There are several statistics you could point to as a key for a failed White Sox campaign that ended with a 6-0 loss the Detroit Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
But perhaps the one that best exemplifies a stumble that took the White Sox from postseason aspirations to narrowly avoiding the American League Central cellar is Outs On The Bases.
For while the White Sox offense scored the fewest runs in the AL, the defense was at or near the bottom of almost every metrical measure and the starting pitching wasn’t as good as they had hoped, there’s no question the 2015 White Sox were also felled by many self-inflicted wounds. Even though they entered Sunday with the fifth-worst on-base percentage in the majors, the White Sox somehow ran into a major league-leading 74 outs, according to baseball-reference.com -- 19 more than the league average.
“There are some mistakes you can make that look aggressive and some you make that don’t look aggressive, that just look like you’re not paying attention,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There were too many of those.”
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
Outs On The Bases doesn’t include stolen base attempts nor do runners who are picked off count. Same for force plays.
They’re merely an accumulation of plays where runners are thrown out stretching singles into doubles, contact plays that result in easy outs at home, or players caught trying to advance on balls that get away from the catcher, etc. If you’ve seen more than a handful of White Sox games this season, you’ve seen your fair share.
While they can represent an aggressive mindset (which is good if properly used), Outs On The Bases also can make a team appear as if it has no idea what it’s doing.
In Friday’s 2015 postmortem, general manager Rick Hahn said base running is one of the issues that plagued the White Sox this season.
“The mistakes on the bases, are far, far too numerous and not the brand of baseball we want to play,” Hahn said.
While fans on social media blame the coaching staff for these mistakes, Hahn and the players disagree. Hahn said players fundamentally hadn’t lived up to his expectations.
But Ventura said he understands the criticism levied toward the coaching staff and said it comes with the position. Ventura is OK with aggressive outs, but not the ones caused by mental mistakes. He hopes next season’s team is more aware of the situation and alert, looking to coaches, paying attention to stop signs, etc.
“A lot of it is really what’s going on in the head as they’re running around, paying attention to Joe (McEwing) a little bit more,” Ventura said. “You continue to work at it. You continue to try to get them to learn when those situations are and when they aren’t. We have some guys who are young and haven’t been in the league all that long, so there is a certain element, and you want them to get it quicker rather than later.”
Leadoff man Adam Eaton, who made a team-high 12 Outs On The Bases,hopes experience gives White Sox players have a better idea what not to do in the future. He believes the mistakes fall squarely on the shoulders of the players, not the coaches. Echoing Hahn’s sentiments, Eaton said it’s not because of poor preparation -- plenty of work goes into base running in spring training.
“Coaching is not the problem,” Eaton said. “We were well prepared coming into the season. Basepaths, it’s just us. Guys learning. From my standpoint, I’m still very young and I’m learning every day. I’m learning every day to be a better player on the basepaths, to take better care of myself out there.”
“It’s not the coaching, it’s us as players. If the season failed, it’s us.”