White Sox have a painfully obvious lack of hitting
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN firstname.lastname@example.org May 9, 2013 10:52PM
The facts: 7:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The pitchers: Tommy Hanson (2-1, 4.18 ERA) vs. Dylan Axelrod (0-2, 3.60).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Saturday: 6:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM, 97.5 FM. Jerome Williams (1-1, 3.16 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (2-0, 3.86).
Sunday: 7:05 p.m., ESPN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. C.J. Wilson (3-0, 4.04) vs. Chris Sale (3-2, 3.42).
Updated: June 11, 2013 6:43AM
Those six runs the White Sox “erupted for” against the Mets in New York on Wednesday were off the charts for a team that ranks last in the American League in runs, average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, walks and hitting with runners in scoring position.
It was the second time in 31 games the Sox scored six times. Their season high? Seven, accomplished three times.
It’s a curious and disconcerting trend for a team that ranked fourth in runs last season and it is the primary reason the Sox are 14-18 and in last place in the AL Central.
“I don’t know why but I know there is a lot of season left,’’ said shortstop Alexei Ramirez, whose so-so .261 average is the second-best in the Sox’ lineup. Ramirez has one home run
“It’s painful. Very much so,’’ Ramirez said. “There were a lot of games we could have won … but we have to move on.’’
If you root for the Sox, this is where you chime in that it’s been painful to watch them hit. As a group they don’t work pitchers deep into counts, and if it seems as if they’re not good at hitting the first pitch, you’re right. Batters in the majors are hitting .331 on the first pitch, but the Sox are at .238, the worst in baseball.
Hacking at the first pitch isn’t a bad idea, when you consider the Sox are hitting a major-league worst .146 with two strikes.
Their hitters clearly are an impatient bunch. Before Wednesday’s six-run, 13-hit attack against the Mets that resulted in a 6-3 victory, they had taken the second-fewest called strikes, 737, in the majors, one less than the Royals. By contrast, the A’s had taken 1,003.
The Sox rank fifth in the AL in strikeouts and were hitting lazy fly balls and pop-ups at a rate of 40.8 percent, the highest in the majors.
The woes start at the top and trickle on down the lineup. With eight walks, Alejandro De Aza’s .289 on-base percentage is inadequate for a leadoff man. His 41 strikeouts are tied for the team lead with Adam Dunn. When he’s good, the Sox will follow his lead. A 3-for-5 night with De Aza’s sixth homer was a big reason the Sox scored those six on Wednesday.
After De Aza comes Jeff Keppinger, and with no walks in 112 plate appearances, the No. 2 hitter’s average (.191) is oddly higher than his on-base percentage (.188). Keppinger was signed by first-year general manager Rick Hahn to a three-year, $12 million contract for the purpose of adding quality at-bats and injecting production in a homer-dependent lineup. He has struck out 12 times and scored seven runs.
No. 3 hitter Alex Rios was batting .172 over his last 15 games before cutting loose with a double to right center and a homer among three hits Wednesday.
Paul Konerko is batting .224 with a .276 on-base percentage, Dunn is batting .145 with a .242 on-base percentage and Tyler Flowers has a .183 average and a .256 on-base mark
The fallout? In half the Sox games they’ve scored three runs or less.
Hitting is complex, but manager Robin Ventura has a simple first step toward finding a remedy: get a good hit to pitch anywhere in the count and use the whole field.
“You need to be able to move it around the field and if you can hit a ball the other way you might get one in that you’d like,’’ Ventura said. “Moving it around a little bit needs to happen to let you cover more of the plate.’’