Let’s Fix The White Sox Walk Rate

Good news everyone, the new skipper (who I wrote about RIGHT HERE) and the BeefLoaf are on the same side. He’s already identifying some of the White Sox key problems…is he right about his first suggested solution?

The 2022 White Sox walk rate was got-damned abysmal. THE WORST. And when I say the Worst, I mean, like legit THE WORST.

Cutout from Fangraphs

Now as bad as that looks, it’s actually much less bad from an on-base percentage standpoint as the White Sox sat at .310 which was 18th in MLB. Not great, but still not terrible. The White Sox were a high batting average team in 2022, 5th in MLB, which is exactly where they were in 2021. However in 2021, they were 3rd in MLB in on-base percentage, that is very good. Now given what we know about the composition of the White Sox, they don’t need to be great when it comes to walk rate, just non-horrible. I zoned in on the 2022 playoff team averages for walk rate and figured, let’s shoot for those. See below.

Let’s be charitable and set our goals the 8.5% BB Rate that is the median for playoff teams. We want this 2023 White Sox team to be a playoff team and given the other problems we have to solve, let’s see what we can do to get to that average. My first step is to look at the same store analysis.

Same-Store Analysis

I figured a definition was in order here, for those without formal business chops, but it’s basically just comparing the like components vs each other year over year. The White Sox walk rate version is below.

A couple of notes on this table. Jose Abreu is a got-damned metronome. Eloy Jimenez is the only notable player that actually improved their walk rate in 2022. The biggest drags on this squad were likely unrealistic walk rates by Leury Garcia and Yasmani Grandal in 2021. Yas is a player with a lot of walks in his game. But 23.2% is way above career averages, so not so sustainable. Same thing for the LEGEND. He isn’t a guy that walks 8.6% of the time.

The Next Two most responsible for the downturn in Same-Store performance are Yoan Moncada and Andrew Vaughn. The new skipper Pedro Grifol called out Moncada by name as someone that he would like to see taking walks much more regularly in 2023. Moncada’s career walk rate of over 10% seems closer to real life than his 7.4% in 2022. Then again, Moncada’s entire game was having a “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” effect in 2022. Andrew Vaughn regressed substantially in the 2nd half of 2022, sporting a .234 / .285 / .385 line good for a wRC+ of 89. We should be way past the “he got tired” stage of a 2nd half and he’s just as culpable as Moncada here.

Lastly, “THE REST” in the graph is basically all of the other players that took plate appearances in each season. The mixture in 2021, was much more walk forward, Brian Goodwin, Zack Collins and Jake Lamb types, where as, in 2022, that contained the Elvis Andrus, Romy Gonzalez and Josh Harrison‘s of the world. The walk rates in these groups are night and day different. Unless our fearless GM wants to build a bench like that (tough given his current 40 man), we aren’t likely to be able to lean on that group for the additional free passes.

Let’s take a look at an early version of the 2023 team and what would need to happen to get to an 8.5% walk rate, solely using what these players did in 2022 and projecting some plate appearances.

Let’s Look at the 2023 Walk Rate

This table allocates plate appearances to the various in-house options. It also uses their 2022 walk rates. Using that as a basis for the first try, we need to find someone in free agency to replace Jose Abreu’s plate appearances that walks 26.6% of the time. The best choice out of qualified hitters in free agency in 2023 is Aaron Judge, who walked 15.9% of the time. The last qualified hitter to cross the threshold of 26.6% walk rate for a season was 2004 Barry Bonds who walked 37.6% of the time. Okay, let’s try again.

In this version, I zap Leury Garcia from the face of the earth (actually just from the White Sox roster). Sorry LEGEND. I also force Yoan Moncada and Andrew Vaughn back to their 2021 walk rates. Pedro Grifol wants 80 walks from Moncada, well, 2021 Moncada walked 84 times so that should do. Since, most likely scenarios of the White Sox 2023 team have them choosing Andrew Vaughn over Jose Abreu, I have Vaughn’s walk rate climbing back up to the more respectable rate of his rookie campaign.

Still even at this rate, we need to add a player with a 13.25% walk rate to make this right. Carlos Santana is a free agent and he walked 14% last year, however, he’s another guy relegated to 1b / DH, so he’s not the greatest fit. Time to try, try, again.

We are standing constant with the improvements of the last table, but now we get steps forward in walk rate from Gavin Sheets, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. I’m fearful for how much of this offense Eloy will have to carry in the 2023 season without adequate additions. We are almost there, now we just need that last regular to carry a 10.55% walk rate.

Who Could Help With This?

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Guess what White Sox fan favorite free agent had a 10.5% walk rate and fits perfectly on this roster. That’s right Brandon Nimmo. I’m skeptical of Brandon Nimmo, especially now that he is getting the bag this off-season. It’s a weak free agent class and his recent resume and skill set fit on basically every team. He’s gonna get paid, my problems with him are simple.

He’s not very durable.

He might be a NARC.

However, he fits this roster very nicely when solving one of it’s most obvious problems. Taking 4 balls. I might have to suspend my skepticism and accept a non-BeefLoaf guy into the White Sox family in order to fix this problem. Well, we’ll need him and one more thing.

-BeefLoaf

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