During MVP voting discussions, you'll sometimes see a very trivial split touted as indicative of a player's impact on his team: his performance during team wins and losses.
You don't see it very often, and it's inconsistently applied when deployed. Sometimes a player gets credit for having a big disparity (he's the guy making the difference in wins!), sometimes it's used against him (he didn't show up when the team could've used him!). It depends on whether it's needed to build a case for or against somebody, and it's usually grasping for straws when it gets to that point.
The reason it's not used widely is because it's meaningless. Players always hit better in team wins, because their stronger efforts help their team win. Likewise, if a good player is held hitless, that's often one of the reasons why his team loses. As long as a player builds up a healthy enough sample size, his OPS will always be higher in wins or losses. Always.
I mean, going back through the last 10 years of White Sox splits, there are 103 hitter seasons in which a player racked up 100 plate appearances apiece in wins and losses. Guess what: In each and every one of those 103 hitter seasons, the player had a higher OPS in wins.
A couple players came close to splitting it down the middle, like 2010 Omar Vizquel (.680 OPS in wins, .663 in losses) and 2005 Tadahito Iguchi (.790 to .765). Otherwise, only 10 players had seasons with an OPS disparity below 100 points. The average gap over this 10-year period is 253 points (.887 to .634).
Generally, the more power, the bigger the difference, since home runs often factor into wins, and the lack thereof is a root cause in losses. But whether they're sluggers or slap hitters, starters or bench players, good hitters or bad hitters, on pennant winners or lost seasons, the truth is that hitters always perform better in wins.
Until this year, apparently.
I'm talking about meaningless splits today because I'd intended to write about a more meaningful split -- Paul Konerko's September. He's hitting .273/.375/.400 in what could be his final month as a White Sox, or an MLB player. That wouldn't be bad for any given month, but when it's the best Konerko can do, it's not good enough.
But then I glanced down the page and this incongruity caught my eye. Entering Wednesday, here's how Konerko's stats are divvied up between team victories and team defeats:
In this cursed season, of course, Konerko hits for better average and power in losses. Of course he grounds into more double plays in victories. I mean, that kinda makes sense, because losses include fewer baserunners to force out, but when accounting for rates, double plays shouldn't be that much more frequent.
But wait -- it gets dumber, because Konerko isn't the only hitter with a better OPS in losses! Ladies and gentlemen, Alejandro De Aza:
Same deal -- De Aza is a better hitter in losses. And that "in losses" line will go up, because it doesn't include his solo shot during the Sox's 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.
The conditions are conducive to this oddity, because we know that the White Sox offense isn't even that good when they do enough to win. I'd written before about the Sox's league-worst output of runs in victories, and that extends to OPS. The White Sox have a league-worst team OPS of .781 in victories. Seattle is the next-lowest at .794, and the league average is .835. A sub-.800 OPS across a team can include a straggler.
If I'd given it any thought before I'd stumbled across Konerko's splits, I might say that there's a slight chance a White Sox hitter could be performing better in losses this year. Perhaps a slap hitter who'd barely accumulated 100 plate appearances on one or both sides of the ledger, where a couple big games in losing efforts would skew the line more.
I wouldn't assume it'd be an everyday player, much less one with some measure of power. And I'd never guess there are two of them.
Congratulations, White Sox. You broke offense this year.