The White Sox's biggest problem is the offense until it isn't

Jonathan Daniel

A persistent lack of runs fails to give the pitching and defense much to work with

There had been some jockeying at the bottom, but an injury-depleted, wronghanded series against the Tampa Bay Rays sealed it:

Three weeks into the season, the White Sox have the league's worst offense.

The Sox are sitting in last place when it comes to ...

  • Runs: 83
  • Walks: 54
  • BA: .229
  • Doubles: 31
  • OBP: .280
  • OPS: .662

What's remarkable is the Sox bring up the rear and runs and OPS, even though they're fourth in the league in homers. They are outslugging the Mariners and Twins, whatever that's worth (not much).

On top of that, they also have the league's least dynamic offense. At their moment, seven runs is the Sox's single-game ceiling. It's happened in three games, but they haven't been able to top that yet.

That's a bit of a problem, because every other team in the league has done it at least twice:

Team # Games > 7 Max runs scored
Athletics 9 13
Tigers 5 11
Orioles 5 10
Rays 5 10
Indians 4 19
Astros 4 16
Red Sox 4 13
Royals 4 13
Blue Jays 4 10
Yankees 3 14
Angels 3 10
Twins 3 8
Rangers 2 11
Mariners 2 9
White Sox 0 7

This was a problem last September, too. Before the 11-0 blowout against Cleveland on the day they were eliminated, the Sox went 14 consecutive games without being able to score more than five runs.

If it weren't for the 7-0 blanking of Toronto on April 17, these Sox could stake the same claim. They've failed to score more than five runs in 14 of their last 15 games.

On the flip side, before a couple tough days for the bullpen closing out the Rays series, it was hard to complain about White Sox pitching. The Sox entered Saturday having just allowed 29 runs over 11 games, and never allowing more than five themselves.

Their record over those games? 6-5.

That's why it's weird to hear Hawk Harrelson bent out of shape about the bullpen, because that frustration seems misplaced. White Sox relievers were a little too good out of the gate, and there's been a bit of a correction over the last two weeks, mostly showing up in the form of walks. But even when the pitching is impeccable, the Sox can barely eke out a winning record.

Sox games remind me of Bears games from the last, what, 15 years? You know, the kind of game where it's entirely on the defense to keep it close, and the lopsided time of possession eventually wears that unit down, resulting in a final score/yardage total that doesn't represent the quality of the effort.

Baseball might not work the same way, but if it exhausts me watching it, I imagine there has to be extra stress participating in it. Factor in their lack of runs and their lack of explosions, and the Sox pitching staff has to lead the league in "significant pitches" thrown.

I'm not singling out Hawk (Lord knows we've done that enough recently), because he just loudly represents what a fair amount of Sox fans are saying. But that's just recency bias at play. It gets boring to complain about the same thing, so new reasons to be upset are all the more alluring. However, three weeks into the season, the Sox pitching staff has yet to really undermine the offense, and until that happens with the first semblance of a trend, the finger should remain pointed at the old familiar culprit.

Star-divide

OK, you can include the injury bug, too.

Jeff Keppinger, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo aren't world-beaters, but they do offer Robin Ventura the flexibility to actually tailor a lineup the best he can. A lineup lacking three starting righties makes beating good lefties like Matt Moore and David Price even tougher tasks.

Alas, the lack of run support perpetuates its own problems. Case in point: The Sox optioned Blake Tekotte to Charlotte after the game, which is fine. He was the Sox's fourth left-handed outfielder, and he hasn't played regularly at all at any level since spring training, so this hasn't been much of a season for him.

But the beat writers expect the Sox to call up another pitcher to take his place. Between the stressful pitch counts and the more numerous pitching changes attempting to preserve/maintain all these slim margins, the Sox might feel compelled to carry eight relievers until ... something ... normalizes, for better or for worse.

If the Sox are calling up a pitcher, it's a pretty wide-open competition. With Hector Santiago in the rotation, the Sox are lacking both a left-handed backup for Matt Thornton and a long-relief/bridge guy, so it's a matter of priorities. My wild-assed guess is David Purcey.

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