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2017 White Sox hitting leaders in historical context

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Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia made the offense watchable considering the other categories

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If you’re looking for other reasons for the White Sox’ surprising watchability besides Rick Renteria’s magic touch, you can point to Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu. They both reached rare franchise benchmarks with their reliability, and their day-in, day-out production stabilized the Sox despite extreme volatility elsewhere in the lineup, especially after other veterans departed.

When poking around Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index, you get an idea of how hard it is to perform at their level (especially Abreu’s). And when you look at the rest of the lineup and search for their precedents, it puts the Sox’ two remaining above-average hitters in even starker relief.

  • Batting average: .330, Avisail Garcia
  • Highest since: 1997 (.347, Frank Thomas)

If you’re wondering who the last non-Thomas White Sox to bat .330 in the season, you have to go back before World War II, when both Luke Appling (.348) and Taffy Wright (.337) eclipsed that mark in 1940.

  • On-base percentage: .380, Avisail Garcia
  • Highest since: 2014 (Jose Abreu, .383)

Before the year, if you heard that Garcia would lead the 2017 White Sox in OBP, you might have wondered if the rest of the team contracted Lyme disease. Instead, he posted a respectable team-leading number even with his walk rate going the other way (5.9 percent, down from 7.5).

  • Slugging percentage: .552, Abreu
  • Highest since: 2014 (Abreu, .581)

Abreu basically returned to his rookie-year form, minus some walks and a handful of homers, replaced by more hits of other varieties.

  • Hits: 189, Jose Abreu
  • Most since: 2003 (192, Magglio Ordonez)

The White Sox are still seeking their first 200-hit season of the millennium, but Abreu is in fine company by getting to 189. You have to go back to Wright in 1940 to find an obscure player among them.

  • Doubles: 43, Jose Abreu
  • Most since: 2003 (46, Ordonez)

Melky Cabrera hit 42 the year before, but was only on pace to clear 30 this time around.

  • Triples: 8, Yolmer Sanchez
  • Most since: 2016 (9, Adam Eaton)

This category wasn’t much fun on an individual level, as Eaton hit nine or more triples in three straight seasons. On the other hand, even without Eaton, the White Sox somehow led the American League in three-baggers with 37, which was a first for the team since the days of Lance Johnson.

  • Home runs: 33, Jose Abreu
  • Most since: 2016 (40, Todd Frazier)

This also isn’t much fun.

  • Total bases: 343, Jose Abreu
  • Most since: 2002 (352, Ordonez)

That’s a better way to capture Abreu’s all-around hitting exploits in 2017. Abreu’s total-base total ranks as the fourth-highest in White Sox history behind Ordonez, Thomas (364 in 2000) and Albert Belle (399 in 1998).

  • Walks: 48, Todd Frazier
  • Fewest since: 1978 (43, Lamar Johnson)

Despite playing just 81 games for the White Sox, Frazier led the team in walks, and nobody came close (Omar Narvaez was second with 38). It’s the lowest team-leading total in nearly 40 years, although Chet Lemon was limited to 105 games that year. He was usually good for 50 or more.

  • Strikeouts: 165, Matt Davidson
  • Most since: 2013 (189, Adam Dunn)

And this is the charitable way to present Davidson’s strikeout problem. If you look at it in terms of ...

  • Strikeout rate: 37.3%, Matt Davidson
  • Highest since: LOL

It’s a new record, at least for players with anything resembling regular playing time. Tyler Flowers comes closest, as he struck out in 36 percent of his plate appearances in 2014. Flowers started cutting it down in his last season with the Sox, and has reduced it further in his two years with the Braves (28.8, 28.0, 22.2). It’s hard to see Davidson having that in him, but it can be done.

  • Stolen bases: 15, Tim Anderson
  • Fewest since: 2016 (15, Frazier)

Frazier’s wandering leads aren’t as effective as they used to be. After stealing 48 bases over his previous three season, he was only 4-for-7 in 2017 despite a career-high .344 OBP. Without Frazier, Anderson was the only one to hit double digits for the White Sox.

Unlike Frazier, Anderson’s the guy you want leading the team in steals, especially with the way he ran the bases in September. He went 9-for-9 in the final month alone, and finished the year 15-for-16. He’s tied with Al Weis in 1963 for the most stolen bases while only getting caught once. From this point, Anderson has probably established the cred to take more chances.