The White Sox completed their season's travels on Thursday, and even though they concluded with an uninspiring loss to the Cleveland Indians, it's hard to find much fault with their overall record away from U.S. Cellular Field: 43-38.
It's their play at U.S. Cellular Field that killed them this season. They're 33-42 at home with six games to go, and the unlikely disparity puts the 2011 season in a territory with little company.
That alone isn't remarkable, because Ozzie Guillen's crew went 43-38 in 2010. But unlike 2010 -- and almost every other season in franchise history -- the Sox have a positive road record while playing under .500 at home.
Better yet, there's only one that really compares, and there might be two people in the world who can remember anything about it.
Even if the 2011 White Sox lose all six remaining home games (and they may very well do so), they'll fall percentage points shy of the most unlikely home-road differential. That dubious honor belongs to a team that roamed the other side of 35th Street 99 years ago.
Yes, the 1912 White Sox went 34-43 at Comiskey Park, and 44-33 on the road, which meant that their road winning percentage was 13 points higher than their home percentage.
The 2011 White Sox own the fourth-biggest reverse difference, and you can see the top five here:
|1912 White Sox||34-43||44-33
|1923 White Sox||30-45||39-40
|1953 White Sox||41-36
|2011 White Sox||33-42
|1979 White Sox||33-46
If these White Sox lose their last six, their home winning percentage will be only 12.34 points different, so they'll finish no better/worse than second. Still, they'll stand alone for a sadder reason: Unlike the 1912 team, it can be said that their lousy home performance cost them their season.
In 1912, Charles Comiskey was only beginning to form the core that would carry them to a title in 1917. It was Buck Weaver's rookie season, they acquired Eddie Cicotte and Ray Schalk halfway into the season. Eddie Collins wouldn't arrive for two more seasons, and Joe Jackson a year after that. So while the 1912 Sox were a nice team, they were lacking in firepower. Their best power hitter, Ping Bodie, could only boast a .407 slugging percentage.
(What I didn't know, courtesy of Richard Lindberg's Total White Sox -- Bodie served as an inspiration behind Ring Lardner's "You Know Me Al" columns. If you haven't read "You Know Me Al," you can start right now.)
Plus, the 1912 White Sox finished 28 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. If you give those Pale Hose matching home and road records, they're still 18 games behind. And if you're even so generous as to add a few wins beyond that (because most teams play better at home), they're still going to be a dozen games short.
However, if you were to square up the 2011 Sox's winning percentages, you'd get a team with 83 wins at this point. And if you gave the Sox their usual slight home boost, they'd probably finish in the territory of 88-90 wins. That might not be enough to win the division in this alternate reality, but it changes the picture, if only because the Sox probably wouldn't have needed to shed salary at the break.
Instead, their lousy performance at home (led by Adam Dunn and his .159/.266/.296 line, and his 40 percent strikeout rate) not only doomed them to .500 at best -- it has the Sox sweating their attendance total. Prior to the season, people around the Sox generally agreed that they would need to draw 2.7 million to break even.
They're going to be well short, as David Haugh writes:
The Sox need to average 22,445 fans in the final six games to break 2 million in attendance. It's no gimme. They average 24,871 — 18th in the major leagues.
The Sox are what they are at this point, but I wonder how much the tone of the season would've changed if they at least flipped their records. It's one thing to be mediocre, but it's another to save your worst performances for your paying customers.
*Thursday's nine-run loss wiped out the Sox's positive run differential on the road. They finished -3 away from the Cell, but that's a little bit better than the -42 they're working with at home.
*The White Sox have existed for 110 years, and they've only finished with a better road record in 15 of them, 2011 included. They've broken even three times.
*The 15 teams with a better road record include three of the last four division winners. The 2005 White Sox went 52-29 on the road; it's the only White Sox team with more than 50 road victories.
*If you were wondering, the White Sox team with the largest home-road split was the 1903 White Sox .They went 41-28 at South Side Park, and 19-49 away from it.