No products in the cart.
While it seems like the White Sox seldom deliver with runners in scoring position, they’re actually faring decently. They entered the Boston series with baseball’s seventh-best OPS in such situations, and after going 2-for-12 in the opener, they’ve dropped down to … eighth in baseball, and fourth in the American League.
If you’d rather break it down to its components, it looks like this:
- BA: .234 (17th)
- OBP: .344 (11th)
- SLG: .438 (8th)
And they’re no worse than the league median compared to only AL teams.
Why does it feel unsatisfying? Maybe because they’re a little light in hits while being fourth in walks behind the Dodgers, so they have the ability to draw out an inning with no payoff. However, the hits aren’t lacking in power, as only the Angels have more homers with runners on second and/or third.
If the White Sox’s problems feel acute, it’s probably due to a combination of biases, most notably an availability heuristic. You’re used to seeing the White Sox fail to capitalize on a repeated basis, while the struggles of other teams are limited to three or four games at a time.
Here’s where I recommend following bloggers or beat writers of other teams, just because it’s the easiest way to passively discover that the White Sox aren’t alone with whatever problem they’re currently battling.
I saw a few pertinent examples this week. Here are the Twins…
…. and despite those struggles, they’re 12th in baseball in OPS with runners in scoring position. They have bigger problems at the moment, dealing with a COVID count that includes vaccine decliner Andrelton Simmons.
That means there are 17 worse teams, and the Yankees are one. Here’s an article from eight days ago citing issues with runners in scoring position…
… and it’s only gotten worse from there. In an 8-2 loss to the Rays on Friday, their opener got shellacked in the first inning, they committed three errors, and they solved their RISP issues by not having a single runner advance past first base, except on a Giancarlo Stanton two-run homer. The Yankees dropped to an AL-worst 5-8, and the fans responded by throwing baseballs on the field.
They followed that up by going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in another loss to Tampa on Saturday. They’re now hitting .222/.340/.289, good for 25th in baseball.
If you can’t imagine a worse thing going, you haven’t been following the Cubs, who found themselves mired in a hellacious teamwide drought through the season’s first fortnight.
That line dropped to .084/.204/.120 after Game No. 13. They finally busted out of that slump on Sunday by going 5-for-11 in their 13-4 victory over Atlanta on Sunday after entering that game 7-for-83. That raises their line to .128/.228/.298, so they’re out of the cellar. Somehow, Cleveland has found a way to be worse with RISP at .140/.267/.233. The White Sox just saw them, and they’ll reconvene again this week.
This isn’t to say the White Sox shouldn’t be content with the way they’re executing. It just may be the case that executing is harder than ever, especially when pitchers are maxing out with their backs against the wall. As I was starting to poke at these numbers, Joe Sheehan, who has been tracking the climb of strikeout rates for years, put it in a way that resonated with this discussion.
And when you look at the piss-poor state of the numbers across the league, we might have to recalibrate what constitutes success with runners in scoring position. For the time being, it might be best to measure the White Sox’s abilities in the clutch against the rest of the league. They stack up like this:
- White Sox: .234/.344/.438
- American League: .238/.326/.398
Should league average not feel relevant enough for you, you can also measure what the White Sox are doing against what they’re allowing. Sure enough, despite their own inconsistencies, White Sox pitchers are making the opponents they’ve faced look a lot like the White Sox.
- White Sox hitters: .234/.344/.438
- vs. White Sox pitchers: .224/.313/.402
You could maybe point fingers at approach or roster construction issues if a team struck out and popped up far too frequently with runners in scoring position. When the entire game is struggling with it, the game might have a design flaw. There’s a reason why Major League Baseball is moving the mound back a foot in the Atlantic League. You don’t need to check your biases with the White Sox’s pitching development issues to know that a couple ticks of effective velocity make a big difference in what a hitter is able to do.
(Photo by Arturo Pardavila III)