The White Sox are off to a very solid 8-4 start, despite having only played two home games, which is the fewest in the majors so far. Despite the hot start record-wise, the White Sox offense has struggled coming out of the gate.
Great pitching and some timely hitting have gotten them by up to this point, but the Sox offensive issues cost them in a series loss this past weekend in Tampa Bay.
Let’s take a look at that series for a moment.
It was the first series loss of the season for the Sox and it showed that good pitching can only go so far. The Sox scored a total of five runs in the three game series, while collecting only 18 hits. Sox batters also struck out 28 times in the series and walked only twice.
The middle of the Sox order was particularly terrible to say the very least.
Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, and Melky Cabrera combined to go 5-for-31 (.161) with 11 strikeouts, one walk, and one RBI. Of those five hits, one was for extra bases. Abreu and Frazier are hitting .214 and .163 respectively and are tied for the team lead with 14 strikeouts.
As a team the White Sox numbers are not good either. They are ranked 11th or lower, out of 15 teams, in the AL in the following categories: OPS (15th), walks (15th), slugging (14th), OBP (13th), home runs (12th), total bases (12th), doubles (12th), and runs (11th). Despite all the changes, the White Sox offense is once again struggling to start the season.
There have been a few bright spots however.
Adam Eaton is hitting .356 in the early going and getting on base at a near .400 clip. Brett Lawrie has gotten hot after a rough start and is now hitting .304 with a homer and three doubles and is also tied for the team lead with six runs scored. And last year’s slow starter Melky Cabrera is hitting .333 and getting on base at a .391 rate, although he has only one extra base hit.
But the bottom line is that Abreu and Frazier are supposed to be the big production in the middle of the lineup and right now neither of them is hitting well. The good news is that it is still very early. If a guy goes into a 10-game slump in the middle of the season, it isn’t as obvious as when he does it to start the season, especially looking at his overall numbers.
The fact that the Sox have been able to get off to a good start despite the struggles of their big sluggers speaks to how good the pitching, and to a certain extent the defense, has been.
This White Sox offense was never going to be great, but it should be better than it has been, and certainly should be better than the last couple of years. But with the Sox pitching, the offense just needs to be “good enough.”
So what defines “good enough?” Well for me the answer is five runs. That is the magic number for the White Sox offense this year. If the Sox score five runs (or more, always feel free to score more) they should win most nights. With Sale, Quintana, Rodon and the bullpen, five runs should get it done most nights. That won’t always be the case, but it usually will be. And of course there will be days where four, three, or two get it done as well, but five is the magic number.
It is a small sample but through 12 games the Sox would be 10-2 if they scored five runs each game. They have scored at least five runs just three times, and are 3-0 in those games.
The Sox currently average 3.25 runs per game, which proves even further how incredible the pitching has been through two weeks.
The four American League teams that have scored less runs than the Sox are a combined 21-30, and include Minnesota, Oakland and Tampa, all teams the Sox have played. The other team in that group is the Angels, who come to US Cellular Field starting Monday night.
It also wouldn’t hurt the Sox to try and score a few runs early in the game. Through 12 games the Sox have just two runs in the first two innings and only 14 runs in innings 1-4 total.
On the flip side, the Sox have scored 11 runs in the 7th inning this year and seven in the ninth. But overall, the Sox offense has just 21 total runs in innings 1-6 through 12 games.
Hopefully coming home will help get the White Sox offense going. Oakland, Minnesota, and Tampa are not exactly known has hitter’s parks. And the cold weather from earlier seems to be gone. The Sox start a seven game homestand Monday night, so let’s see if being back home helps to get the bats going.