If the Chicago White Sox are to make a second-half push to come back and win the American League Central, they have to start taking care of business at 35th/Shields.
What a difference a year makes. During the 2021 season, the White Sox were the definition of Jekyll and Hyde based upon where a game was taking place. They took care of business at home, bludgeoning teams en route to a 53-28 record at the corner of 35th/Shields, good for a .654 Win%. One of the simplest ways to reach 90 wins in a season is to take 50 games at home and play .500 ball on the road. The 2021 White Sox executed that plan almost to a tee.
So far through the first three months of the 2022 season, it’s been the complete opposite. This group that is returning almost the entirely same cast of characters bares little resemblance to the one that made going to the ballpark so fun a year ago. Thus far the team is 16-21 at home, which pencils out to a .432 Win%. That simply isn’t going to get the job done. This team will need to find that winning feeling at home again if they are to pass the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Guardians.
This team has managed to battle through injuries and vast underperformance to be sitting one game under .500 and 4.5 GB of first place on Independence Day. To be frank, it is quite a miracle if we are being honest with ourselves. The schedule could’ve buried this team at several points as I’ve chronicled in recent months. However, they have managed to stay afloat and keep themselves in a position to right the ship in the season’s remaining three months.
Ball Go Far?
The biggest difference between this team compared to the division winner from a year ago that has been most evident is the lack of power up and down the lineup. Who among us would’ve thought that on the nation’s birthday the Sox would still be searching for their first double-digit home run hitter on the season? Since I’ve been in my youth, the ballpark at 35th/Shields has been a home run haven. Yet somehow, this team is devoid of its ability to hit the ball over the fencing that has been set up prior to games.
The contrast in this team’s power output from a year ago is staggering when you look at the numbers.
|Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||HRs||HRs Allowed|
A year ago, this team was averaging 1.35 HR/G compared to a paltry .83 HR/G this season when playing at home. White Sox pitchers are giving up 1.27 HR/G in 2022, which is in line with the 1.30 HR/G they surrendered a year ago. If the White Sox are to make the final push in 2022, they must find a way to regain their power stroke at home.
Since the “Live Ball Era” was ushered in during the 1920 season, teams that out homer their opponent have an average Win% of .725! People love to wax poetic about small ball and sacrifice bunting. But at the end of the day, when you hit more home runs than your opponent you will win close to 3/4 of every game you play and we have over a century’s worth of data to back it up. I’m going to get deep into the weeds here for a minute, but I think the White Sox should deploy this strategy for the remainder of the season and see how things work out for them.
Deploy the Long Ball
You can see the impact on the home run in today’s scoring environment particularly. The Sox are scoring only 4.10 runs per game at home this year contrasted with 5.13 runs per game a season ago when playing at 35th/Shields. Their inability to hit the ball out of the ballpark has been the biggest culprit to this point.
The Sox surprisingly have the fifth-highest team batting average in all of baseball this season at .256, yet they rank 22nd in runs scored. How many times this year have we seen this team amass double-digit hits only to score three runs or less? This illustrates that you don’t win baseball games in 2022 by hitting singles.
It’s not 1962 anymore where you can string together four or five singles in an inning to score runs. With defensive shifting being as prevalent as it is, you need to hit the ball over the wall, plain and simple. This principle has held true for over a century, but it’s never been more evident than today.
Our Sox are returning home after a successful west coast road trip and have a chance to claw their way back atop the AL Central. 15 of the next 19 games will be against the Twins and Guardians, the two teams they are chasing, so now is the time to make the move. This group is going to have to find a way to win series and they must start by doing that at home.
The team is finally starting to get somewhat healthy and with the anticipated returns of Liam Hendriks, Adam Engel, and Eloy Jimenez this homestand, they will be close to full strength for the first time all season. Having the squad they anticipated together is hopefully going to change the team’s fortunes. But, if the turnaround is to truly happen, this team is going to get back to their roots by hitting the ball out of the ballpark.
For most of my life, I’ve been told the White Sox were too reliant on the home run ball to win games. If you look at the numbers, it’s clear that the negativity behind this line of thinking was misguided. Home runs are, in fact, good. They help you win baseball games. They help you win a lot of baseball games when you hit more than your opponent.
I would really like this team to start driving the ball with authority again and stop being a bunch of slap hitters. Nothing would behoove the Sox and their chances of reaching the postseason more than finding their power strokes at the dish. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: “ball go far…team go far.”
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