Despite the game of baseball becoming more analytical, the only true indicators of how a team did lie on the scoreboard at the end of the day and the won/loss column at the end of the year. If you opened up the dictionary to find the word “average” the Chicago White Sox would be right there in the definition as evidenced by their 81-81 record this season.
The White Sox were the most underachieving team in baseball as they went from being a frontrunner to get to the World Series at the start of the season to a team that finished second in its division by double-digit games and well out of the playoff race.
Many factors contributed to the team’s poor showing but sometimes analytics can leave one wondering how numbers could show one thing, yet the result is something different.
Take for example wRC+ which is weighted runs created plus. It takes into account the statistic of runs created but factors in things such as trends in the league and ballpark effects. In total, the numbers, a hitter with a wRC+ of 100 is considered average.
The Chicago White Sox needs to produce much more offense next season.
As a team, the White Sox were tied for 16th in baseball with a wRC+ of 99. They were tied with the Baltimore Orioles and the American League Central Division champion Cleveland Guardians who finished 11 games up on the White Sox.
In terms of total runs, the White Sox were 19th in baseball at 686 while the Guardians were tied for 15th with the Colorado Rockies at 698. Of the playoff teams this year, the Tampa Bay Rays were the lowest-scoring team with 666 runs (21st overall) yet were tied for 14th with the San Francisco Giants with a wRC+ of 101.
The top five teams in runs scored were the Los Angeles Dodgers (847), New York Yankees (807), Atlanta Braves (789), Toronto Blue Jays (775), and New York Mets and Saint Louis Cardinals (both at 772). The Dodgers were tops in wRC+ at 119 followed by the Blue Jays (117), Mets (116), Yankees (115), and Cardinals (114).
Where some head-scratching comes in for the White Sox is in how a number of their starters fared in wRC+ yet the team finished average at best in the category and in the bottom half of the majors in total runs.
Using 350 At Bats as a benchmark, according to fangraphs.com, Jose Abreu was the highest-ranked White Sox player amongst all players, finishing 26th with a wRC+ of 137. By comparison, Aaron Judge led the majors at 207 followed by Yordan Alverez at 185.
Four other White Sox players finished with a wRC+ of 100 or better and they are Andrew Vaughn (113), Luis Robert (111), Elvis Andrus (105), and Gavin Sheets (100). Eloy Jimenez posted a 144 wRC+ in 84 games and Tim Anderson finished with 110 in 79 games.
Even Josh Harrison and AJ Pollock were near average as each finished with a 98 and 92 respectively. Well below average was Yoan Moncada at 76 and Yasmani Grandal at 68.
That’s what makes what happened to the White Sox so frustrating from an offensive standpoint. Injuries and a lack of home run power were factors in the team not performing better. But based on the numbers, the team had half its batting order creating runs at an average to an above-average level.
Come contract negotiating time, players will, or should, use that stat if it plays in their favor. That is according to Minnesota Twins shortstop Carlos Correa who believes wRC+ and Weighted on Base Average are key stats players need to consider if they are looking for a nice payday.
"“When I go into a clubhouse right, the first thing I tell players is, ‘You wanna make “X” amount of money?’ ” At that point, I already got them and you start explaining the analytics and how GMs think and what they look at.“They’re the ones giving us a contract.” Correa added, “The owners, the GMs, they’re the ones making the decisions. So, we gotta play to what they like, what they want to see, what they want in a player to help them win championships.”"
The White Sox offense should have been better than it was but heading into next season it will have to be better than average if they hope to make a title run.