That gave the Sox their first multi-walk game since Gio Gonzalez had problems in the first inning on April 9, and it's going to take worse lapses to allow the White Sox to climb out of last place in that category. They have drawn 18 walks over their first 13 games, which is 10 behind the 29th-place Chicago Cubs. The typical National League inflation in intentional walks (five for the Cubs, one for the Sox) doesn't come close to making up the difference.
I don't like talking about walks alone, because walking shouldn't be a primary goal, but rather a byproduct of strike-zone awareness. There have been times that aggressive White Sox hitters have tried to introduce patience into their games, but it didn't amount to much because the good takes were more accidental than anything.
Part of it is Adam Dunn. Our BuehrleMan has taken to tracking Dunn's first-pitch swinging over the past several games, and Dave Cameron zeroed in on his increased aggressiveness with a great (albeit disheartening) post at FanGraphs. The essence:
Dunn has basically adapted his approach to swing at anything on the inner half as long as it isn’t at the knees. Instead of studying pitcher tendencies and trying to get into counts where he can guess what’s coming, he’s now just looking for a ball middle in at any point in the at-bat.
And the results have been disastrous. He’s hitting .136/.174/.295, good for just a .206 wOBA. Because he’s falling behind more often than he used to, the more aggressive approach hasn’t really trimmed his strikeout rate, but it’s basically eliminated his ability to draw walks; he has just two bases on balls so far. Sacrificing walks for more hits and more home runs could be a worthy trade-off if that was the result, but what Dunn has really accomplished so far is trading walks for outs.
Dunn led the American League with 105 walks last year, and he was the only Sox player to draw 60. If he's choosing to see far fewer pitches than he used to, that automatically puts the Sox in a deficit.
And the rest of the lineup isn't a position to make up any of the difference, because as a group, they're pretty easy to pitch to. Besides Dunn, Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers, Alexei Ramirez, even Alejandro De Aza ... none of them are particularly adept at covering pitches up in the zone. Even their version of "cookies" are more narrowly defined, because opponents can get away with hanging breaking balls if they're left at cup height or higher.
(Contrast that with the pitch that Maicer Izturis took deep on Monday. Gavin Floyd missed the target, but I don't know many Sox hitters who would have been in a position to get around and punish it. Alex Rios and then who else?)
From what I've seen so far, it seems like opposing pitchers don't really have to put a lot of thought in how they approach chunks of the lineup -- especially Viciedo and Flowers, for whom "90+ mph fastballs up" is a sufficient plan. And if the pitchers can get away with using similar pitches for consecutive hitters, it might be hard for the Sox to shake starters out of their comfort zone once they find it.