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White Sox Series Preview: Defense matters

You catch the ball. You throw the ball.

Jon Durr/Getty Images

In 2005, the White Sox won 99 games with a terrific defensive club that was +47 in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Since then, they have generally fielded lousy teams in the field. Since 2006, they have had negative DRS ever year except 2012. They have had just three winning seasons over that time. This year is no different with the White Sox having higher expectations after a busy off-season, but the defense has been the second-worst in all of baseball with -38 DRS. The Royals have a Major League-best +60 DRS, so if you accept the premise that 10 DRS roughly equals a win, the Royals are ten wins better than the White Sox on defense alone. Defense matters.

The White Sox offense hasn't been all that hot this year either. They are second-worst in runs scored in the American League and have gotten disappointing seasons from free agents Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera. Cabrera has come around in the second half, hitting .309/.351/.490 since the break. The club has started to integrate young rookies like third baseman Tyler Saladino and outfielder Trayce Thompson into the lineup, improving the defense.

The White Sox, typically known for being a slugging team, are dead last in the league in home runs and second-worst in slugging percentage. They draw the second-fewest walks and the fourth-fewest steals. In short, their position players have been pretty bad in all aspects of baseball. There are still a few guys to build around like slugger Jose Abreu and sparkplug Adam Eaton, but the team is likely in need of an overhaul this winter.

The starting rotation has been the strong point for the team, although the Royals will miss ace Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and promising rookie Carlos Rodon. Veteran John Danks will face the Royals for a fifth time this year, and he has done fairly well against Kansas City. In four starts he has a 3.80 ERA and has pitched into the sixth in each start against the Royals. Danks has thrown the second-worst changeup in the Majors this year, but it has seemed to give the Royals fits this year.

Lefty Jose Quintana throws the fifth-best curveball in the game to go along with his fastball in the low 90s. Quintana has a 5.63 ERA in four starts against the Royals this year, with the Royals winning three of the four contests. Rookie Erik Johnson, just up from AAA Charlotte, will make his season debut on Sunday. Johnson has a 4.73 ERA in ten Major League starts sprinkled over the past two seasons and is a 25-year old who profiles as a mid-to-back of the rotation starter. He has a deep repertoire of pitches but only throws in the low-90s and can struggle with command at times.

*-numbers for AAA Charlotte

White Sox relievers have the highest ground-ball rate in the league at 54% of the time. Closer David Robertson has been terrific this year with a 2.09 FIP and 12.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings, but the Sox don't have a ton of depth in the pen. They are 34-5 this year when leading after six innings and reliever Jake Petricka has pitched well despite a low strikeout rate. Right-hander Nate Jones returns after missing most of last season with Tommy John surgery.

The White Sox are playing out the string, but with some young players now on the roster, they could be hungry to audition for a role in 2016. The Royals are 10-3 against Chicago this year with some feistiness between the clubs. Kansas City has taken care of business so far, but there is more work to be done.