White Sox Offense at Home is Worrisome

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 6/10/2022WinsLossesWinning %GB
White Sox2321.523
Guardians2323.5001.0
Twins1921.4752.0
Royals1925.4324.0
Tigers1827.4005.5

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

RkSplitYearOPS
1Home20000.870
2Home20020.837
3Home19940.837
4Home20040.835
5Home20080.827
6Home20060.827
7Home19980.822
8Home20030.806
9Home20200.804
10Home20010.802
11Home20100.796
12Home20120.794
13Home20210.789
14Home19950.775
15Home19960.774
16Home19930.764
17Home20050.761
18Home19970.761
19Home19990.754
20Home19910.753
21Home20090.743
22Home20160.742
23Home20070.741
24Home20170.739
25Home20110.722
26Home20190.720
27Home19920.718
28Home20140.711
29Home20180.706
30Home20130.691
31Home20150.686
32Home20220.667

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.  

PlayerAway OPSHome OPSDifference
Jose Abreu1.0050.684-0.321
Andrew Vaughn0.9100.667-0.243
Reese McGuire0.6560.425-0.231
Yoan Moncada0.6750.475-0.200
Luis Robert0.8650.715-0.150
Josh Harrison0.7400.604-0.136
AJ Pollock0.6910.594-0.097
Tim Anderson0.8150.728-0.087
Leury Garcia0.5270.465-0.062
Yasmani Grandal0.5710.513-0.058
Seby Zavala0.7710.7710.000
Eloy Jimenez0.4310.8440.413
Gavin Sheets0.4470.9140.467

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 7/29/2022Road HR/FBHome HR/FBDifference
Gavin Sheets0%15.90%15.90%
Leury Garcia3.30%7.70%4.40%
AJ Pollock7.50%4.90%-2.60%
Josh Harrison8.60%5.30%-3.30%
Luis Robert17.60%13.60%-4.00%
Yoan Moncada11.10%6.30%-4.80%
Yasmani Grandal6.90%0%-6.90%
Andrew Vaughn15.80%8.70%-7.10%
Jose Abreu13.80%6.40%-7.40%
Tim Anderson14.80%7.10%-7.70%
Up to 7/29/2022Road Hard Hit %Home Hard Hit %Difference
Luis Robert38.1%20.2%-17.9%
Leury Garcia24.3%12.0%-12.3%
Jose Abreu41.5%31.9%-9.6%
Andrew Vaughn34.6%27.1%-7.5%
Yasmani Grandal26.0%20.6%-5.4%
Tim Anderson31.6%27.4%-4.2%
AJ Pollock31.8%28.7%-3.1%
Yoan Moncada26.3%31.8%5.5%
Gavin Sheets25.0%31.0%6.0%
Josh Harrison20.2%27.3%7.1%
Eloy Jimenez40.7%54.3%13.6%

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. 

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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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lifelongjd

Thanks for the analysis, Josh. Really simplifies what exactly is wrong with this team. Slugging .366 at your home park that is hitter friendly is a lot to overcome.

The Sox hitters’ approach is way too aggressive and seems to take a two strike approach no matter what the count is. They’re always looking to take things the other way and be aggressive early in the at bat. This team did much better working counts and waiting for pitches they could drive. And while their SO/game are way down (8.57 in 2021 to 7.74) so are their walks (3.62 to 2.39).

These numbers and their overall performance reflect their hitting Coach’s aggressive philosophy that just isn’t working. Really would have thought they would have made a change by now, but it’s the Sox so it will come a season too late.

GrinnellSteve

I don’t know if the performance at home is getting in the players’ heads, but it’s getting in mine.

Foulkelore

Great summary, Josh. Wow, I knew their home performance and offense were bad, but it is quite something to see the details written out like this. I have no theories to explain this. My initial theory was simplistic: if you don’t hit home runs in Guaranteed Rate, it’s not a great hitters’ park, and they aren’t hitting home runs. However, you show that’s more of a symptom, not root cause. Their hard hit rates and home run percentages are so much higher on the road. If it’s similar to Abreu, and multiple guys are pulling it less at home, leading to not hitting the ball as hard, well, what’s the root cause of that?

GrinnellSteve

I don’t know how to study this. I’m sure someone does. Here are some premises. For the sake of this argument, let’s assume they’re all true.

A) The Sox are humidoring the balls more than other teams, reducing the carry.

B) The Sox’ hitting approach has emphasized using the whole field, going the opposite way with a lot of their liners and fly balls. In previous years this was enough to get out of the park, but with the deadened balls, not so much.

C) Other teams are pulling the ball, tapping in to more power and clearing the fences.

D) On the road, with balls not quite so dead, the opposite field approach still works.

E) The lack of home power trickles down into other aspects of hitting approach. It also alters how opposing pitchers attack Sox hitters.

Plausible? Verifiable? I don’t know. If it is true, the team needs to look at the settings in the humidor and/or look at the hitting philosophy at home.

Foulkelore

This is a good thought pattern. The humidor is definitely a new element introduced this year that needs to be considered. On the surface, that would seemingly impact their opponents equally. However, the combination of pull percentage with the humidor could explain why it might impact the Sox more then their opponents. I would think this could be backed up by looking at team pull percentage at Guaranteed Rate for the Sox vs. their opponents.

GrinnellSteve

I bet it’s also possible to look at how balls are carrying in each park, factoring in weather this year vs. last, exit velocity, and launch angle. Then you could see if carry is reduced more at Guaranteed Rate than at most parks. I bet it is. I’ve seen way too many hard hit balls die near the track in right center.

Foulkelore

The Sox definitely aren’t pulling the ball anywhere: 37.7% on the road (28th) and 38.9% at home (25th). I’m not sure how to aggregate the pull percentage of all opponents at GRF.

Last edited 14 days ago by Foulkelore
metasox

Has that been consistent each month? Am wondering if the Sox altered their apporach along the way

Foulkelore

40% in April, 38.6% in May, 35.6% in June (dead last), 39.6% in July.

soxygen

I was actually just sitting down this morning to look through our players’ home and road splits when this was posted…My hypotheses were that (a) the underperformance at home would be concentrated among a small number of players, and/or (b) that there might be some identifiable social variable separating those who were underperforming (age, marital status, etc.).

And my hypotheses were wrong on both counts. The suckitude appears to be widespread, and there is no apparent pattern or common (non-baseball) characteristic that explains who is stinking it up at home.

Thanks for the timely and depressing analysis, Josh.

Root Cause

A coach’s main objective is to get the best version of each player on the field. Telling players to operate at <100% is just the opposite. How does that not affect their motivation to play at a high level?

I would have a hard time giving my best if I had little confidence in the direction I was being led and it would definitely take some of the joy out of playing.

That doesn’t explain the home disadvantage unless being under the microscope from the home fans increases the level of stress.

All bad speculation I know but I think TA7 and others are better than this. I just think the root cause is between the ears.

Last edited 14 days ago by Root Cause
denman

The “operate at less than 100%” seems to be a directive from the training staff, not the coaching staff. It’s a new training staff and their philosophy of how to keep players healthy deserves a trial. I think it’s a leap to believe that a directive to be selective as to when to exert maximum effort undermines motivation generally.

I know that claiming LaRussa has negatively affected team morale is an oft-cited source of the team’s underperformance. But, core players such as TA7, Abreu, Hendriks, and others have gone out of their way to contradict that view. Players, this season and last who come to the organization, such as Harrison, Cueto, Hamilton, Goodwin, and Lamb, seem to genuinely enjoy being on the White Sox. Moreover, LaRussa’s influence doesn’t readily explain why they’ve played so poorly at home and relatively well on the road. Ironically, most of the problems afflicting this team ( poor fundamentals, seeming unprepared, trying to do too much, showing poor “baseball IQ”) are exactly the kind of problems that an “old-school” manager with a rep for always having his team ready to play would be expected to correct.

GrinnellSteve

Unrelated to this post, but I want to drop this somewhere.

I think the Sox’ best approach at the deadline is to do nothing unless they can make an upgrade at virtually no cost. Most of us agree that the roster is flawed and ought to be reconfigured.

I don’t want to see any prospects dealt for aging help for a team that is likely not going to win a playoff series. That’s the surest way to guarantee that this contention window has an all-too-brief shelf life. I want them to be perennial contenders.

Whether you want to reshape the roster to improve defense/hit righties/get healthier/work counts/whatever or you want reduce payroll to provide flexibility to better address those same issues, some core players are going to have to be jettisoned. The problem is you’ll be selling low on almost anyone you can think to deal. Moncada, Eloy, Robert, Grandal, Pollock, any pitcher but Cease, yada, yada, yada all have depressed value on the market.

Yes, you can provide some upgrade to 2B or RF or the bullpen, but if you spend a real future contributor in order to do it, you’re just hurting the team longterm. If you can upgrade those positions for minor leaguers you don’t care about, go for it.

No, your best play is to hope the many underperformers on this team get and stay healthy and start producing like they’re capable of doing, rebuilding value in the process. Then you can get serious about reshaping the roster in the offseason. (Think Lee for Scotty Pods and the chain reaction it set off.)

We’ve watched “The Kids Can Play” get older, more expensive, less healthy, perhaps less athletic. I don’t want to see them accelerate that process while chasing 86 wins and a possible division title. See if this squad can start producing and then attack the offseason.

One move they could and should make would be to fire the manager and several coaches. That might do more than any trade could.

GrabSomeBench

I’m in one hundred percent agreement. I’m not against trading for upgrades for minor (not top prospect) leaguers. I’m not against signing Conforto with a deal for the remainder of this season and next. I agree that at this point trading anyone on the roster, with the exception of Cueto, Cease Vaughn, Anderson and Kopech are going to be for a less than sparkling return. Perhaps some players like Eloy, Moncada, Yas, and Giolito can build some market value for an offseason trade.
Some big names like Soto and Ohtani may be available in the offseason. Perhaps it is time for a big deal where major talent is traded for major talent.

PauliePaulie

Counterpoint:
There’s a very good chance that this is their last chance. As failure will cause Jerry to drasticly cut payroll a la the Reds after their recent failures.
Throwing everything at a playoff berth and first round victory could be the difference between getting another shot next year and a third rebuild in just over a decade.

Marty34

The division should keep them in the mix for a playoff spot whatever their payroll ends up being.

soxfan

Try is should not be taken as a criticism, Steve, but my issue with this plan and others similar to it is that they always seem to be based on the premise, “the team should do X, so it can set itself up to engage like a rationale team functioning in the modern era when the time is right.” Unfortunately I have almost thirty years of fandom to prove to me that they rarely engage like a rationale team and even more rarely conforming to modern practices.

So you’re not wrong, but it’s predicated in filling the same holes that existed last offseason. If the org won’t fill those holes vis free agency unless and until their in contention at the deadline, then maybe we have to accept that the only way we’ll get an influx of talent is via trade. It’s not the smart way to run a team, but unless we buy new caps and shirseys it might be the way we have to accept our team being run.

jhomeslice

Replacing Tony would undoubtedly help, and do more than trades for mediocre upgrades.

I really think the team defense needs to be addressed, and that starts with TA. It’s going to be next to impossible for them to ever have a good defensive team with him at SS. I have little to no doubt that he could play RF more adequately than Vaughn or Sheets, if he was given a few weeks out there. It would open up the chance to sign a plus defensive SS in the offeseason. I don’t think there is a single player that would make this team better than Correa might. Turning your weakest defensive position into a strength, and making RF better in the process as well.

The Yankees SS is a very weak hitter with zero homers, but his WAR is almost equal to TA because he plays good defense. Outside of TA and maybe Robert/Abreu, the Sox are severely outclassed at almost every other position by other teams.

This is a very mediocre team that needs to improve in several ways, starting with defense. I like the idea from GSB of trading major talent for major talent. See if you can get a good young 2b like Jazz Chisholm (who is a lefty) for Vaughn. They need to make some major changes and I think basically blow the whole thing up to some extent. Keep Cease, Kopech, Robert, and be very open minded about trades involving everybody else.

soxygen

I agree with this. Sure, a Bailey Horn for Ryan Tepera deal might help and be an acceptable cost, but otherwise I just don’t see the point.

The team is less than the sum of its parts this year, which argues for getting rid of the people who assembled mis-matched parts and seem unable to get the most out of them (Williams, Hahn, and LaRussa).

There are some redundant players on this team who, largely because they haven’t been healthy, aren’t tradeable right now and maybe shouldn’t be traded anyway given how close we are to the division lead. So they are going to need to make some decisions this off-season. We’ve all talked about those possible moves: to re-sign or not re-sign Abreu; trade Eloy; trade Grandal; trade Vaughn; trade or extend Giolito; etc. There certainly is enough talent/value there that you can imagine them coming back next year with better than even odds of winning the division.

That said, I don’t see any reason to be optimistic unless there is accountability for the people who have the kinds of jobs that require accountability.

HallofFrank

I wish they’d aggressively shake up this team. They could move from the MLB roster and target guys under control beyond this season. I know it’s usually not a good idea to add by subtracting, but in this case I’m okay with lateral moves just to see something different.

And they should absolutely aggressively pursue Soto (and inevitably fail). Offer Vaughn, Eloy, Montgomery, Colas, and Rodriguez and see what they say.

dongutteridge

If this team could trade for Babe Ruth (RF), Joe Morgan (2B) and Sandy Koufax they still wouldn’t get to the World Series.

Quit giving away your player depth and prospects for nothing. This team, as assembled and paid for ($190 mil.) and managed by HOF baseball person should be good enough, as is, to stumble into the playoffs through the Comedy Central.

BenwithVen

I don’t think there’s any silver bullet to explain it. The org.’s hitting philosophy, the humidor/dead ball, injuries and age related decline all can be contributing to it at once.

At the very least, they can control the hitting philosophy which doesn’t seem optimal for G-rate which suppresses doubles and triples. It also doesn’t help that the White Sox let the “launch angle revolution” fly by them.

Regardless, being outhomered at by a AAAA team at home is not something winning ballclubs do, especially ones that fancy themselves “contenders”

Last edited 13 days ago by BenwithVen
PauliePaulie

Yet thay are 3 games out with a schedule that provides a glide path to the playoffs.
And I’m sadly conflicted as to whether that’s a good thing or not.

jhomeslice

I don’t think it’s a good thing. One rumor last winter with the CBA was that they might do a realignment with the Jays winding up in the AL central. I wish that happened, so we could be done with the nonsense of winning a hapless division with a completely mediocre roster. If they were forced to get better to get playoff revenue, that would be a good thing. Fortunately the Guardians have 8 prospects in the top 100, so the Sox will be forced to get better eventually.

I’m definitely not in the “anything can happen in the playoffs” camp, not with league worst manager, league worst defense, and close to league worst offense vs RHP. The chances of success in the playoffs are so exceptionally small with this group that comparisons to other past WS winners that have not been great fall by the wayside. This team can barely hold their own against the Orioles, A’s, Tigers, and Indians. They aren’t beating the Yankees or Astros in a playoff series, I don’t care what anybody says.

upnorthsox

I could see a realignment with a swap of Cleveland for Toronto and KC for Texas or Houston. That would make a pretty strong Central without weakening the other divisions.

The mediocre teams that won got hot to finish the season.
Washington went 35-16 to finish the season and won 10 of 11 games to close out.
Atlanta went 36-18 and won 12 of 14 to close out.

Atlanta went wild at the deadline bludgeoning there OF and RP problems with multiple pickups.
Washington did little but a Daniel Hudson trade and an Asdrubal Cabrera waiver pickup.

Could we get hot? Sure I guess but I’d consider it the long of the long shots.

Marty34

This looks like a Hahn problem as much as anything else. Consistently losing the corner OF and DH battles to the opposition during his tenure.

soxygen

I haven’t gone back and looked at this, but I feel like “undervaluing defense” has been a problem since the early Kenny Williams days. Would be an interesting research project for the off-season!

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Turd owner. Turd GM. Turd manager. Turd offense. Turd defense. No analysis needed.