The White Sox lead the Majors in Ground Ball rate, is that good??

Happy Monday Night frents!! It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve even bothered to blog about anything White Sox. Between work kicking my balls in on the regular and us attending a bunch of games, I just haven’t had the urge. Not to mention analyzing the very early season can be a bit of a fools errand. You might see something you think is a thing and then the law of large numbers clobbers your fascinating discovery. It happens all the time.

Two dumb fucks

However, I have “TALKED” a lot about these White Sox over the last few weeks. The 108ers have continued to trudge along with our podcast and the Sunday Soak (Chicago Sports Most Popular Hot Tub show), we have also been doing weekly (mostly) Clubhouse chats with WhiteSoxDave and certainly last, but not least, we have done a couple of pre-game shows with our friends from SoxMachine. It is in one of those shows that we talked about the early struggles of Yasmani Grandal. What’s a bit fascinating about Grandal is that he’s got his lowest strike-out rate basically ever and he’s still walking a ton, but he just isn’t hitting for shit. Upon closer inspection, it would appear that he’s beating the ball into the ground. That’s not really his game. CASE CLOSED.

Or so I thought, then tonight, as I was poking around Fangraphs.com I noticed something that seems weird to me. The White Sox are 2nd in wRC+ in the majors at 118, 2nd in OBP at .341 and 1st in……Ground ball rate? That seemed weird. A really good offense that as a group is pounding the ball into the ground. I mean they are up big. Even Secretariat thinks they are overdoing it with this shit.

Now usually when your team is hitting lots of lots of groundballs that’s a bad thing. A very simple principle here, but if you hit a ground ball, that ground ball can’t go out of the ballpark and create the best possible version of a hit, which is a home run. I know that sounded overly simplistic, but sometimes we need a reminder that home runs are good.

Somehow, the White Sox are doing some ridiculous damage while leading the league in a most triumphant manner in exactly what Dallas Keuchel would like every hitter that faces him to do, pound the ball into the ground. Let’s take a look at the individually.

A Closer Look at the White Sox hitters

I made the sample size at least 20 plate appearances, so I could remove Jake Lamb’s distracting 77% ground ball rate. That’s some of the White Sox best hitters, hitting an absolute fuckton of groundballs. For a little perspective, Tim Anderson does hit a fair amount of groundballs, but his career high in a season is 54.7% in last year’s shortened season and his career average is only 51.2%. Nicky Stix is up next and well, I think his game is just hitting lots of ground balls, so no worries there, although 66.1% might be a touch high.

Adam Eaton is similar to Tim in that he has some groundballs in his game, although the last several years he has hit less and less groundballs. At 32, a 59.6% rate would be his highest since he had 59.7% in his 2014 season, which was his first with the White Sox.

Now the power hitters, Abreu, Vaughn and Grandal. As I mentioned in the SoxMachine pre-game show for the Boston series, Grandal hasn’t had an > 50% groundball rate since he was a rookie in San Diego. Abreu has never had anything approaching this sort of groundball rate, it’s a full 10% higher than his caree rate. And Andrew Vaughn, well, we don’t have much pro data on him, but given his foot speed, I think we’d like more flyballs.

What does this mean?

Well, it could mean a lot of different things, frankly. It could mean that pitchers are executing against the White Sox and their offense is still getting enough results to be very good. It could mean that the mixture of hitters on this team, coupled with some slumping sluggers is causing a first month outlier. I was curious so I went back and looked for teams with 50% or more ground ball rates in the last decade (for an entire season).

2015 Miami Marlins 51.9% GB Rate and 91 wRC+ (23rd in the majors)

And that’s it.

Conclusion

Either, this man has some got-damned voodoo magic going with his infield grass and hose (hello!) that is exclusively helping our hitters…..

Picture from the Chicago Tribune

OR….

-BeefLoaf

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