White Sox offense's sluggish start approaching infamy

Ronald Martinez

Lack of runs increases significance of mistakes elsewhere, and there are plenty of those

After a pair of disheartening games in Kansas City, the White Sox still haven't scored more than seven runs in any of their 29 games this season.

Seven might be a somewhat arbitrary number, but since they're the only AL team to not to top it at least twice, it does point to a problem. Plus, if we treat seven runs as a significant mark, we can start a History Watch. Or at least a Qualified History Watch.

Here's the list of the longest "stop-at-seven" droughts to start a season in franchise history:

Games Year Final record
1 53 1968 67-95
2 33 1987 77-85
3 29 2013 ???
4 27 1943 82-72
5 24 1984
1942
74-88
76-82

You can pretty much disregard 1968, because that was the year Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA and Denny McLain won 31 games. That's not to say they weren't awful -- they scored the fewest runs in the American League and lagged way behind everybody else in adjusted OPS+, too -- but it's not a terrible we can really put into context.

1987, though, is an interesting year, because that was one of the great seasons for offenses before the mid-90s blew it out of the water. The average AL team scored 4.9 runs per game, which is the highest average of any year between 1951 and 1993.

The 1987 White Sox didn't join that party until May 17, but they did make up for lost time by scoring eight runs or more in five of their following 10 games. Funny thing about those Sox, though, is that there may have been a point in waiting. Reading from The 1988 Bill James Baseball Abstract:

During one remarkable seven-game stretch (Sept. 24-Oct. 1), the White Sox scored only 26 runs (3.7 per game), but won all seven games.

Which, come to think of it, was a general pattern all year. So long as they didn't have too many runs to work with, the White Sox pitchers did a heck of a job. When working with three to five runs, the White Sox won 37 and only lost 30, a .552 percentage, fourth best in baseball. The Sox won six games, which is more than most teams, in which they scored only one or two runs.

But when supported by six or more runs, the Sox lost 15 times. Their .694 winning percentage when working with six or more runs, though it sounds good, was the worst of any major-league team. Finishing just eight games out, those games that they blew when they had enough runs to win, most of which came early in the season, kept them from contending. Ten of those 15 losses were charged to the bullpen, only five to the starting pitcher.

Perhaps these White Sox are merely following the same lesson plan, but since they haven't even tried scoring more than seven runs, I'd hope they'd at least give it a shot. You know, don't knock it before you try it.

James goes on to say that the Sox were able to survive low-scoring games due to their solid starting pitching and league-best defensive efficiency. Oddly enough, the 2013 White Sox actually are in pretty good shape when it comes to defensive efficiency (.720 through Saturday, good for fourth in the AL), which goes to show you how much every mistake is amplified this season.

Star-divide

That includes mistakes by Robin Ventura. I'm still not sure what he was thinking with the intentional walk to Chris Getz on Sunday, even after his explanation in this video at the 45-second mark (which included two it's-just-one-of-thoses, out of six overall):

It's just one of those where George [Kottaras] only had a handful of at-bats all year, and Getz, you know he's going to put it in play. You're getting one or the other, it's just one of those where you have to make him swing the bat.

He used that phrase -- "make them swing the bat/put it in play," not IJOOT -- a few times, which actually underscores the irony of the IBB. Opponents should generally welcome the opportunity to make Getz swing the bat, and with the bullpen walking as many guys as it has, Ventura shouldn't be looking for opportunities to throw more on the pile. But hey, maybe the Royals had a punch card where they walked 11 times, so they got the 12th free or something.

A reporter asked Ventura whether it's time for players to become accountable for mistakes. Ventura said they are, followed by an IJOOT, so that's not much of an answer.

Then again, I don't know how you answer that question in that setting, especially given the compromised state of the roster. I suppose Ventura could hold his players accountable by making them fend for themselves, whether by making hitters swing away, or forcing a reliever to clean up his own mistake rather than use three to get through an inning again. He would've gotten away with it if it weren't for that meddling closer, but I don't know how many times he can repeat that.

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