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Monday, April 15, 2013
White Sox need to stop swinging so much

By David Schoenfield

I had noted yesterday how the Chicago White Sox weren't drawing any walks and then saw this piece today from Dave Cameron at FanGraphs titled "Adam Dunn's failed experiment." Dunn apparently said in spring training he was going to be more aggressive early in the count; well, he's hitting .136 with 15 strikeouts and two walks. He's gone from Adam Dunn to Adam Done.

There's a big issue going on here with the White Sox: They've drawn just 16 walks in 12 games, the major reason they're 13th in the AL in runs scored despite ranking third in home runs. That's 14 fewer walks than any other AL club. Besides Dunn, the major culprits are notorious free swingers Dayan Viciedo (no walks in 34 PAs) and Alexei Ramirez (one in 46 PAs), plus Conor Gillaspie (none in 27 PAs) and Alejandro De Aza (two in 52 PAs). It's simple, really: It's difficult to string together big innings without getting guys on base, so unless you're hitting for a high average (which the White Sox aren't), you need some walks mixed in.

The White Sox are drawing walks at less than half the pace they did last year, when they ranked 11th in the AL in walk percentage. Here's how the White Sox have fared offensively the past five years:

2013: 15th in walk rate (3.7%), 3rd in home runs, 13th in runs
2012: 11th in walk rate (7.5%), 3rd in home runs, 4th in runs
2011: 8th in walk rate (7.7%), 9th in home runs, 11th in runs
2010: 12th in walk rate (7.6%), 4th in home runs, 7th in runs
2009: 6th in walk rate (8.7%), 6th in home runs, 12th in runs

This could just be a blip in early scheduling -- they've faced a lot of strike-throwers so far with the likes of James Shields, Blake Beavan, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren, but it's still a troubling sign. The White Sox rank 11th in swing percentage on pitches outside the zone but first in percentage of swings -- meaning they swing at more pitches than any other club. The White Sox scored runs last season because they hit 211 home runs, but that's a precarious way to make a living. If they don't come close to that figure again they're not going to finish fourth in runs scored again.