Spare Parts: The White Sox’s early defensive numbers fail to surprise, delight

Any White Sox fan can tell with their own two eyes that Tony La Russa’s outfit has played an ugly brand of baseball through the first month, but in case you want numbers to quantify the ghastliness of play, Sports Info Solution posted the first installment of team defensive standings, broken down by position.

And some positions are indeed broken down. The White Sox are tied with the Washington Nationals for the second-worst team performance in baseball at -13 defensive runs saved, with only the Cincinnati Reds edging out either of them at -14. Those Reds are 3-19 this season, so it’s indeed worth noting the company they’re keeping.

The White Sox are in the red across most of the board, including bottom-three performances in left field (-6) and shortstop (-4), which should be no surprise given the cluster of errors Tim Anderson committed last week.

Those positions might find it difficult to dig out of their holes, but other positions should stabilize, like center field (-2) once Luis Robert takes back control of the playing time, and third base (-1) if and when Yoán Moncada returns.

The White Sox would be in the worst shape of any team were it not for the performance of their pitchers, who are among a whole host of teams tied for third place with 2 DRS. Dallas Keuchel clicked to share this post, but accidentally closed the window.

Spare Parts

Back on April 24, Angel Hernandez’s terrible strike zone set off a brief, explosive tirade by Kyle Schwarber. According to the public strike-zone scorecard posted by Twitter account @UmpScorecards, Schwarber had his reasons, as Hernandez whiffed on 16 calls, good for a rate of 88 percent.

However, Jeff Passan said MLB’s internal system graded Hernandez at 96 percent. While the public systems are binary, the league’s private evaluation bakes in uncertainty on the corners with a third grade between “correct” and “incorrect” called “acceptable.” While such a nuanced system could protect bad umpires, these arguments may be short-lived as automated balls and strikes creep up the ladder toward the big leagues.

I didn’t realize until James Fegan’s story that Vince Velasquez had five different pitching coaches during six years in Philadelphia. Theoretically, a stint in San Diego at the end of 2021 and Ethan Katz this year gives him seven in seven, which is the kind of instability that might make it hard for a pitcher like Velasquez to work through problems.

The White Sox have played 22 games, and Reese McGuire has started behind the plate for 11 of them. While it’s been a pleasure to watch his defense (dropped Aaron Bummer pitch aside), he’s also hitting .135/.175/.162, which doesn’t help the Sox’s issues on the other side of the ball.

(Meanwhile, Zack Collins is hitting .256/.304/.512 over 12 games, but he’s 3-for-23 with 12 strikeouts over his last six starts, which is more in line with his Chicago results, hitch or no hitch.)

Sarah Langs digs into Andrew Vaughn’s hot start and sees sustainable developments, particularly in his choices swinging and taking. Now he just needs to bounce back from the pitch to the wrist.

Going back to the Reds, I can’t help but gawk at all their misfortune during their 3-19 start, mostly because they were 2-2 before Cincinnati Reds president Phil Castellini detonated their home opener by saying fans who were critical of the team’s ownership might as well can it because they have nowhere else to go. Now things like this are a regular occurrence.

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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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soxfan

The only thing missing from that Reds video is a Gordon Beckham cameo.

lifelongjd

I wouldn’t have a huge problem with the defensive issues if they were hitting. As constructed, this team was never going to be anything better than average at fielding. Besides Tim, no one else is making up for it with their offensive output.
I like McGuire, but not sure how long we can ignore Carlos Perez as a potentially better option.

jhomeslice

Agree on Perez, although I don’t know if his defense is considered in the same category or not much better than Collins/Zavala. But as much as McGuire is an improvement behind the plate, if he is this weak a hitter, he isn’t much of a plus. His career OPS is about twice what his 2022 production is, so maybe he will get a lot better at some point.

If not, I hope Perez isn’t god awful behind the plate because he would almost certainly be an offensive improvement over McGuire.

As Cirensica

Speaking of Perez, he just hit two homers:

jhomeslice

Wow, that dude is just raking. I wonder if Moncada is going to have positive things to say about him. Sox offense is so lacking that you can’t help but wonder if they’d give Perez a shot on a short term basis… again I don’t know about Perez’s D though. Perez has as many homers as any two Sox players.

Yolbert (I got his name right this time) with two more hits today as well. Those have to be two pretty attractive options to try if they don’t get better production from McGuire and their 2b in May.

chipporter

The reluctance to bring in hot bats, when tonights lineup features 7 players under .225, is baffling. Where’s the ole, mysterious injury flareup to create roster space?

a-t

Perez is regarded as a reasonably strong receiver (framing, blocking, etc) but with a very weak arm for a catcher. Which is better than say Mercedes, who is the inverse of that defensively

jhomeslice

That doesn’t sound too bad to me. I’m sure they’ll have to consider if RM does not start hitting soon and Perez keeps killing it. His hitting has to be worth giving up a few steals.

mikeyb

Why is baseball moving toward robot umps if MLB doesn’t even care if umps miss close calls? I don’t really care either way, but it sure seems like a weird priority for MLB if internal grading doesn’t have a problem with missed calls.

HallofFrank

It doesn’t sound like MLB “doesn’t even care if umps miss close calls.” As I understood it, the “acceptable” grade recognizes that the strike zone includes ambiguity. There are some objective hits or misses, but other pitches are less clear. The MLB definition of what counts as a strike isn’t entirely objective. And as has been universally understood, umpires can have different interpretations of the strike zone (big or small)—as long as they are consistent.

So I’d add: it does seem like MLB could do more to curb inconsistent strike zones, of which I suspect Angel Hernandez is an offender.

texag10

There’s ambiguity and then there’s “2 inches outside is within the realm of acceptability” that MLB is apparently using.

HallofFrank

Sure, I’m not saying they do it perfectly. I’m only saying the fact that they have a grade of “acceptable” that falls outside of right/wrong call is, well, acceptable. At least, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about missed calls.

joewho112

I agree. Seems like a decent system. Missing a strike that only caught a millimeter of the plate is an acceptable mistake. Missing one that gets the whole plate isn’t.

As Cirensica

Dallas Keuchel clicked to share this post, but accidentally closed the window.

Nobody does it better than Jim. So subtle.

chipporter

Angel Hernandez has always been a douchenozzle.

It’s unfortunate that MLB rates douchenozzle as acceptable.

As Cirensica

It’s unfortunate that MLB rates douchenozzle as acceptable.

Well…it is presided by Manfred.

Last edited 1 month ago by As Cirensica
roke1960

Why is Robert not in the lineup tonight? And still no Vaughn.

HallofFrank

I’m guessing standard rest day for Robert, especially after just coming off the injury. But bum luck for the Sox: no more Smyly. It’s a bullpen day now. I guess that could be good. But I’d rather see the lefty.

roke1960

It’s also cold and wet there (again!). Probably not taking chances with Robert.

Foulkelore

I came here to ask the same thing. Coming off of a 3 hit game, I’m worried there’s an issue.

As Cirensica

I still remember when baseball players played 150 to 160 games…some even played 162 games!!! Nowadays, they pamper these high paid athletes like they are made of plasticine.

  • Came down wrong on the steps to the dugout? 2 days off
  • Heard sneezing too hard while wincing away clutching his chest? 4 days off
  • Slide funny on the bases? 15 days on the IL
  • Hit the wall while trying to catch a flyball? Season ending surgery
HallofFrank

Eh. Players are bigger, faster, stronger, and throw harder than they used to. The physical toll on the human body is simply greater today. That, and teams are recognizing that the macho attitude of “toughing it out” usually isn’t in the best interests of the team or the player.

metasox

When I was young, players looked like marathoners

jhomeslice

I’m not sure that all the strength training (and no doubt over training) they do today does not work against durability. The amount of injuries seen pretty much validates that. I’m certified as a trainer and have had this conversation a few times, some good theories I think. Many athletes bodies develop artificially, with way too much emphasis on one particular sport or specialization at too young an age. They may appear strong but have underlying structural weaknesses and instability. Especially with a violent, repetitive asymmetrical movement like throwing or hitting, which inherently creates left/right imbalances and compensation patterns.

I doubt Nolan Ryan was throwing anywhere near as much at a young age as kids are today. Ryan threw arguably more high 90’s or 100mph fastballs than anyone in history, and yet was more durable than anybody today. There was no less strain or physical demand on his arm. I think at least part of the explanation might be that his body wasn’t put under undue strain at too young an age because professional sports was nowhere near as glorified and over emphasized as today. Kids today going to sports camps, lifting weights too early, etc. Much more of a tendency toward excess than moderation today among kids than decades ago. Pro sports salaries are so out of hand that excess and success at all costs is incentivized. Many athletes have taken PED’s at a young age a time or two also, undoubtedly.

I think Nolan is a pretty good example of why there is probably more to what we are seeing today than the idea that physical toll on the body is so much greater. If a 1970’s Ryan were to pitch in today’s game, I think he would do just fine.

As Cirensica

I don’t buy this. They are throwing harder but pitching less. Running faster? Not sure about that. Stronger yet fragile? Doesn’t add up.

I am with johmeslice in his comment below. Physical preparation in baseball is lagging. We are witnessing longevity in many other sports thanks to advances in physical preparation and understanding better nutrition. 30 years ago, a tennis player or a soccer player was pretty much done by the time they reach 30. Not anymore. I don’t follow other sports but i am gonna assume it is similar.

Baseball players break easier in recent years, and all these White Sox injuries might be the product of poor preparation and teams are reacting with ‘pampering’ and extra cautionary measures. I believe baseball is facing a physical preparation problem.

As Cirensica

I am gonna assume Vaughn is still sored from the hit by pitch on last week.

jorgefabregas

Trooper Galactus

I read in a blurb about Jo Adell’s demotion that he was the second worst outfield defender by Outs Above Average, and I made the mistake of clicking the link to see who was first.

jorgefabregas

I’m guessing it’s a first baseman who was noted as being very slow even for a first baseman during his draft year.

And I’m not knocking the White Sox drafting him. He was the most decorated college hitter ever according to many. And he’s showing that potential this year. But he’s not an outfielder.

Last edited 1 month ago by jorgefabregas
Trooper Galactus

The one outfielder we added in the offseason is tenth on the list.