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White Sox’ defense as bad as stats indicate

KANSAS CITY MO - SEPTEMBER 18: Alejandro De Az#30 Chicago White Sox hits wall but can't catch ball hit by

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 18: Alejandro De Aza #30 of the Chicago White Sox hits the wall but can't catch a ball hit by Jeff Francoeur of the Kansas City Royals in the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium on September 18, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

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Updated: October 18, 2013 6:15AM



It has been a rugged season on defense for the White Sox. Their American League-leading error count was at 112 through Sunday, 31 more than the league average and 79 more than the Orioles, who have made the fewest errors in the AL.

But there’s a lot more to defense than errors. If your defenders have enough range and if their arms are good enough, they can make up for misplays. A shortstop who converts nine grounders into outs and has one go through him for an error is more valuable than one who makes no errors but converts only eight similar balls into outs while lacking the range to get to the other two.

Does that apply to the Sox? Is there enough value in their defensive range to make them a good defensive team — or at least one that’s not quite so bad as their errors make them look?

Well, no. Using the runs saved metric from John Dewan’s Baseball Info Solutions, the Sox turn up as the third-weakest defensive team in the AL. They have minus-59 runs saved, meaning their defense has cost them 59 runs when compared to an average team. The only weaker teams are the Angels (minus-64) and Mariners (minus-101).

For runs saved, Baseball Info Solutions tracks range for all non-catchers, good plays and misplays, bunt defense, double-play ability, outfielders’ arms, how well pitchers and catchers control the running game and an earned-run adjustment for catchers.

The Sox have been better than the league average at only one position this season: They are a plus-5 at shortstop, with plus-4 of that being Alexei Ramirez.

They’re in double-digit negatives at two positions. In center field, the Sox are minus-21, with Alejandro De Aza at minus-19. That translates to minus-0.9 defensive Wins Above Replacement. De Aza has had his ups and downs on offense, but he has been beneath replacement level on defense.

At first base, Adam Dunn — forced to play in the field more than in the last two seasons — is at minus-9, and the Sox’ first basemen are minus-12 overall.

The Mariners have been the weakest defense in the AL without being particularly error-prone. Their 80 errors are one fewer than the league average, but they have the weakest position in the league, with Michael Saunders’ minus-13 the largest part of a minus-34 in center field.

Similarly, the least error-prone team isn’t the best at saving runs on defense. The Orioles rank third with 32 runs saved, but that breaks down to a league-leading 35 for Manny Machado at third and a minus-3 for the rest of the team.

The Royals are the runaway team leader with 87 runs saved, and they’ve committed only seven fewer errors than the defensively challenged Mariners. They’re good not because they make fewer errors; they’re good because they make more plays per opportunity.

That’s little consolation to South Siders. The Sox not only have made more errors, but they have made fewer plays per opportunity, too.



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