Is Patience a Virtue for White Sox hitters?

This White Sox season has been chock full of questions about this squad, but not a whole hell of a lot of answers. We are all putzing around trying to figure out what is going wrong with this team. Why aren’t they meeting the lofty expectations set on them by a rabid fanbase and a 2021 division winning performance that left us feeling like there was more to come from this young core? The biggest gripe to this point has been the White Sox offense, which is a pedestrian 19th in MLB in runs per game at 4.24. We are left wanting more.

Much of the offenses’ criticisms seem to be leaning on the White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino and a proposed approach that trades home runs for batting average in a way that has us frustrated as a group. Assuming that is the approach, it is happening, the White Sox enter today with a .257 batting average, which is 5th in MLB and only 98 home runs, tied for 25th in MLB in dongers.

Calling for Frank’s head is a foregone conclusion as a tired fan base grasps at any semblance of change that could possibly make a difference in a season that is quickly slipping away. One large criticism I have seen is that the White Sox aren’t patient enough at the plate, have a bad approach and swing at pitches too early in the count. I wanted to dig in and see if that was true and if we could correlate patience (in it’s rawest form, Pitches per Plate Appearance) to results….to the BREF

Let’s Look at Pitches Per Plate Appearance

This table is cut from Baseball Reference, a great website that I would give oral pleasures if it was allowed

Well, the eye test seems to be working. White Sox fans think this team is filled with total hackers and it is, as the White Sox are only seeing 3.79 pitches per plate appearance, nearly dead last in MLB (average is 3.90, yes, it is a narrow band). What’s weird is that while it does seem like being more patient is more highly correlated with run scoring, it’s not as strong as I thought it would be with 6 teams below average in Pitches per Plate Appearance being above average in runs per game and 5 teams above average in PPPA but below average in runs per game.

But what about at an individual level? Which White Sox are doing what.

This table denotes the White Sox individual hitters in 2022 with their pitches per plate appearance and their OPS+ (100 is average)

This table doesn’t seem to tell me much, most of the White Sox actual above average hitters, Vaughn, Jimenez, Robert and Anderson are all below average in pitches seen per plate appearance. The only real life good hitter having a good season who has above average “patience” if you will is Jose Abreu and in a way you could argue that he had better seasons when he was less patient and swung earlier in the count (3.92 pitchers per plate appearance in his 2020 MVP season).

Luis Robert is actually more patient this year than he was in 2021 (3.27 pitches per plate appearance) when he hit .338 / .378 / .567. Tim Anderson‘s 2019 batting title season, he saw 3.40 pitchers per plate appearance, so slightly more patient, but still a hacker by all measures. Eloy Jimenez‘ excellent 2020 season, he saw 3.56 pitches per plate appearance, so basically the same as this year.

I’m not sure I can find much here at a macro level that leads me to believe that patience is the problem necessarily. I think the 2021 White Sox higher walk rate and level of patience (they were above average with 3.93 pitches per plate appearance) was due to the roster construction. That season’s tertiary players were materially those that saw a fair amount of pitches and walked a lot (Zack Collins, Brian Goodwin and Jake Lamb). This group was built more to defend (Harrison, Pollock, Reese McGuire #RIPIP) than to work the count.


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