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White Sox racking up baserunning outs without baserunners

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The 2015 White Sox run into outs like some of the best White Sox teams. A couple problems...

David Banks/Getty Images

When Mike Olt was gunned down by Torii Hunter trying to stretch a single into a double during Friday's game, I went to Baseball-Reference.com to confirm that the White Sox had exceeded their baserunning outs from last season.

Turned out I missed it by one. Trayce Thompson was the one to put the Sox over the top by getting thrown out at second on his two-run single for the Sox' 63rd baserunning out of the season. I must have been too relieved that the second run crossed the plate before Thompson was tagged out to notice.

It's been easy to lose track of all the White Sox' mistakes on the basepaths. For the record, Olt's was the 64th out, and then  Joe McEwing turned Avisail Garcia into 65 by waving him into the third out at home plate a couple innings later.

(I was remiss in not noting that the green light probably would've worked if Garcia didn't stumble down part of the third-base line, but that's the way it's been going. See a post from 2012 about outs at home being a different animal.)

Amazingly, this still isn't tops in the league. The Tampa Bay Rays lead all of baseball with 66 outs. It's probably not a coincidence that they're the only American League team to average fewer runs per game than the Sox.

Just so we're all clear on baserunning outs, here's how B-Ref defines it:

OOB

With that in mind, some fun facts:

  • The White Sox lead all of baseball in outs at first base (14) and third base (16).
  • Melky Cabrera is third in baseball with outs on the basepaths with 11. The two ahead of him, Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler, both have OBPs 40 points higher.
  • Cabrera and Adam Eaton are tied for the league in outs at first base with four.

OK, I lied -- those aren't fun at all. But here's something that's actually somewhat amusing: According to B-Ref's play-by-play data, which dates back to 1954, only two other teams have run into as many or more outs than these White Sox. The years may surprise you:

  1. 2005 White Sox, 66
  2. 1983 White Sox, 65
    2015 WHITE SOX, 65
  3. 2006 White Sox, 64

In other words, this list include three teams that averaged 96 wins ... and this one, which is stuck on 66. That might be somewhat surprising, at least until you rank them by OBPs:

  1. 2006 White Sox, .342
  2. 1983 White Sox, .329
  3. 2005 White Sox, .322
  4. 2015 WHITE SOX, .307

But wait a minute -- this doesn't exonerate the 2005 White Sox, because .322 is still below average. Of course, if you remember that "Ozzieball" was the rebranding of a homer-based offense to make it more palatable to the public, then it was better at realizing its potential. Ranking these teams by home runs hit:

  1. 2006 White Sox, 236
  2. 2005 White Sox, 200
  3. 1983 White Sox, 157
  4. 2015 WHITE SOX, 137 (projected)

And so we return to this year's club. When a team has a low OBP, lots of baserunning outs and fewer hitters scoring themselves, it ends up like this:

  1. 2006 White Sox, 5.36
  2. 1983 White Sox, 4.94
  3. 2005 White Sox, 4.57
  4. 2015 WHITE SOX, 3.92

(Putting those lists in that order, it's easy to imagine the White Sox crumpling up the paper after reading the first category and saying, "Everybody know how to offense now? Great! Class dismissed!")

The good news? Even with all the casualties on the basepaths, they aren't the worst baserunning team according to FanGraphs. The Sox are the fifth-worst by that system (12.2 runs below average), with the Rays, Dodgers, Mariners and Tigers all trailing.

The Sox did occupy the cellar in this category for a while, but one aspect they've been able to salvage is basestealing. They launched 1,000 Vince Coleman jokes by starting the season 7-for-18, but they've been 52-for-76 since. That's still below the break-even rate, but Eaton, Alexei Ramirez and Tyler Saladino have helped buoy their efforts in this regard.

The silver lining is quite limited, though, especially when "They're not the worst!" is the best you can say about the Sox offense in any aspect, and especially when they're still really the worst at something (power hitting). I suppose this gives Rick Hahn plenty of avenues for improving this offense, but he'd probably rather have fewer ways to go about it, because it's a sizable task to hike it up to something resembling average when there isn't even one thing that looks good.