State of the Offense: Reasons for Optimism and Despair

Since the All Star Break the White Sox offense has had its best stretch of the year. The pitching has taken a step back from unsustainable greatness, so despite a 7-game win streak in there, the team as a whole hasn’t made any progress.  They were 41-46 at the time of the All Star Game, and they are 51-57 now.  But, now 108 games in, we can take another look at where the offense is viable and where it is still irretrievably broken.

Just from a macro level, let’s look at see what the offense has done purely on a runs-scored basis.

And here we can see the positional components of the offense so far in 2015: 

This situation is both heartening and depressing. On the one hand, when you’re so awful at so many positions it should be easy to upgrade. It’s a lot easier to find a player or platoon that can give you average production instead of needing to find an All Star to improve a position.  On the other hand, the White Sox as an organization have had a problem with this for almost a decade now. 

Given how good the pitching has been or could be, they’ve never needed to have a great offense to compete - just a competent one, one that isn’t dragged down by Worst In The Majors hitting in 11-44% of the lineup. For whatever reason, though, they can’t manage it. They have managed to do some of the hardest things there are for a front office to do: acquire cheap, front end starting pitching, an MVP-caliber bat, a high quality CF, and even competence at catcher.  This year notwithstanding, Alexei Ramirez has also been one of the better shortstops in baseball in recent memory.

Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton are truly excellent assets.  After all, for all that the White Sox are only 13th in wRC+ at first, a lot of that is the corpse of Adam LaRoche dragging the net line down however FanGraphs calculates it.  Abreu himself has posted a wRC+ of 138.  Melky Cabrera has hit furiously for weeks now, raising his line up to .282/.323/.400.  I still believe that Alexei, by year’s end, will have perfectly acceptable numbers for a good defensive shortstop, which he is. Flowers’ glove and Soto’s bat have combined to be a middle-of-the-pack catcher.  Eaton has even shored up the weak spots of his game on offense, adding surprising power this year and greatly improving his success rate on stolen bases.

Yet, despite all of this, they just haven’t managed to find solutions at places like 3B, corner outfield, DH, and 2B over the years. Not lofty solutions, mind you, just…the minimal level of competence. Even Tyler Saladino - who has been fun - has only managed a wRC+ of 75, which would still rank 28th for 3B league-wide.

I realize that I am a bit of a grouch on Twitter and in my pieces here. I think this is the driving force behind it. The White Sox have ostensibly been trying as hard as they can to make the playoffs for years, have been doing so in arguably the weakest division in baseball, and have failed, mostly because they can’t find a 3B or two corner outfielders who can muster up an OPS of like, .700. 

With all of that said, I think there is still plenty of reason to believe in Rick Hahn and other improvements in the organization like Marco Paddy (or really, anybody who isn’t a felon bilking the team) and a willingness to spend in the draft. The things they need to fix would be really easy to fix for almost anybody else - let’s see if they can do it.

Moving forward, LF, CF, 1B, and probably SS and C are fine. The rest of the year should be used to audition for the other problem positions, and a waiver deal for Jeff Samardzija should be explored. Spending big money on a #3 starter is a foolish thing to do for an organization with the strengths and weaknesses the White Sox possess. If Avisail demonstrates he can't hack it in RF, that should be at the top of the shopping list for next year, not starting pitching.

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