For the White Sox, Patience is a Virtue
Yesterday’s game at Sox Park was an electric environment. I had the pleasure of ingesting most of the game with White Sox Dave from Barstool Chicago sitting next to me. It’s always fun to talk baseball with him and just learn from what he has to say and think about the team. Our White Sox spent most of yesterday looking the part as best team in the American League. It was the first warm day on the home schedule and the White Sox played the bully beating Cleveland 7-3 on the strength of Tim Anderson’s 2nd inning grand slam and 3 great relief innings from top prospect Michael Kopech. Most White Sox fans left the stadium and their parties carried on into the beautiful Chicago evening.
Going into yesterday’s action, the White Sox were a top 3 offense, basically by all reasonable measures but were very un-Sox-like sitting 24th in the Majors in HR’s.
So how the fuck are the White Sox doing all this damage without home runs in one of the home runniest parks east of the Mississippi. WALKS. Walks. If we learned anything from the last 20 years of “Moneyball”, we learned that the easiest way to replace offensive production, is to get on base. The White Sox unfortunately lost one of their top hitters, Eloy Jimenez, just moments before the season and they needed to get that production back so……how did they do it?
The 2021 White Sox are currently sporting a 10.0% BB rate, which is good for 6th in the majors. THAT’S GOOD!! Below is a listing of the last decade worth of White Sox BB rates and league ranking…..it’s less good.
That’s fugly. I know some super smart guy or gal is going to come in here and tell me, yea but BeefLoaf the White Sox were rebuilding during some of those years. I get that, but they weren’t rebuilding during all of them and even during the rebuilding years they weren’t forced to roster all players that never walk. Were they?
I think the most important comparison is looking at the 2020 White Sox offense (VERY GOOD, VERY POOR at taking walks) vs the 2021 White Sox offense (VERY GOOD, VERY GOOD at taking walks).
Let’s Do a SAME STORE ANALYSIS FIRST!
Sorry for the repugnant business jargon. I come from the real estate world and all a “Same Store” analysis means is looking at the same things you had last year and their performance and comparing them to this year. Pretty simple, so in this instance, all of your heros from the 2020 team will be matched up against, themselves in 2021.
Here is the White Sox Same Store BB rate analysis….
From the looks of this chart, two of the biggest early season reasons that the White Sox are so improved are two of White Sox fans biggest concerns. Jose Abreu is walking a lot more and so is Yasmani Grandal. Now sometimes large jumps in walk rate signal bat speed regression and the older hitter is just taking a lot more pitches. I’d have to dig deeper on both to try and take a guess if that is the case, but regardless, the substantial gains in walk rate have been very helpful to the offense. Nick Madrigal has also seen gains that just look like a young hitter maturing and possibly taking his future form. That’s great to see! Now let’s take a look at the rest of the roster.
The rest of the White Sox….
This is where the most substantial gains are coming from in the 2021 White Sox. The bench bats and the remaining non-same store starters seem to have a much more patient approach than the 2020 team. That’s primarily fueled by Andrew Vaughn and Zack Collins who are both walking at over a 12% clip, while soaking up the equivalent of Eloy Jimenez’s percentage of plate appearances from 2020. Neither guy (at this point) can touch Eloy in most hitting categories, but when it comes to patience, these two dudes are well surpassing his efforts. Lastly, the much maligned Jake Lamb is turning out to be a revelation when it comes to letting pitchers throw him ball 4.
Will the 2021 White Sox continue to walk like they play in a band with Susanna Hoffs, I dunno, but for right now they are replacing 2020’s thunder with a whole lot of effective patience.