No products in the cart.
The White Sox wrapped up their travels in style on Sunday, with Tony Pena beating Jered Weaver for the second time this season to lock in a sweep and a 4-2 West Coast swing.
They finished with a sound 43-38 record away from U.S. Cellular Field, which suggests that one facet of the Kenny Williams-Ozzie Guillen offseason plan actually worked the way they envisioned. It put an end to a streak of three straight seasons of sub-.500 play on the road, and was the second most successful road year of Guillen’s tenure:
- 2010: 43-38
- 2009: 36-45
- 2008: 35-46
- 2007: 34-47
- 2006: 41-40
- 2005: 52-29
- 2004: 37-44
Of course, it wouldn’t be 2010 if there weren’t something a little misleading about how the Sox managed to accomplish that record, although the down year for offenses skews the numbers a little across the board.
First things first, I know what some of you are thinking, and no — their 8-1 record in National League parks only explains two games (they were 6-3 last year).
The Sox were sixth in the league in road runs (345) despite scoring a dozen fewer than they did the year before, when they finished eighth. They were fortunate to not have a bigger deficit, because they hit 15 fewer homers away from U.S. Cellular Field (66 in 2010, 81 in 2009), and on top of that, they also reached base far less often (.321 OBP to .330). They even hit two points worse, and batting average was supposed to be an improvement.
Any advantage on the basepaths gained by the 26 extra steals was negated by the 15 extra unsuccessful attempts. There’s no difference in doubles or triples, either, which would suggest an improvement in team speed. They must have just done a better job of bunching their hits better.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “It must be the pitching.” Yes and no. Sox pitchers did throw extremely well away from Chicago … but no better than they did last year, relative to the league. They’ll likely finish second in fewest runs allowed this year; they were first in that category in 2009. In fact, their run differential was basically the same.
- 2010: +12 (345-333)
- 2009: +9 (357-349)
Everything looks the same when looking at the aggregate — but I managed to find something that might explain the reversal of fortune:
Those lines represent the damage White Sox relievers allowed on the road over the last two seasons. That database doesn’t itemize runs allowed, so RBI is the closest I can come to approximating it.
When a relief corps cuts its gopher balls in half, you’re going to see a huge improvement. And one area to check for that huge improvement is a team’s record in one-run games. It’s far from a perfect measure, because throwing six innings of scoreless relief to win a 14-inning game is the same as turning a six-run blowout into a one-run squeaker, but there’s some logic behind it, and it’s the best we have for bulk stats.
Nevertheless, I think we found our answer. Compare the team’s records in one-run games on the road, and you’ll find there is no comparison:
- 2010: 16-15
- 2009: 7-16
It does reinforce Hawk Harrelson’s tenet that an offense is only as good as its bullpen, doesn’t it?
Of course, I could have saved myself a lot of time had I just took what I learned in the last game and extrapolated from there. Scott Linebrink and Matt Thornton (going two innings — way to go, Ozzie!) posted zeroes in the seventh, eighth and ninth after the White Sox offense scraped together four runs without a homer. If nothing else, it’s a fitting and satisfactory end to that half of the season.