By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — Nobody should have to be thankful for the existence of the Miami Marlins.
The woebegone fish are chasing historical badness, winning at a .255 clip while fielding a $30 million payroll of mostly replacement-level players, playing in front of nobody in a city that hates them, hates their ownership, and actively avoids their weird, costly little ballpark as if there were a chemical spill.
Yet one team has to appreciate that they’re around, and that’s the Chicago White Sox.
You see, without their Floridian friends the Sox would be dead last in Major League Baseball in offensive Wins Above Replacement, with their 29th-best total of 0.3 still ahead of the Marlins seemingly impossible aggregate team tally of -1.9. Their Weighted On Base Average – the best catch-all measure of hitting – is a mere .290, with only the Marlins behind them at an astonishing .265.
As this is written, Robin Ventura’s team has scored 183 runs, also good for 29th. A certain other team has scored 152. Not surprisingly, their Weighted Runs Created Plus, which is a park and league-adjusted barometer of offensive value, is 29th out of 30, too. So is their grand total of 72 doubles. Ahead of whom I needn’t say. The Sox were able to win the race to the bottom so far in one category, however, with their three triples.
And it’s not just an issue of team stats, either, when context and expectations are considered. A stripped-down roster of cheap, place-holding bums is supposed to produce like this, which is why there’s no reason for concern over, say, Adeiny Hechavarria, Rob Brantly and Justin Ruggiano not justifying their combined $3.75 million.
When it’s $122 million coming off a season that included months leading the division, tougher questions have to be asked about the continued, frustrating inability to hit, run and score.
Jeff Keppinger was the lone off-season free agent acquisition, and for his $3.5 million he is nothing less than the worst hitter currently in the game, ranking 170th out of the 170 qualifed players with a wOBA of .217. The Sox have four others languishing near the bottom, with Adam Dunn (149th at .278), Alexei Ramirez (142nd at .290), Paul Konerko (132nd at .294) and Alejandro DeAza (126th at .303) earning a total salary this season of $37.5 million.
Tyler Flowers is lucky not to be among those qualified for the leaderboard on Fangraphs.com, because his own pathetic wOBA of .269 would put him at #154.
They used to hit enough home runs to cover for their low on-base percentage and lack of team speed in a hitter-friendly home park, but even that panacea is gone. They are 20th in baseball with 52 homers, which won’t cut it when that’s really the only way they can score.
None of this can be written off to bad luck, either, when the team BABIP of .280 is right about at their ten-year team average of .287. Slow teams with lower line-drive rates turn fewer batted balls into hits.
You can lead the optimistic charge if you like, clinging to the chance for individuals to regress a bit to their historical means and hoping for overachievement elsewhere. It can happen.
I’d rather call the Sox offense what it appears to be: slightly better right now than one of the worst the game has ever seen.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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