Chicago White Sox: Is Yasmani Grandal’s walking good or bad?

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Yasmani Grandal #24 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates after he hit a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning of the Wild Card Round Game One at RingCentral Coliseum on September 29, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Yasmani Grandal #24 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates after he hit a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning of the Wild Card Round Game One at RingCentral Coliseum on September 29, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Yasmani Grandal was signed to the richest free-agent contract in Chicago White Sox history.  It was a four-year $73 million dollar deal. With that type of contract comes high expectations from White Sox fans. On the surface, he has not delivered. Grandal has received plenty of criticism on Twitter.  He has racked up catchers interference calls and has hit an abysmal .121 this season.

James McCann did not help matters when he turned in an All-Star performance in 2019 then followed that up by hitting .289 in 2020 as opposed to Grandal’s .230. McCann also served as Lucas Giolito’s personal catcher and caught his no-hitter.

The White Sox let McCann walk in free agency and gave the keys to the pitching staff to their high-priced free agent. Many outsiders have questioned the White Sox decision but Grandal proved his value on Saturday night against the Royals.

The Chicago White Sox may have something special in Yasmani Grandal right now.

Despite the fact he had no hits, his fingerprints were all over the White Sox 9-1 victory. He drew four walks on the night. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Yasmani Grandal now has 13 walks in his last four games, tying the most in any four-game span in the modern era. The other players with 13 were Babe  Ruth in 1930 and Bryce Harper in 2016. That is some pretty good company.

On top of that, he guided White Sox pitching to another dominant performance. Lance Lynn, Micheal Kopech, Matt Foster, and Evan Marshall combined for only one run given up on the night. Grandal’s value to the White Sox does not stand out on the box score. In 2020 he had a .351 on-base percentage that trailed only Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. Grandal also drove in the fourth most runs on the team and led the team in walks.

According to FanGraphs, he was the second-best defensive catcher in baseball. On top of that Grandal has had the second-best offensive and defensive WAR among active catchers, trailing only JT Realmuto. He also puts in a ton of side work away from the field. Nobody on the White Sox prepares as he does. Grandal spends hours analyzing scouting reports and tendencies.

Is all of this worth the sub-par batting average? He has had a truly weird season. He has 26 walks and 16 strikeouts and only 7 hits. His OBP is a respectable .388. Being the sixth hitter, how much is the on-base percentage worth when you are relying on your seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters to drive you in? His wOBA, which measures a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance is .552. His wRC+, which measures weighted runs created, is 269. For context, the MLB average wOBA is .320, and the average wRC+ is100.

The White Sox currently ranks 28th in the MLB in home runs so they need to manufacture runs any way possible. One of the best ways to do so is to get on base. The White Sox rank 11th in runs scored despite their subpar home run total and part of that is thanks to their OBP. Grandal has been a major contributor to that. Even when he is not driving in runs, he is constantly working good at-bats and flipping the lineup over. He makes pitchers work and forces teams to dive into their bullpens sooner.

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Mix that with his ability to handle a pitching staff and the White Sox have tremendous value in their number one catcher. Don’t let the surface numbers fool you, Yasmani Grandal is an essential part of the  Chicago White Sox lineup.

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