Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The myth of the 2005 White Sox

Tony Massarotti, who I generally think is a pretty good baseball writer, albeit from a fairly traditionalist point-of-view, has a piece in this morning's Boston Herald that continues to perpetuate the myth of the 2005 White Sox offense.
Last offseason, as baseball prepared to penalize steroid users for the first time ever, the White Sox were a step ahead of the competition. The White Sox hit home runs, to be sure, but they did not entirely rely on them. And when it came time to execute a pitch or make a big defensive play, Chicago was just as capable of relying on Neal Cotts or Aaron Rowand as Paul Konerko. And the White Sox could run and bunt to boot.

Can we please drop this "didn't rely on HR" nonsense? There's this conventional wisdom myth that Chicago won with a "small ball" offense. Nothing could be further from the truth. Did the White Sox play "small ball?" Yes, far too often, and it hurt them, as their runs scored dropped from 865 in 2004 to 741 in 2005. That's correct, going to "Ozzie-ball" caused the White Sox runs scored to drop by nearly 15%!

In addition, the way that they did score runs was frequently on home runs. They were 5th in the Major Leagues in hitting home runs last year, behind Texas, NY Yankees, Cincinnati and Cleveland. And they were 4th in baseball in their percentage of runs which scored on HR. In other words, contrary to not "rely[ing] on HR," there were only 3 teams in baseball who were more reliant on HR than the White Sox.

The typical response to having that pointed out is "well, the small ball let them be more consistent, so they had fewer really low scoring games." Wrong. The 2004 White Sox were shut out once more (8 vs. 7), but in both years, they had 13 games in which they scored only 1 run, and the 2005 team had 4 more games in which they scored 2 runs or fewer.

The bottom line is this - the 2005 White Sox won because they did a fantastic job preventing their opposition from scoring runs. The conventional wisdom that they benefited greatly from playing "fundamental" baseball, "small ball," that they scored because they did a great job laying down bunts and moving runners along, is just a myth, completely at odds with what actually happened.

Technorati tags: Herald, Boston, baseball, Massarotti

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