White Sox surpass last year's error total ... with 62 games left to play

Whose hands are these anyway? - Jonathan Daniel

South Siders have seen a few worse defenses in the modern era, but never such a drop-off

The White Sox lost their 60th game on Friday night, a 5-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. According to the Hawk Harrelson adage, they have exhausted their amount of allocated losses. They still have 20 wins to go until they win the 60 games just about every team wins, along with the miscellaneous 42 that matter.

I think that means every game from here on out counts, you guys.

Actually, Harrelson hasn't said that much this season, because individual breaks stopped mattering a long time ago. Instead, he's been following the team error total as of late, and Casper Wells' ninth-inning drop was a meaningful one.

With error No. 71, the 2013 White Sox have committed more miscues than they did last season -- and there are still 62 games left to play.

Standard caveat: The error is a dubious stat to use without context. We know that. But as I've said before, I think the total is such a departure from last season that, if nothing else, it's highly effective in describing how it feels to watch this team.

That said, let's give it some context to make it a little more scientific. They're on pace to finish the season with 115 errors, which feels like a ton. But while the raw number is high, it's not historically out of proportion. Here are the Sox teams with the most errors since the move to U.S. Cellular Field:

Team Errors
1. 1998 White Sox 140
2. 1999 White Sox 136
3. 2000 White Sox 133
4. 1992 White Sox 129
5. 1997 White Sox 127
6. 1995 White Sox 122^
7. 2001 White Sox 118
8. 1991 White Sox 116
9. 2013 White Sox 115*
10t. 2009 White Sox 113
10t. 1994 White Sox 113**

(* -- Total based on rate through first 100 games; ** -- Through first 113 games; ^ -- Through first 144 games)

Eight White Sox teams (would) have committed more errors over a 22-year period, and one of them made the playoffs easily, so the current pace doesn't necessarily astound by itself.

But let's introduce a few environmental factors:

No. 1: Teams strike out way more than they used to. This pitching staff is on pace to set the franchise strikeout record for the third straight season, which means fewer balls in play, and fewer opportunities to screw up.

No. 2: On top of that, since team offense is down, pitching staffs are facing fewer batters in general.

No. 3: Team scoring is lower now than it used to be, and this White Sox offense is lower than low. That means failed outs hurt more.

So I took the pitching staff's batters faced, subtracted home runs, walks, strikeouts and hit batsmen, and then divided that total by the number of errors to get an idea of the average gap, or pace of errors committed. You'll see the 2013 White Sox climb the list with this stat, which I've given a name to account for the feel of it all:


Team
Errors
Plays between facepalms
1.
1998 White Sox 140
32.94
2.
2000 White Sox 133
33.44
3.
1999 White Sox
136
33.95
4.
1997 White Sox
127
35.58
5.
2013 White Sox 115*
35.81
6.
1992 White Sox
129
36.48
7.
1995 White Sox
122^
37.07
8.
2001 White Sox 118
38.22
9.
2009 White Sox 113
38.22
10.
1994 White Sox 113**
38.64

Fifth is a bigger deal -- especially when considering the 2012 White Sox went 58 plays without screwing up in the eyes of the official scorer.

Now, for one last chart to show how much the pitching is on an island. Keep in mind that the average error is worth about half a run.


Team
Errors
PBF
Runs per game
1.
1998 White Sox 140
32.94
5.31
2.
2000 White Sox 133
33.44
6.04
3.
1999 White Sox
136
33.95
4.80
4.
1997 White Sox
127
35.58
4.81
5.
2013 White Sox 115*
35.81
3.77
6.
1992 White Sox
129
36.48
4.56
7.
1995 White Sox
122^
37.07
4.66
8.
2001 White Sox 118
38.22
4.93
9.
2009 White Sox 113
38.22
4.47
10.
1994 White Sox 113**
38.64
5.60

Half-runs are a lot harder to come by these days, huh?

Anyway, there's a chance that messing around with these numbers only interests me, especially when it summarizes what we already know -- the defense makes everybody feel bad.

It's just the swiftness of the decline that stuns me, because we've never seen such a descent into clumsiness in the modern White Sox era. There's a difference of 23 plays between facepalms when comparing the 2013 Sox against the previous year's edition. The biggest year-to-year drop before? The 2006 Sox (50.3 PBF) to the 2007 Sox (42.1 PBF).

Basically, the White Sox infield went from Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel to Mike Caruso, Ray Durham and Greg Norton overnight, except Durham's bat is nowhere to be found.

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