White Sox notes from The Bill James Handbook 2021

Everybody wanted Rick Renteria to stop bunting, so he stopped bunting.

His reward? Getting fired for a guy who’s coming fresh off a DUI charge.

OK, maybe some other forms of mismanagement also occurred, but when I received The Bill James Handbook 2021, I immediately flipped to the managerial record section to see how Renteria had attempted to change in what turned out to be his final year.

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And when it comes to his most hated tactic, Baseball Info Solutions said that Renteria only called for two sacrifice bunt attempts all season. That’s a reduction of up to 80 percent if you round down:

  • 2017: 47
  • 2018: 28
  • 2019: 35
  • 2020: 2 (7.4 over 162 games)

Only two American League managers called for fewer bunts — Kevin Cash and Ron Gardenhire, whose teams only had one sacrifice attempt each. On the other side, Mike Matheny led the league with 16 bunts called, which is one of the reasons why I didn’t think much of the Royals’ decision to hire him.

Renteria had other issues. Some were out of his control (his lineups had one of the lowest platoon advantage percentages), some were bad luck (an average number of intentional walks, but the most that went wrong), and some were structural issues with his approach (an above-average number of slow hooks, and an unwillingness to try getting innings another way).

Still, I think it’s somewhat informative that when Renteria was given a lineup that didn’t have many bunts in it, he gladly got out of its way. He sounded like a guy who was happy to not feel compelled to squeeze runs out of every other opportunity, and he lived up to that during the season. It shows further evolution is possible, even if the White Sox had reasons to avoid gambling on him smoothing out the other wrinkles quickly enough. If there’s any comfort, the White Sox hired one of the few guys who could make hearts grow fonder of Renteria after the White Sox rendered him absent.

As I do every November, here’s a smattering of other interesting notes in my thumbing-through of the latest Bill James Handbook.


*Yasmani Grandal was the only White Sox hitter for whom shifting had a profound effect, as he lost four hits to the shift. He also led the league in pitches taken, so he’s a black sheep White Sox in a few ways.

*Luis Robert had the AL’s second-highest whiff rate (40.1 percent), and the highest first-pitch swing percentage (49.3).

*The White Sox cracked the top 10 in baserunning with 25 bases gained, even though they weren’t particularly accomplished stealing bases. Their 21 baserunning bases gained ranked fourth.

*José Abreu led the league with 130 RBI opportunities, and finished 11th in RBI percentage (.462). He had the most lead-changing RBIs with 17.

*Tim Anderson‘s improvement is finally registering in projections, as he’s given a .301/.333/.470 line for 2021.


*Lucas Giolito cracked the top 10 in starting pitcher rankings after starting the season in 27th place, with Dallas Keuchel improving from No. 73 to No. 31 after the benefit of a full season.

*Jimmy Cordero was used on consecutive days 10 times, in sole possession of second place behind Kansas City’s Greg Holland (12 appearances).

*Alex Colomé, Evan Marshall and Codi Heuer finished first, third and fourth in holding lefties to the lowest batting average against.

*Garrett Crochet threw more 100-mph fastballs than any AL pitcher (61), ahead of Josh Staumont (58).


*The White Sox finished with 21 Defensive Runs Saved as a team, an improvement of 70 runs from their -49 finish the year before. They went from being below average seven positions to two, and third base might be a small-sample aberration. Left field, not so much.

*Grandal led the league in catcher strike zone runs saved with five. James McCann finished tied for third with three.

*Anderson tied for the league lead in fielding errors with five, but his throwing didn’t add to his troubles this year, so he finished three runs above average at shortstop.


*Guaranteed Rate Field was the only ballpark that didn’t host a triple all season.

*The White Sox finished second to the Red Sox in challenge success rate by going 8-for-11 (72.7 percent). Opponents went just 11-for-27 in challenging against them.

*The White Sox spent 24 days in first place, only to end up in third. The Colorado Rockies, who spent 16 days in first place only to end up in fourth, were the only other team with more than two days in the top spot. That’s another one of the things that hurt Renteria, but at least the guy alone about the bunting.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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We’ll see if this is true https://mobile.twitter.com/Cu_As/status/1328336151262818304 (La Russa’s BAC at .095, charges being dropped)


Update. The charges are being dismissed and refiled in a different jurisdiction.

A spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office tells me by email the apparent dismissal of charges against Tony La Russa is a “formality” because they were filed in the wrong court. They will be re-filed in a different justice court. “The charges are not being dropped.”

— Jon Seidel (@SeidelContent) November 16, 2020


Saves me time doing OpenSecrets search on Reinsdorf’s and LaRussa’s campaign contributions to the Maricopa states attorney.

Josh Nelson

I like RBI percentage. I wish that was a more used metric (like at FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference).


It’s an interesting stat and I would like to see it. I have a feeling it would come too close to being used as a “clutch” metric, with not really being correlated to “clutchness.”

Josh Nelson

Right. That would be a concern, but I figured television broadcasts would have this handy in specific situations. Say, a runner on second base and Jose Abreu converts this opportunity a run X% of the time.


not a great stat, but better than simply counting RBI’s i suppose.


I think it might have some merit in regards to “clutch” hitting though. If two players have roughly equal numbers of RBIs but one player converted baserunners into runs at a .400 clip and the other guy was at .250, its fair to say that player one could be viewed as more “clutch”. I think there is a lot of talk in some fan bases of “if only X had more opportunities to get RBIs, the team is letting him down” because RBI opportunities haven’t really been tracked. Maybe X just sucks and we can finally recognize it and put a number to it.


I wonder how much what RBI Percentage would tell us would be different from BA w/Runners in Scoring Position.


Bill James is trolling us, Isn’t he?


Who might’ve finally gotten Renteria’s attention?


So MLBTradeRumors linked Josh’s offseason plan as evidence of how much payroll we are expected to have to work with.


Most important note for the Sox (Hahn) is on the cover.