White Sox’ biggest problems are hitting, defense
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org April 19, 2013 11:15PM
Addison Reed, who is 5-for-5 in saves, has been one of the few bright spots for the Sox in April. | Getty Images
TWINS At WHITE SOX
The facts: 2:05 p.m., Fox-32, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The pitchers: Vance Worley (0-2, 10.50 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (2-1, 3.41).
Updated: April 20, 2013 3:36PM
White Sox manager Robin Ventura had plenty of reasons to want to come home Friday, starting with a 3-7 road trip that left the team with a 7-9 record overall and nursing physical wounds.
U.S. Cellular Field, where the Sox are 4-2, would have looked good even in the cold, though cold and windy weather led to the postponement of the series opener Friday against the Minnesota Twins.
The difference in the road Sox and the home Sox is an example of a team with a strange dichotomy.
They hit home runs but don’t hit with men on base.
They pitch well at the end of games but have had problems with their starters.
In a nutshell, their hitters have had difficulty getting on track, and a defense that led the majors in 2012 is sputtering near the bottom of the American League.
The Sox ranked fourth in the AL in home runs (19) entering Friday, but the long ball has accounted for 30 of the team’s 57 runs. That’s because the Sox are hitting .177 (17-for-96) with runners in scoring position. That was a strength last season for the Sox, who ranked fifth in hitting with runners in scoring position (.272). It contributed to 748 runs, fourth-most in the league.
The Sox have hit .234, with the early going particularly tough on some expected run producers — Adam Dunn (.105, two home runs, five RBI); Dayan Viciedo (.229, two homers, five RBI) and Tyler Flowers (.205, three homers, seven RBI).
But Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez have had a hot April. Rios is hitting .344 and ranked in the top 10 in several offensive categories, including homers (tied for third with five), slugging percentage (fourth at .684) and steals (tied for eighth with three) entering Friday.
“That’s why he’s batting third,’’ Ventura said. “He was that way last year. He’s a very good player and does a lot of things for us [including] playing great outfield.’’
Ramirez is having the best April of his career, hitting .327. He’s a career .222 hitter for the month.
The loss of second baseman Gordon Beckham (hamate bone surgery) has affected the offense and defense. Beckham was hitting .316 when he was hurt in the first game of the road trip against the Washington Nationals.
In general, the Sox’ bullpen has done well.
Entering Friday, the relief corps led the league with a 1.74 ERA and a .177 opponents batting average. Closer Addison Reed has a 1.29 ERA and is 5-for-5 in saves.
The starters continue to post quality starts but have had to work in many close games. Fourteen of the team’s 16 games have been decided by three or fewer runs.
Gavin Floyd has had the most difficulties (6.32 ERA, .344 opponents’ batting average). Jose Quintana has sparkled (2.55 ERA, .209 opponents’ batting average).
The Sox were the best defensive team in baseball last season with a .9883 fielding percentage (just ahead of the Seattle Mariners at .9880). Their 70 errors were the fewest in baseball and set a franchise record. As a result, the team allowed the fewest unearned runs (30) in the majors.
But the defense is hurting this season. The Sox entered Friday tied for 11th in the league. They have committed 13 errors in 16 games, contributing to seven unearned runs.