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After finishing the home series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox had the easiest remaining schedule in MLB. Since June 10th, the White Sox are 23-21 in what theoretically was the road to easy street and another AL Central title. While that 43-game record is largely unsatisfying, making matters worse is the White Sox are 10-13 at home since June 10th. Thankfully, neither Cleveland nor Minnesota have run away from the White Sox during this stretch.
|Since 6/10/2022||Wins||Losses||Winning %||GB|
The season has been one big bag of frustration, but the lack of success at home is infuriating and puzzling. It’s one thing if your favorite baseball team is hovering around .500 if they can’t string together wins on the road. At least when that team comes back home, fans can spend their hard-earned money knowing they have a good chance of witnessing a victory.
Not this year’s White Sox. Only the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics have a worse home record in the American League. Those teams are not trying very hard to win games.
What’s causing these home blues on the south side? One part is the quality of pitching. As a team, the White Sox have a staff ERA of 4.53 at Guaranteed Rate Field, which is 25th in MLB. However, Guaranteed Rate Field is a hitters park. It should be a tough place to pitch well.
So if the pitching staff is struggling to keep opponents from launching fly balls to the seats, the offense is picking up their teammates, right?
Not exactly. Since Comiskey Park II / U.S. Cellular Field / Guaranteed Rate Field opened in 1991, the 2022 White Sox have the worst team home OPS in the stadium’s history.
After their 3-2 victory over Oakland Saturday night, the Chicago White Sox are hitting .240/.301/.366 at home. That’s a decent season for Leury Garcia, which is not ideal for a franchise with World Series aspirations.
What’s surprising are the OPS splits between hitting at home and on the road. Jose Abreu, by far, has the largest negative OPS difference.
|Player||Away OPS||Home OPS||Difference|
Jose Abreu has a career .872 OPS at home with a slash line of .292/.359/.513, averaging about 16 home runs. In 2022, Abreu is hitting a woeful .243/.335/.349 (!) with just three home runs at home. I’m not sure if August Jose Abreu can save his home numbers, and it’s a big reason why ZiPS is projecting him to finish with 20 HR and 87 RBI this season. That’s a pretty significant drop in counting stats from 2019 to 2021.
Andrew Vaughn, the supposed heir apparent to Abreu, is just like the veteran where he prefers to hit away from Guaranteed Rate Field. In 37 games at home, Vaughn is hitting .232/.287/.380, which screams for someone to be sent back to AAA for more reps. On the road, Vaughn is hitting .344/.391/.519, which screams future All-Star.
Only the oft-injured Eloy Jimenez and Gavin Sheets are hitting better at home than on the road for these White Sox. Starting with Sheets, he has yet to hit a home run on the road. That’s a good reason to send him back to Charlotte before looking at his .183/.230/.217 road splits. At Guaranteed Rate Field, Sheets leads the team in home runs with eight and a slash line that exceeds preseason expectations of .279/.355/.559.
Why are the White Sox struggling to hit at home? Let’s look at Abreu’s batted ball data.
Thanks to FanGraphs splits tool; we see that Abreu is pulling the ball 38.2% at home as of July 29, 2022. That’s a sharp drop where he mostly sat between 41% and 42% between the 2017 and 2021 seasons.
Pulling the ball less is not helping Abreu’s home HR/FB rate. On the road, 13.8% of Abreu’s flyballs result in a home run. That’s the lowest for him since 2016 and way off from his MVP season, where 30.6% of his flyball reached the empty seats in the opposing team’s bleachers.
At home this season, only 6.4% of flyballs hit by Abreu result in a home run. That’s less than half on the road and a massive drop from last year when Abreu had a 23.7% HR/FB rate. It’s a 30% difference from 2020. Maybe the bouncy ball was a big help to Abreu’s career.
It’s not just Abreu who is seeing a big drop at home.
|Up to 7/29/2022||Road HR/FB||Home HR/FB||Difference|
|Up to 7/29/2022||Road Hard Hit %||Home Hard Hit %||Difference|
It might be a ridiculous suggestion, but at this point, it can’t hurt to try pretending the White Sox are always on the road. They are hitting .272/.321/.402 away from Guaranteed Rate Field, the 8th best road team OPS in MLB. Maybe find a hotel everyone meets at and bus together to the stadium. Ask the opposing teams if they wouldn’t mind acting as the home squad allowing the White Sox to bat first. Instead of fireworks being launched for home runs, the PA system plays a track of fans booing.
The White Sox path to winning back-to-back AL Central titles starts with better play at home, which requires hitting a lot better at Guaranteed Rate Field. There are just 31 home games left to reverse these awful trends. Hopefully, August Jose Abreu arrives one more time with help from his friends.