season but in his four years in the majors, has never given us a reason to believe him.

Garcia has been pegged as this five-tool player that is capable of everything but jury is still out on if he can actually excel in any of those tools.

Bonifacio’s speed and baserunning ability is legit but with both J.B. Shuck and Gordon Beckham ahead of him on the bench, has seen little playing time this season.

The offense has not hit well so far this season and the efforts of the starting rotation have been disappointing. Where slumps can occur in hitting and pitching, it should not be the case in baserunning. It has to be better than what we have seen.

This is the type of team many people have been asking for over years. No more relying on the long ball for victories and no more going from station to station on the base paths.

Small-ball at its finest.

Suddenly, a team full of power hitters doesn’t sound so bad anymore.

Next: Where does your favorite team rank in this week's power rankings?

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