After a 10-8 victory over the Twins on August 1st, the White Sox pulled their record to 54-56. Since then they have gone 5-13 while scoring 3.17 runs per game during that time. Take out an 11-run outburst against the Toronto Blue Jays and they have managed 2.71 runs on average in the other 17 games. Offense is certainly down league-wide this year, but that kind of production just isn't good enough. For reference, the 99-loss 2013 White Sox averaged 3.69 runs per game. So what's going on? Isn't the cliché that bats heat up in the hotter summer months?
Obviously over 162 games every team goes through slumps. In the month of August the team has only managed a triple-slash line of .255/.302/.379. They can't really blame bad luck as they have a .305 BABIP over that stretch - not a great figure, but they've soldiered through lower totals this very season. August has brought an IsoD of .047 on offense - their lowest monthly mark of the year. Part of the problem is that Adam Eaton and his .370 OBP - good for 19th in the majors - has missed the last 12 games.* There are other issues, though. Tyler Flowers is hitting .174/.240/.348 in the past 18 games. In that same span, Viciedo has doinked a few homers, but has put up an OBP of .255. As a farewell gift, Gordon Beckham hit .189/.218/.208 over his final 15 games as a member of the White Sox. We've seen in the recent past that if you shove enough bad OBPs into a lineup it just...breaks.
*Although Jordan Danks is still a 70-point dropoff at OBP, he has managed to hit .290 in Eaton's stead, which is better than it could have been.
Fortunately, the offense should get better over the next few weeks. Adam Eaton looks to return soon, Avisail Garcia has managed a .773 OPS in a tiny sample since coming off the DL, and Carlos Sanchez has a good chance of outhitting the .598 OPS that Gordon Beckham was providing at 2B.
The White Sox' long-term prospects are just fine. They've accomplished some of the harder things to do in constructing a winning roster - it looks like they have a legitimate 1-2 combination at the top of their rotation in Sale and Quintana. They also have a real, championship-caliber middle-of-the-order hitter in Jose Abreu, a lovely table-setter in the form of Adam Eaton, and a few guys who look like quality supporting cast options moving forward -- Alexei Ramirez and Conor Gillaspie, for example. There is even a top prospect charging hard toward the majors in the form of Carlos Rodon.
The big problems with the roster - the back end of the rotation, the bullpen, and improving left field, for example - should be easier to fix than finding an ace or an Abreu. But for 2014, it can make for very painful streaks like this. When Alexei isn't killing the ball alongside Abreu, when Eaton is nursing his latest injury, etc. etc. the offense has a high probability of stalling out as too many lineup spots are completely unreliable. On the other side of the ball, there are games where 5th starter types like Scott Carroll and Hector Noesi can keep them in the game, but more often than not they are going to give up a number of runs. Also - oh man, that bullpen...Did I mention the bullpen?
We've seen these factors combine to give us the latest losing streak. When the supporting cast is producing, the White Sox have looked like a .500 team this year. But over time, the weaknesses in the roster make their presence felt. Shoring up those problem areas should within reach and should mean for big improvements in 2015, but we're just going to have to suck it up and deal with these slumps in the meantime. Help is on the way.
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