Your 2017 Chicago White Sox, at the All-Star Break, are 38-49. For those of you following along with the rebuild process – #TankForBeer – the White Sox would currently hold the 4th Draft Pick in the 2018 Draft. Per the Pythagorean Formula, which takes into account the amount of runs a team scores and gives up, the White Sox’ predicted record is 40-47, having scored 397 Runs and given up 429 Runs. So, based solely on runs, the White Sox are right where they would be predicted to be.
In what has been an up and down rebuilding season already, it’s time to look at the White Sox as a team and their performance in the following categories: offense, defense, pitching, and managing. Let us begin:
With these grades, I kept in mind that this is a rebuilding team. That being said, there are many positives to the White Sox offense so far this season. They have the 10th best batting average in the majors, 8th highest BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play, which removes the effect of strikeouts and home runs on batting average), and the 13th best OPS+ (which is just OPS adjusted to neutralize the effects of a ballpark). The mantra “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” has certainly held true, as the Sox score close to 20% of their runs in the 8th and 9th innings, and currently hold the 11th highest percentage of runs scored in the 9th inning.
Considering only the above information, this rebuilding team would deserve an A. But, as Billy Beane (or maybe Brad Pitt?) would ask, “Does he get on base?” So, here’s where the Sox deserve a C: the team is 20th in OBP, 28th in walks, 19th in runs scored, 26th in stolen bases (yet 7th highest in caught stealing), and 16th in strikeouts. The White Sox’ offense has clearly been driven by hits only, with a lack of ability to consistently get on base outside of swinging the bat. This is obviously not a sustainable way to produce offensively, and although this is a rebuilding team, it is far from being full of rookies. So, taking the average, the team earns a B for its first-half offense, but clearly needs to find more patience and discipline at the plate.
Well, you can’t spell defense without a D, I guess. Currently, the White Sox have committed the third most errors in the majors, which obviously leads to having the second worst fielding percentage. They are 22nd in total fielding runs above average (RTOT or TZ) and 19th in defensive runs saved (DRS), with values of -10 and -6, respectively. No matter which of these metrics you use, the consensus is that the White Sox are a subpar fielding team, anywhere from 6 to 10 runs worse than the average defense. There isn’t much positive about these statistics, but remember, this is a rebuilding team. Regardless, the defense has to be better.
This grade doesn’t tell the whole story of the White Sox’ pitching staff, which is why, as you’ll see below, I split the pitching into starters and relievers. Overall, the White Sox are 17th in ERA, 18th in ERA+, but 25th in FIP. FIP measures a team’s effectiveness at preventing HR, BB, and HBP, and causing strikeouts. Naturally, with such a high FIP, the Sox have the 8th most home runs per nine innings, 2nd most walks per nine, and are 16th in strikeouts per nine; nothing too positive there.
Starting Pitchers: D
Even Don Cooper has said that the White Sox’ starting staff has been “not close to good enough.” Bear with me as I go through these stats: T-2nd worst in quality starts, 5th worst ERA, 4th fewest innings pitched, 12th highest batting average against (BAA), 3rd worst average game score (measure of a starting pitcher’s effectiveness; a pitcher starts the game at 50, and our starting staff averages a 47), and 3rd lowest IP per game started. Now, I understand that the rotation currently consists of 3 reclamation projects of sorts, but these guys are still major league pitchers, and therefore are graded as such. However, not all of the pitching has been bad…
The bullpen has been a bright spot this season for the White Sox: 7th best BAA, 8th best ERA, 8th fewest earned runs, 11th in strikeouts, and T-2nd in fewest blown saves, all while having the 14th most IP. Kahnle, Robertson, Swarzak, Jennings, and the rest of the crew have performed admirably, given the workload they have been tasked with in an era that hasn’t adapted to the concept of “bullpenning,” as Brian Kenny would say. This success is a big reason why the White Sox might say a lot of goodbyes from the bullpen as we start the second half.
This grade is a far more subjective than the other grades, basically going off the “Eye Test.” For starters, this team has a lot more energy than the teams of the recent past. The hustle and effort shown on every play is unique to Renteria (I’ve consistently commented to my family on the hustle to first base, even on an easy groundout, I’ve seen from every hitter this year). The comeback victories speak for themselves, as it truly feels as if this team could come back from any deficit, even as a rebuilding team. Most importantly, as a Sox fan, I feel confident in Ricky’s ability to defend his players, instruct the future young talent, and lead this team to eventual postseason success (IF he would stop bunting so much, which is why I gave him an A instead of an A+… just my personal opinion!).
Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Stay tuned, because in my next article, I will look at each individual position and the first half each main player there has had.
**All statistics referenced were taken from BaseballReference.**