The Chicago White Sox are officially in a slump.
Over the last 15 games the Sox have seen their lead in the American League Central shrink from six games down to just a half game lead over the Cleveland Indians. They have gone 4-11 over that stretch, including going 2-5 against division rivals Kansas City and Cleveland.
At the start of this bad stretch the White Sox were 13 games over .500, they are now six.
There is a lot of blame to go around for this recent skid, as the Sox have failed in all aspects of the game at different points. But lately it has been the offense that has really been at the core of the Sox problems.
Over that 15-game skid the White Sox are slashing .247/.312/.379 which gives them a .691 OPS as a team.
They have 133 strikeouts (8.9 per game) to just 46 walks. Maybe the most damning number, they have left 115 runners on base (7.7 per game) over that stretch. As a result, the Sox have scored just 57 runs (3.8 per game) over those 15 games.
It’s been even worse over the last week with the Sox slashing .224/.294/.338 for a team OPS of .631 and striking out 59 times. Just 18 runs have crossed the plate (2.6 per game) and only 16 of those have been driven in.
The hitting with runners on has really been an issue.
The Sox are getting 11.6 runners per game over this span, they just aren’t bringing them home. During the full 15 game stretch the White Sox are 30-for-124 (.242) with runners in scoring position. Not good, but not atrocious. However, during this past home stand, the Sox were an abysmal 14-for-75 (.187) with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-23 (.043) in the three game series against the Royals.
That was in a series that the Sox lost two of three, while only allowing eight runs.
The offense alone isn’t to blame however. At times during this streak the bullpen has had its fair share of struggles. The bullpen has appeared in 13 of the last 15 games (thank you Chris Sale) and has allowed 18 runs. That works out to about 1.4 runs per game. However, seven of those runs came during that meltdown in Texas. Since then it is 11 runs in 12 games, or 0.92 runs per game.
And even more recently, the pen has allowed just four runs over its last eight appearances. The bullpen has also been tagged for four of the 11 losses over that stretch. So while the pen was certainly better during the home stand, it had a pretty rough road trip.
We should also take into account the inherited runners. During this bad stretch Sox pitchers are allowing 46% of the inherited runners to score. That is compared with just 30% of inherited runners coming home in the team’s first 33 games.
The starting pitching isn’t without blame either, but when you consider the starters are allowing 3.5 runs per game over this streak, that really isn’t too terrible. But overall the pitching hasn’t been as good as it was early on. The team ERA over these last 15 games is 4.53 and the WHIP is 1.346. The team K/BB ratio is at 2.49 during this time and they are striking out 7.24 batters per nine innings.
What this all comes down to is that the Sox are playing pretty bad overall baseball right now and are having trouble finding the form they had through the first month and a half of the season. The failures are across the board and when that happens the finger pointing usually leads back to one place, the manager.
Which brings me to something I have been saying throughout the Sox hot start…how will they respond when they hit a rough stretch? The reason this question continued to linger for me is because Robin Ventura’s teams have never bounced back well, or sometimes at all, from a bad spell.
Go back to his first season in the dugout, where the Sox had a three game lead with 15 games to play and turned that into a second place finish, three games out. It actually only took them 12 games to go from three up to three back and elimination by losing 10 of those 12 games.
In 2013 the White Sox were an even .500 at 24-24 on May 26th before losing 10 of their next 11 games and were never heard from again en route to a 99 loss season.
In 2014 they were two games under at 54-56 on August 1st and then went 8-19 the rest of the month and 11-14 in September.
Last season we all know what happened, the Sox stumbled right out of the gate and could never really find their footing. Although they did manage to get themselves back above .500 by May 18th at 18-17, but that was followed by losing seven of eight. A nice stretch in July had them back to within a game of .500 just before the trade deadline, and then they lost eight of ten and sputtered to a 27-34 finish in the final two months of the season.
Now there are some different personalities on this team but given the track record, it is hard not to see what is happening and wonder if they are going to be able to pull themselves out of this. Because if this type of play continues, White Sox management is going to have to think very hard about making a major change.
Maybe it is with the personnel, maybe with the manager, but if things don’t get better soon, you might start to come up on the point of no return rather quickly.
That is how is has gone the last four years, so there isn’t a whole lot to convince me that won’t be the case this year.