White Sox offense lacked both quality and qualifying hittersOmar Narvaez topped Jose Abreu's average by 10 points, but he didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify. (Keith Allison / Flickr)

White Sox offense lacked both quality and qualifying hitters

Injuries, inexperience and ineptitude led to a startling production void on the leaderboards

The White Sox offense contributed plenty to the loss side of the ledger in 2018, but as we examined a couple of days ago, some historically awful performances from pitchers — as well as a couple of midseason trades — is what caused the Sox to careen over the guard rail and into the land of 100 losses.

The hitters don’t stand out even in recent memory as a group because the 2013 White Sox were just about worse in every way. If you paired that offense with the most recent group of pitchers, you probably get a team that’d struggle to get its win total comfortably into the 50s.

That said, the White Sox offense had a strange season in terms of individual performances. I suppose when Daniel Palka leads the team in homers by a comfortable margin after spending most of April in Charlotte, and when Omar Narvaez leads in categories that emphasize extra-base hits (OPS, wRC+), the failures outnumbered the successes. Neither player qualified for the batting title, limiting their overall impact on their leaderboards.

The 2013 White Sox, as bad as they were, got some functional performances out of everyday players. Alejandro De Aza was a leadoff man capable enough to score 84 runs without much help, and Adam Dunn had enough power to mash 34 homers, even if he had little else to offer.

The 2018 White Sox were limited by injuries to their two most effective incumbents. Avisail Garcia couldn’t provide an encore to his 2017 All-Star performance because of a bad knee that hampered him from the start of the season, and a pair of intimate issues prevented Jose Abreu from fully roaring back to life. The other players to start the overwhelming majority of games at their positions — your Tim Andersons, your Yolmer Sanchezes, your Yoan Moncadae — all underwhelmed with the bat.

The end result are isolated vacuums of production that haven’t been seen around the White Sox in quite a while. For instance:

Home runs: Daniel Palka, 27
Fewest since: 1992 (George Bell, 25)

Baseball-Reference.com calls Bell’s 1992 the least impressive 100-RBI season in White Sox history, as he finished below replacement-level (-0.2 WAR). There’s a similar shape in production, with both players held down by a .294 OBP and no defensive value, but at least Palka’s big edge in power put him in the black (0.6 WAR). Also, the White Sox picked him up on waivers, as opposed to trading a player of immense future value.

RBIs: Jose Abreu, 78
Fewest since: 1990 (Ivan Calderon, 74)

Abreu’s RBI total is the lowest to lead a White Sox team in the New Comiskey Park era. When looking at Calderon’s total and the lack of power elsewhere in the lineup, it’s surprising that those White Sox won 94 games. Thanks to a strong pitching staff, they outperformed their pythagorean record by seven wins. It’s a fitting way to close out the Old Comiskey Era, because that was the story for most of its 80-year existence.

Runs: Tim Anderson, 77
Fewest since: 59 (Steve Lyons and Dave Gallagher, 1988)

That was a team that only had three players qualify for the batting title. They had other things on their mind that year.

Batting average: Jose Abreu, .265
Lowest since: 1968 (Luis Aparicio, .264)

I suspected that it’d been a long time since the leading White Sox hitter finished so far outside the race for the batting title, because the White Sox generally fielded slap hitters in a big outfield. Average was seldom the problem.

But I didn’t think it was this bad. The 2018 White Sox became the fifth team in franchise history whose leading qualifying hitter failed to clear .265. The others?

  • 1968
  • 1967
  • 1910
  • 1904

That’s two years that were historically favorable to pitchers, two Dead Ball Era teams, and nobody else. While batting average has been rightfully usurped by more meaningful stats when it comes to production, it still captures the simple satisfaction of reaching base with a hit, and the White Sox were so short on them in 2018.

Strikeouts: 1,594
Most since: LOL

When you set the major league record for strikeouts in a single season by a team, those hits are harder to come by.

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Holland23
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Holland23

Sox should go after Brantley and Pollock this year to fix some of strike out and getting on base issues they had. Maybe add Donaldson on a one year deal so he can rebuild value and go after Rendon or Arenado next year.

As Cirensica
Member

What an embarrassment of a team. What an embarrassment of a FO. Sometimes I believe that winning the WS in 2005 was short of a miracle.

Speaking of which, since 2005 (Incl.), the White Sox are DEAD last in fWAR production for position players (Click here)

Significantly low budget teams like the Rays or the Indians or the As have out produced the White Sox positional players by a wide margin. This is not a small sample size. This is pretty much the whole reign of the duo KW/RH which includes a WS champion team. Even teams managed by a horrible human like Jeffrey Loria has out produced the White Sox by a whopping 9 Mike Trout/years.

KW/RH have been able to extract so much value from Don Cooper (White Sox is 3rd in fWAR in pitching on the same period) that they should give half their salaries to Cooper. But even Cooper is fading away since the White Sox pitching production has been declining in recent years…yeah, blame the rebuild or the tanking or the moon or climate changing.

KW/RH assessment of positional players has been the worst of all FOs in the last 15 years, and it can’t be argued. That they are still employed is just not baffling, but some might argue that Reinsdorf’s only interest is to make money (no winning games), and the only explanation KW/RH are still employed is that the White Sox are somehow making money to the Reinsdorf’s family.

I strongly believe, unfortunately, that the White Sox won’t be contending as long as KW/RH are in command. They are just inept at putting a baseball team together. Eloy, Kopech, etc will need to be surrounded by competent players, and RH/KW will once again fail to do that. Don’t believe me? Am I pessimist? I have 13 years of stat backing me up. What do you have?

roke1960
Member

Unfortunately, you are absolutely right. They must change their approach this offseason if we will see anything out of this rebuild. But I’m not sure KW/RH are capable of changing their approach. I sure hope they prove me wrong, but I’m not betting on it.

oljeto
Member
oljeto

Nailed it! With rev sharing and tv money, the smartest man in the room is Reinsdorf. Until the FO and coaching staff are gone, there is no rebuild.

oljeto
Member
oljeto

If the Sox are ever going to contend, they have to find position players who can actually put a bat on the ball. Fielding is also an asset.
Package the pitching talent (everyone and anyone but Cease) with Yoyo for hitters. Trout is gettable. Open up the checkbook and overpay for the talent that is out there.
Holland23 is on the right track here, but they can and should aim even higher.
But, we know that is not going to happen.
The Blackhawks may be back and the Bears definitely are. In the Battle for Chicago, wave the white flag.