The walkless wonders

If you're a member of the White Sox -- specifically, if you have anything to do with the offense -- you do not want to be associated with the 1968 White Sox in any way, shape or form.

That year, the White Sox scored 463 runs over 162 games, or 2.86 per game. That's the lowest amount of runs scored by any White Sox team in the live-ball era. And even though 1968 was effectively a dead-ball year, what with Bob Gibson posting a 1.12 ERA and Denny McLain winning 31 games, the White Sox lineup was still a record-setting kind of awful.

It's probably best to compare them to the offense from the year before, which set the franchise record itself. The 1967 White Sox scored just 531 runs (3.28 per game), but they weren't even the worst in the league (the Yankees scored 3.20). In 1968, however, they couldn't hide. Even in the bat-stifling conditions, they were the only American League team with fewer than three runs per game.

Team OPS+ is an even tidier way to explain it. As unimpressive as the 1967 White Sox were, they still scraped together an OPS+ of 87.

One year later, they set a franchise-low with a team OPS+ of 76. And it's saying something when a White Sox team is the worst offensively, because the White Sox have struggled to score runs for the majority of their existence. In fact, when you sort White Sox teams by OPS+, there are 22 live-ball teams worse than the 1967 Sox.

That's how bad the 1968 White Sox were. And I'm talking about them today because they used to be the only White Sox team that went four straight games without a walk.

And on Thursday, the 2011 White Sox joined them. They did not walk once in any of the four games against the Yankees, which puts them on the precipice of modern-day history.

If they go walkless for another eight innings, they'll set a franchise record. The 1968 White Sox went 42 innings without a walk; these Sox are at 35.

And if they tack on another inning, they'll be the only team in the live-ball era to go five games without a free pass.

 

It would be one thing if the Sox were facing the Minnesota Twins from previous seasons. From top to bottom, their pitching staffs were extremely stingy when it came to issuing walks, so you could imagine them stringing together zeroes for a series.

That's not the case with these Yankees. Out of the four starters the Yankees sent to the mound this week, only CC Sabathia could be described as a "control artist," although he's more commonly referred to as a "fireballer," or "workhorse," or "clown-shaped."

The rest are no strangers to the occasional walk, as you can see from their walk rates entering this series:

For comparison, all six starters used by the White Sox this season have walked fewer than three batters per nine innings, so the last three Yankee starters were collectively below-average in the control department.

But wait, there's more! Joe Girardi utilized a couple of his more erratic relievers without harm. David Robertson (5.7 walks per nine) recorded four outs without a walk, and the rehabilitating Rafael Soriano (6.2 BB/9) recorded a perfect inning as well.

I'm not certain how to calculate these sort of odds, but based on the averages, the White Sox should've walked at least 12 or 13 times over the 35 innings they played.

Instead, they didn't even walk once.

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Hey, at least Adam Dunn is in a good position to finally prove useful! Although, in accordance with the rules of this season, not in the way he intended.

Paul Konerko's absence had a lot to do with the White Sox going walkess. He's the only White Sox hitter who 1) naturally draws a lot of walks, and 2) is worth pitching to carefully at this moment, and he missed the first three games of the series.

If the middle of the Thursday's lineup holds, Adam Dunn will once again bat cleanup for reasons undetermined. That means that, should Blackburn or another Minnesota pitcher find himself in a jam, he'll have the option of pitching around Konerko to get to the guy hitting .167.

Of course, that assumes the defense stays with Mark Buehrle long enough to keep intentional walks in the picture. Given the way the Sox habitually fold against the Twins, the Sox could trail 4-0 with three errors before the first out, and Blackburn can proceed to throw all sinkers without repercussions.

Star-divide

This whole situation reminds me of when the 2007 season started to go down the toilet. They were 24-20 on May 25, then lost 22 of their next 27 to put all hopes of a recovery out of reach -- and they did it with perverted panache.

At one point, the Sox had developed a complete inability to hit opposing relievers to the point that, on June 3, they were hitless in their last 46 at-bats against bullpens. So when Shaun Marcum left that game after just three innings, we had a definite chance to see if the Sox could suffer the equivalent of two consecutive no-hitters.

Sure enough, they blew by 0-for-54, stretching it all the way to 61 consecutive hitless at-bats when Konerko grounded to short, punctuated by a faceplant halfway up the first-base line.

Yessiree, those White Sox forced us to make our own fun, and four years later, it's happening again. On the bright side, with a chance at any kind of history, Friday night will give us a reason to watch with intent. It's not for the reasons anybody envisioned when the season started, but at this point, we have to take what we can get to keep it interesting.

Star-divide

Postscripts!

No. 1: In 1968, the White Sox led the league with 90 sacrifice bunts. This year, the Sox are second to Kansas City with 37. More proof that sac bunts don't lead to runs.

No. 2: Eddie Stanky didn't survive the season.

No. 3: Along with the walklessness, the White Sox haven't been hit by a pitch over the last four games, either. This is also remarkable, because the White Sox lead the league by a large margin in this category. They had been hit 61 times in 106 games, which means they should've been hit at least twice over the four-game series.

No. 4: In case you're wondering which Sox team had the worst offense, look no further than 1910. Those White Sox scored a franchise-worst 457 runs, combined for an OPS+ of 70, and best of all, own the lowest team batting average (.211) in baseball since 1900.

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