Moneyball Math: White Sox desperately need to improve run production

Suppose you watched or listened to the latest Sox Machine Live! episode, we found a source of optimism for the Chicago White Sox. Despite starting the season 19-19, and half of those games against division opponents which the White Sox are 7-12, there are projection models that still like the White Sox to win the AL Central. 

ModelProjected RecordWin Division %
Baseball Prospectus89-7358.7%
FanGraphs86-7652.7%
Baseball-Reference82-8032.2%

Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs models believe that the 2022 White Sox will turn the poor offense around and an improvement in run prevention once Lance Lynn returns to the fold. Thanks to strong starts from Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, and Lucas Giolito, the White Sox are not in bad shape when it comes to runs allowed. Thankfully, the pitching staff has seen improvements from Dallas Keuchel as of late and surprise performances from Johnny Cueto and Davis Martin. 

The offense is in terrible shape, and nothing illustrates that better than to see just how far off the pace the 2022 White Sox squad is from just a year ago.

2021 White Sox2022 White Sox PaceDifference
Runs Scored796576-220
Runs Allowed636691+55

If the 2022 White Sox continue this pace of run-scoring and allowance, they will go from a .500 team to an expected 30 games below .500 at the end of 162 games. This expected record uses the Pythagorean Win formula. If you don’t want to do the math, you can look upon the MLB Standings page and see ex. W-L record. The White Sox are on pace to score 576 runs and allow 691. Using the Pythagorean Win formula spits out an expected winning percentage of .410. Over 162 games, that’s 66 wins. 

Pythagorean Win = Runs Scored^2/(Runs Scored^2 + Runs Allowed^2)

You might be shocked to find out the White Sox, before facing the New York Yankees this weekend, are overachieving their expected win-loss record by three games (actual: 19-19, expected: 16-22). 

We all know that the White Sox have to improve their current play to reach expectations, but how much? Let’s work through the multiple scenarios. 

Meeting 2021 Runs Allowed Total

In 2021, the White Sox pitching staff and defense allowed 636 runs or 3.93 runs per game. Currently, the White Sox are allowing 4.26 runs per game. 

With Lance Lynn coming off the 60-day Injured List around June 6th, the White Sox starting rotation should get stronger. Making it a feasible goal for White Sox pitchers and defense to trim the average run allowance down to 3.82 runs for the remaining 124 games. They do that, and they’ll match last season’s run allowance total. 

Without any offensive improvement, that would bump the expected 2022 White Sox winning percentage from .410 to .451, which would be a 73-89 record over 162 games

Improving Run Production

White Sox offense is where the turnaround has to be because it has the most significant impact on a season’s trajectory. Last year, the White Sox scored 796 runs or 4.91 runs per game. That runs per game metric is 1.36 runs more per game than the 2022 squad is producing which is astounding. 

For the White Sox to match last year’s run production, they have to average 5.33 runs per game for the remainder of 2022. That type of offensive output would be 863 runs in a 162-game season and would be the sixth most runs ever scored by a White Sox team in franchise history. One of the worst-performing offenses in baseball would have to suddenly become one of the greatest offenses in franchise history just to meet last year’s production. That’s a tall order. 

If the White Sox were able to be an offensive juggernaut over 124 games and finish with 796 runs in 2022, without any changes to their run allowance pace (691 runs), they would have an expected record of 92-70. 

Path to AL Central Crown

Based on the projection models, it appears that 85 wins could win the American League Central.

Certainly not an impressive number of victories, and that total would be mocked at how poor a team would be entering the postseason as a #3 seed in the new postseason format. Alas, division banners wave forever, and winning the AL Central was the minimum requirement for the White Sox in 2022. 

Looking at two factors for reaching each total win milestone: 1) How many more runs are needed if run allowance pace doesn’t improve, or 2) How many more runs are needed if run allowance pace returns to the 2021 result? 

Reaching 85 Wins

If run allowance pace doesn’t change:

  • White Sox offense will need to score at least 727 runs for the season
  • That’s 592 more runs needed from the current total
  • Increase run production to 4.77 runs per game

If run allowance pace returns to 2021 levels

  • White Sox offense will need to score at least 669 runs for the season
  • That’s 534 more runs needed from the current total
  • Increase run production to 4.30 runs per game
  • Decrease run allowance to 3.82 runs per game

Reaching 87 Wins

If run allowance pace doesn’t change:

  • White Sox offense will need to score at least 744 runs for the season
  • That’s 609 more runs needed from the current total
  • Increase run production to 4.91 runs per game

If run allowance pace returns to 2021 levels

  • White Sox offense will need to score at least 685 runs for the season
  • That’s 550 more runs needed from the current total
  • Increase run production to 4.43 runs per game
  • Decrease run allowance to 3.82 runs per game

Reaching 90 Wins

If run allowance pace doesn’t change

  • White Sox offense will need to score at least 772 runs for the season
  • That’s 637 more runs needed from the current total
  • Increase run production to 5.14 runs per game

If run allowance pace returns to 2021 levels

  • White Sox offense will need to score at least 712 runs for the season
  • That’s 577 more runs needed from the current total
  • Increase run production to 4.65 runs per game
  • Decrease run allowance to 3.82 runs per game

**********

Looking at the 2022 White Sox runs scored frequency after 38 games, and the amount of times they have scored three runs or fewer is alarming. Almost 58% of the time, the White Sox do not score more than three runs. If this team is truly going to get hot and meet expectations, they need to flip these results around where they score at least four runs a game more than 60% of the time. 

Or this slow start will get worse. 

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Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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joewho112

Would it be possible to throw those scenarios into a sensitivity analysis table?

asinwreck

Hiring Tony La Russa was one thing, but recreating the 1906 Hitless Wonders shows the corrosive dangers of nostalgia.

GrinnellSteve

I’m always nostalgic for winning the World Series!

NDSox12

Maybe I’m misunderstanding something (likely), but shouldn’t the calculations for reaching 85/87/90 wins have the 3 games they have exceeded their pythag record baked in? There is no reason to assume they will give those back moving forward.

Last edited 1 month ago by NDSox12
a-t

Yeah, I agree with this. Run differential up to this point doesn’t affect future outcomes. To win 90 games they need to win 71 of their remaining 124 games; 71/125 ~= 0.573 win rate, 0.573 * 162 = 93 wins. Being .500 at this point in time is far from disastrous, with neutral luck from here out they need to do is play like a 93-win team to reach the 90 win mark.

The problem is how they’ve reached .500, obviously. It’s not too late to salvage a highly attainable division title, but they need to start playing better. The increased patience on display yesterday has to continue.

Last edited 1 month ago by a-t
jhomeslice

Occasional rainouts like yesterday are yet another reason not to give guys a day off every 4 days. I know their hitters are struggling but TLR is also managing in the worst way imaginable.

They need to have their best lineup as often as possible, not to limit every position player to 140 games.

soxygen

I feel guilty about watching this team. It’s like rubbernecking in that way.