As the 2018 regular season is rapidly approaching, the Chicago White Sox are showing their strengths and weaknesses in exhibition games.
Looking back at the 2017 season, it is clear that there are a few areas that the White Sox could improve and one of them is in base stealing.
In 2017, the White Sox were not the worst in the MLB, but they were far from the best. As a team, the Sox stole 71 bases, ranking them 21 out of 30 teams. In the AL, they were 11th, just above the Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Baltimore Orioles.
The teams at the top
At the top of the pile, the Los Angeles Angels stole 136 bases. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers stole 98 and 77 respectively. Of course, base stealing does not guarantee a win in the World Series, but it makes the game more enjoyable to watch and it adds to scoring opportunities.
No one will deny that 2017 was the year of the year of the home run. And while it is exciting to watch a baseball majestically fly out of the park, there is something to be said about watching runners on base. For the fan, suspense increases when a base runner gets into position to steal a base. With the number of athletic young players on the Sox, stealing bases in 2018 should be just as important as powering a baseball over the fence.
The Sox by the numbers
Anderson was the only Sox with steals in the double digits. Of the players on the 40-man roster, only eight have stolen bases. Adam Engel leads the rest of the group with eight. The numbers are not impressive. But, they could be.
Consider that there are 162 games in baseball. With only 71 stolen bases, that is fewer than one stolen base every other game. The Sox can do better.
Catchers and pop time
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Of course, there are several catchers who have speedy pop time and plenty of success at throwing out runners. But, there are also plenty of catchers who have below-average defense and deserve being tested. Consider Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees. He had 16 pass balls in 2017 and a .617 caught-stealing percentage. The guy can hit home runs, but his defense is sub-par. He does have one of the hardest throws in the game, but if you watch him closely, he struggles just catching the pitch. More baserunners, including the White Sox, should attempt to steal when he’s behind the dish.
The speedy Sox
According to MLB and the Sprint Speed metric, the White Sox have some speed in Tim Anderson, who can run 28.5 feet per second. According to Baseball Savant’s records on Sprint Speed, a few other Sox can run fast. Yoan Moncada was recorded at 29.3 feet per second. Leury Garcia recorded a time of 28.3 feet per second. And, Adam Engel recorded a speed of 29.3 feet per second. The league average is 27 feet per second.
With these speeds, the Sox should be able to steal bases in more than 43 percent of their games. So far, the White Sox have played eight spring training games and they have five stolen bases. Hopefully, that’s a sign of better things to come.