It's tough to beat Ozzie Guillen for entertainment value. But one of Guillen's funnier bits is unintentional, and has caused a bit of confusion for those of us trying to make sense of the Chicago White Sox's roster construction.
While Ozzie has made his love for small-ball well known, his teams have been overly reliant on the long ball. So reliant that BP colleague Joe Sheehan christened the Guillen Number, which measures the percentage of a team's runs derived from homers. Last year, the White Sox ranked third in the majors at 41.0 percent, trailing only the Yankees (45.1 percent) and the Phillies (42.1 percent). In fact, they've been among MLB's top four during every year of Guillen's tenure:
Guillen's Love Of Power
Don't let Ozzie Guillen fool you. His White Sox rely on the long ball more than most teams.
Over the winter, Guillen pressed GM Kenny Williams to provide him with a more flexible roster. In reacting to the team's shedding of sluggers Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye and the addition of Juan Pierre, he declared that aggressive baserunning would be a major point of emphasis. The skipper's statement highlights the fact his team has been hemorrhaging runs on the base paths over the past few seasons, according to our Equivalent Stolen Base Runs (EqSBR) and Equivalent Base Running Runs (EqBRR) metrics, the latter of which incorporates not only steals and caught stealing but also advancement on hits and outs:
Running Out Of Runs
The White Sox have been losing runs on the basepaths the past few seasons.
In all, the team has cost itself between four and five wins via baserunning over the past six years, which at least explains why Guillen thinks it's an area in which the team needs to improve. Still, that won't mean a whole lot more runs scored, particularly if the Sox can't rise above last year's measly rankings of 20th in OBP (.328). PECOTA, our projection system, is cautiously optimistic, forecasting a .339 OBP and 750 runs scored, which would rank 15th in the majors, but consider the notable arrivals and departures in the White Sox lineup over the past year, and their baserunning performance last season:
Andruw Jones: -1.8 EqBRR
Juan Pierre: 30 steals for the Dodgers, but 12 caught stealing and just 0.3 EqBRR
Alex Rios: 24-for-29 in stolen base attempts, but just 0.1 EqBRR, continuing a multiseason trend of good stolen base percentages but otherwise wayward baserunning
Mark Teahen: Like Rios, an efficient base stealer (8-for-9) who runs into outs otherwise (-1.3 EqBRR)
Jermaine Dye: -0.2 EqBRR
Chris Getz: 25-for-27 in stolen bases, and a team-high 6.2 EqBRR
Scott Podsednik: 30-for-43 in stolen bases (team highs in both SB and CS), 1.5 EqBRR
Jim Thome: Team-low -5.4 EqBRR
Furthermore, only three Sox are forecast to reach at least 10 steals (Pierre, Rios and Alexei Ramirez), while five are forecast for at least 20 homers (Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko, Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Rios). So don't expect the Sox to change all that drastically. This is a still a team built for power, not speed.
Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus.