We've written quite a bit about the pitching lately, as frankly that has been the most tenuous place on the roster, and the area that is undergoing the most flux. Perhaps, then, this will be a change of pace. The White Sox have played 49 games so far, more than a quarter of the season, and they sit at 24-25.* Although their bats have cooled off from the insane start, they still sit in the top third of the league, 10th overall in wRC+. This is a vast improvement on 29th in the majors in 2013. I decided to poke around at this on a position-by-position basis and see where the improvements had occurred.
As you can see, there are generally improvements across the board. The only places the offense has really regressed is at left field and center, and the bulk of that can be placed at the feet of Alejandro de Aza and his extremely slow start. That, and suddenly losing the intended starting right fielder so suddenly, forcing guys like Jordan Danks and even Leury Garcia into emergency outfield duty. Moreover, the bulk of de Aza's slow start can be attributed to bad luck on balls in play, although he is putting the ball on the ground more than last year.
Interestingly, despite an offseason where the big story was the influx of new bats to the South Side, the biggest improvements are coming from players who were on the roster last year. Tyler Flowers has gone from being one of the worst hitters in the majors to a catcher sporting a .306/.367/.403 line. One would expect a lower batting average and more power, given his history and strikeout total. Still, Flowers would have to go 9 for his next 128 in order to drop his batting average to where it was last year, so one would expect that the White Sox will be doing better than a 46 wRC+ figure at the catcher position this season. One is tempted to infer that Flowers getting his shoulder healthy has made a big difference. It also helps that backup Adrian Nieto has far from embarrassed himself at the dish, hitting .324/.343/.412 in extremely limited action.
Alexei Ramirez is a guy who, as you can see, did not hurt the team as a shortstop last year, but he has turned in the best offensive season of his career so far. But for Troy Tulowitzki mimicking prime Ted Williams in the batter's box, Hawk might actually be right that he is the best hitting shortstop in the majors so far this year.
The third piece returning from last year who has thrived in 2014 is Adam Dunn, who is carrying a line of .248/.399/.465 on the season. A .399 OBP would have been the highest on the team last year by 70 points, and would be the highest by anyone on the team since Jim Thome's .410 in 2007.
Once you throw in Jose Abreu's 189 PAs of .260/.312/.595, it's no surprise that the offense has taken such a step forward, and would be vastly improved even if everything else stayed the same. Granted, it would be pretty hard not to improve on last season, but a full one third of the offense — guys who were starters last year — has taken a quantum leap forward. Dunn doesn't feature into the long-term plans of the team, but if Tyler Flowers can be a roughly average major league catcher, and Nieto can survive his Rule V year in the majors, the organization looks a lot healthier at that position, and the offense looks much more fundamentally sound moving forward.
*Entire article drafted prior to Friday night's Yankees-White Sox game.
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