White Sox

Five numbers explaining the White Sox slow start

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Five numbers explaining the White Sox slow start

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:

-1.1

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.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox lose fifth straight, make four errors in loss to Twins]

12

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.

2.87

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.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

5.52

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.

13.5

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. 

MLB Power Rankings: It's Eloy's world and we're all just living in it

MLB Power Rankings: It's Eloy's world and we're all just living in it

Eloy Jimenez is wasting no time endearing himself to the South Side. His game-winning, broken bat homer against the team that traded him away, in his first time back, is the stuff of legend. The Quintana-Eloy trade still probably has 10-15 years of barguments ahead of it, but it's quickly becoming one of the more fascinating storylines in recent memory. 

There's apparently baseball going on outside of Chicago, though, and as it turns out, the teams that were still really good last week are still really good this week. The Astros and Yankees are actually probably getting better. The Orioles are not. 

To the rankings! 

YOU CAN SEE THE ENTIRE MLB POWER RANKINGS RIGHT HERE

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Looking for another example of how far Lucas Giolito has come this season? Look back to last year’s Crosstown series.

Giolito pitched in games on both sides of town, but the start he made against the Cubs at Wrigley Field was emblematic of his woeful 2018 season. He actually earned the win in that game, but he walked seven batters and threw three wild pitches. By the time he exited, his season ERA was nearly 7.00.

White Sox fans know that 2019 has been the complete opposite for Giolito, and he rides into his Wednesday-night start on the North Side as one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Just like Eloy Jimenez’s game-winning home run Tuesday was the best snapshot of the White Sox rebuilding progress to date, putting last year’s start at Wrigley next to where Giolito is heading into this year’s start at Wrigley is the best snapshot of his amazing transformation.

“It was survival mode,” Giolito said Tuesday. “Now I feel like I’m on the attack. When I take the ball, I have full confidence in myself that I will come after you with really good stuff, changes in velocity and movement. Last year I went out not knowing what I had that day.

“I don’t want to walk seven, like I did last year here. I got the win somehow. The offense and defense bailed me out a ton. This year I’m much different. I’m all about filling up the zone, attacking hitters. That’s pretty much the M.O.”

The difference has been obvious to anyone who watched Giolito struggle last season to the tune of a 6.13 ERA (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), a 1.48 WHIP (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), 118 earned runs (the most in baseball) and 90 walks (the most in the American League). This season, he’s been dominant, on an incredible run that’s made him as good a Cy Young candidate as you’ll find. He’s got a 2.22 ERA right now, best in the AL, with 95 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Over his last eight starts, Giolito has a 0.94 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. Opposing hitters are batting just .149 against him during that span.

The dude’s on fire, a near lock to be an All Star, and perhaps most importantly, he’s totally changed his long-term perception in the minds of White Sox fans. They groaned during the walks and the runs and the wild pitches last year and cast him out of their projected future rotations. Now they’re cheering a guy who looks capable of leading that rotation of the future.

What a difference a year makes.

If those White Sox fans are anything in number and volume like they were Tuesday night, when they made Wrigley Field sound like Guaranteed Rate Field after Jimenez’s homer in the ninth, then Giolito can expect a rocking atmosphere as he looks to keep the good times rolling — and make a Crosstown moment worth remembering this time.

“I want to give the fans a show as much as I can,” Giolito said. “I like to see we’re filling up our ballpark with more White Sox fans, more people starting to pay attention. Just want to continue on that train. Our team is playing really hard and we’re happy to be here.

“My goal every time I pitch is to win, so not too much changes. But it's going to be a lot of fun, I'll say that. I'm looking forward to it.”

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