Run-scoring woes start at top

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
5:40
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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The best way to understand the magnitude of the Chicago White Sox's offensive issues is to go straight to the top.

The Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the batting order have been unable to set the table over the first month-plus and the run-production chances have plummeted because of it.

The White Sox figured out a way to pull out a 2-1 victory in 11 innings against the Kansas City Royals on Monday, but that had more to do with Chris Sale's recovery from a shaky start and the bullpen providing solid relief.

Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger aren’t the only ones with issues, but having them hit back-to-back and in such a high-profile spot in the lineup is something the club hasn’t been able to overcome.

[+] Enlarge Jeff Keppinger
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsJeff Keppinger has struggled from the second spot in the Sox's batting order.
There was no denying that Royals starter James Shields was on his game Monday, but days like the combined 1-for-9 performance from De Aza and Keppinger have been happening often regardless of the opposing starter. To Keppinger’s credit his ninth-inning single helped start the game-tying rally.

Among American League qualifiers, De Aza was dead last in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot before Monday’s games. In fact, his .298 OBP made him the only one of the 10 qualifiers under .300 in that category. Yet his 18 runs scored were not worst in the league and were just one behind a pack of leadoff hitters tied at fifth in runs.

Helping him in the runs-scored category were his five home runs, one less than the Texas Rangers Ian Kinsler, who led all AL leadoff hitters with six long balls.

Moving to the two hole, Keppinger’s on-base percentage not only was an abysmal .194, it was actually lower than his batting average (.198). That unusual occurrence is directly related to the fact that Keppinger still doesn’t have a walk this season.

When calculating a batting average, results like walks, sacrifice bunts, sacrifice flies and getting hit by pitches are not figured into the equation. When calculating on-base percentage, they are and it leaves Keppinger in a unique and undesirable position.

Keppinger’s OBP is obviously last of the seven AL qualifiers from the No. 2 spot. In fact, Keppinger is still at the bottom when calculating the 14 AL hitters who have at least 50 plate appearances in the No. 2 hole this year.

Not surprisingly, Keppinger’s seven runs scored are dead last among hitters in the second spot. Among all qualifiers, regardless of their spot in the order, only two players have less runs: the Royals’ Mike Moustakas with six and the Tampa Bay Rays' Yunel Escobar with four.

Paul Konerko and Alex Rios lead the White Sox with 15 RBIs each so they are both doing something with the limited chances they are getting. But considering the fact that three AL players have more RBIs than Konerko and Rios combined, the White Sox’s run-scoring struggles come into greater focus.

Adam Dunn is obviously having his own issues as his .590 OPS is better than just one White Sox regular: Keppinger and his .411 mark. That leaves three of the White Sox’s first five hitters producing far less than was expected, and that doesn’t even take into account that Opening Day starters Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo have been out with injuries.

So while Monday’s comeback victory was nice for team morale, the reality is that the White Sox have now scored three runs or less 15 times over the first 30 games. Monday’s victory made them 5-10 in those contests.

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.317 36 107 80
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208