Early-season statistics often can be deceiving, especially when trying to use them to project out for the rest of the year. There’s only one stat — strikeout rate — that is stable for most regulars or starting pitchers at this point in the season.
So yes, the White Sox have some awfully ugly stats, but they’re not necessarily cause to jump ship just yet even as the team returns home from an 0-5 road trip. Still, these five statistics do a pretty concise job of summing up the White Sox slow start to the 2015 season:
White Sox position players have been worth -1.1 WAR this season, easily the worst total in the majors (only two other teams, Milwaukee at -0.2 and Texas at -0.1, are in the negatives). It’s easy for individual players to reverse WAR totals compiled after about 20 games, and it’s unfair to expect Adam Eaton, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera to combine to be worth -1.0 WAR for the long haul. But for now, only two White Sox position players players — Gordon Beckham and Jose Abreu at 0.4 — have rated above replacement level.
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Another MLB-worst total here, as in 12 total home runs. Despite having legitimate, established power threats in Abreu and Adam LaRoche and a guy in Avisail Garcia the team views as a 20-plus home run threat, the Sox just aren’t driving the ball out of the park this year. The team’s 7.7 percent home run/fly ball rate is the fifth-lowest in baseball, while their infield fly ball rate (percentage of flyouts that are pop-ups) is the highest in baseball at 14.7 percent. The White Sox lineup is hitting flyballs at the second-lowest rate in baseball, too (27.9 percent), though that’ll likely increase — no team hit fly balls on fewer than 30 percent of their balls in play last year.
The White Sox bullpen has been a bright spot, compiling baseball’s eighth-best ERA. And it looks to be sustainable success, too, as this group is getting strikeouts, limiting home runs and generating the most ground balls (56.1 percent) of any relief corps in the majors. David Robertson has been the star of the group, firing nine shutout innings and compiling a -0.52 FIP while Zach Duke and Dan Jennings have been an excellent lefty duo as well.
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The problem, though, is White Sox starters have the third-highest ERA of any MLB group. They’ve generated the majors’ lowest ground ball rate (38.3 percent) while allowing the fifth-most home runs per nine innings (1.32), which certainly isn’t a productive combination. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Jeff Samardzija all have strong track records, though, so it’s probably not healthy to panic over their 14 combined starts here.
Yes, the White Sox haven’t started the season off well. But they’ve played 22 games, which comes out to 13.5 percent of the season. Would you draw far-sweeping conclusions about the Bears two games into the season (which comes out to about 13 percent of the 16-game schedule)? Or after one and a half college football games? The fact we’re still so early into the season doesn’t mean we can chalk everything up to small sample size randomness, but with 140 games remaining, there’s still plenty of time for things to turn around.