GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox really want the awful base running that has acted as a life-sucking force for their offense to come to an end.
While they continue to deliver the same message they have for the past few years, the White Sox have doubled down and are working harder to emphasize just how important the practice can be.
New bench coach Rick Renteria said earlier this week that the White Sox — who last season led the majors in outs on the bases — hired him in part to address their base running woes. With a new cast in camp, the White Sox want to stress to players how much running into extra outs can suppress an offense.
“That’s an area we need to tighten up,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We’ve simply given away too many outs on the bases. You want a club that’s going to be aggressive, that’s going to take the extra base when it’s there. And it’s a fine line between doing that and forcing the issue and giving away outs. Unfortunately, for the last couple of years we’ve been more on the side of the ledger of giving away outs as opposed to getting that extra bag.”
The White Sox gave away outs on the bases in 2015 like the trusting neighbor who leaves a bowl of Halloween candy on the porch. The team’s 74 outs on the bases last season were 19 more than the major league average even though the White Sox had the fifth-worst on-base percentage among 30 teams, according to baseball-reference.com.
Outs on the bases only accounts for plays in which runners were thrown out on tag ups, hits or other miscellaneous plays where they tried to advance a base. Force outs aren’t counted. Plays that result in a caught stealing aren’t either. And pickoffs are also excluded.
The White Sox didn’t gain much of an advantage from their aggressive style. They finished two percent below the league average in Extra Bases Taken, which while imperfect because it doesn’t account for the location of the ball, offers another indication the White Sox need to improve.
“It wasn’t very good,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
It impeded scoring for a team that scored three or fewer runs 82 times.
The White Sox had little power last season and forced the issue on the bases, running themselves out of innings or potential rallies. By simple subtraction of the team’s 74 outs on the bases, the White Sox on-base percentage dropped from .306 to .294. Hence the additional emphasis this spring.
Renteria was hired in November in part because of his high baseball IQ, Hahn said. But his highly energetic, hands-on approach has also caught the attention of players.
Earlier this week, Renteria stood directly behind White Sox players as they worked on secondary leads off second base. Not only did they practice reading the ball, Renteria talked to and hopped toward third and back toward second with players depending upon how the ball was hit.
Outfielder J.B. Shuck said he can’t remember many coaches who operate the same way. He thinks the style is effective because Renteria repeatedly communicates the message without going over the top.
“He just brings a lot of energy and I think that’s what we needed,” Shuck said. “He knows what he wants to say and gets it across. But in the same sense, it’s in a positive way and you can just feel the good energy from him.”
It’s the same message but the White Sox have addressed things a little different this spring because they have a bunch of new players, Ventura said.
Renteria said he preaches what first base coach Daryl Boston has for years. He just wants to emphasize exactly what is expected of players, something he learned from the front office during their offseason discussions.
“A lot of it had to do more with figuring out where the club was at with the bases,” Renteria said. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is something I was taught in terms of going station to station and I just implemented from the way it was shown to me. The most important thing though is that when we’re out there with them, they know they’re supposed to be doing things a certain way. Every now and then they’ll get away with one or two. But you stay on top of them and make sure they understand it’s very important.”