White Sox’s OBP – Our Biggest Problem

In order to start anew, we have to take a look back at the past.

The 2013 season didn’t go exactly as the White Sox had planned. Ninety-nine losses and last place in the division was a hard fall from competing for a Central Division title  in 2012. To quote Yogi Berra, “We made too many wrong mistakes.” What went wrong?

The biggest issue was with the way the White Sox built their team. They simply couldn’t figure out a way to get on base consistently. Alex Rios held the highest on base percentage at .328 before he was traded. The next highest was Avisail Garcia whom the Sox acquired in a three way trade with Detroit and Boston. His OBP after the trade ended at .327. The team was simply too impatient and lacked contact.

The team was filled with players who swing and miss far too regularly. Adam Dunn’s obviously first on the list. It’s getting to the point that his strikeouts are starting to outweigh his power numbers. While he still put up 34 home runs (tied for 6th in the league), his strikeout numbers on a team with so many free swingers hurts. The fact that five of the nine positions in the lineup had players that struck out over 20 percent of the time is outrageous. So what have Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn done to fix the situation?

The addition of Adam Eaton could be an answer to the solution. In the minors, he’s been solid at getting on base. He’s carried a .367 OBP or higher every year in the minors. The flip side to that coin is last year he only averaged .252 with a .314 on base percentage in the pros. It’s the expectations that the White Sox are relying on. Hoping that what he’s done in the minors will coordinate to the majors giving the Sox a possible lead off or second hitter.

Other than Eaton, who could the Sox use on the roster that could succeed at getting on base? Unfortunately there’s a lot of “if’s” and “hopes” that go into it.

First, the team is also relying on the time Garcia spent with the team. The hope is that his experience in the pro’s since August will make this season a breakout for him. He had a very good end of 2013, batting .304 in 161 at bats. He also solidified the right field position where Rios left off. He’s got great plate coverage, and he was willing to go the opposite direction. Only a few players on the Sox seem to do this.

There’s also a hope Gordon Beckham also could be a spark if he is able to repeat the success he had when he first came back from his injury. For about half of his time he was batting near or above .300. He ended up the season with a .267 average. Call it whatever you might, but I still think Beckham could have a solid career. Not just as the excellent defender he is but with averages around .275-.280. To have a fully healthy complete season, I believe his new stance has helped him at the plate with coverage and being able to recognize pitches.

The Sox are putting all of their eggs in one basket with Jose Abreu. There’s been talk amongst those who project prospects that Abreu could reach a .290 avg. and 30 plus home run level. The team has talked about doing a rotation of Abreu, Konerko and Dunn between first base and designated hitter. It’ll be interesting to see what effect it’ll have on any of the players’ productions. If Konerko can hit .250 with 15-20 homeruns, it will be a positive.

Dunn still needs to put up the near 35 homeruns while trying to avoid the 175 strikeout total. He did have a stretch where he hit the opposite direction a few times a week last Sept but that only lasted about 2 weeks. Somewhere, somehow, he needs to learn to do it on a more consistent basis which of course has been said for almost every season he’s played in since he’s been in Chicago.

Then there’s Alexei Ramirez. He was supposed to grow into an Alfonso Soriano type player that could hit for some power and a decent average. He’s done a decent job of making contact with average consistently hitting about .270-.285 most of his career. He needs to do a little better job taking walks more frequently. He’s had two seasons of 49 and 51 walks but otherwise has been in the teens and twenties. Unfortunately the latter seems to be the norm.

This is just one issue that led to the collapse of the 2013 Chicago White Sox. The Sox haven’t done much to change the biggest issue that plagued them last season. However, there is a reason why they play the games. To quote Bob Feller, “Everyday is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Let’s see if some of the players can start over in this new season!

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