By George Ofman-
(CBS) As the White Sox fade into oblivion and Alejandro De Aza seeks a compass in order to navigate the base paths, it is noteworthy what’s really missing on the South Side.
It’s quite simple when you consider baseball’s myriad statistics. All together now… Power.
U.S.Cellular Field has been one of the premier home run hitting parks over the past 11 seasons. It has ranked in the top five eight times and first on three occasions in long balls hit on the south side. In all but one of those seasons, the Sox finished over .500. The lone wolf was 2007 when they were fourth in home runs at home, yet won only 72 games because their pitiful pitching ranked 28th.
This season, the Sox are 26th in homers at home, by far their worst ranking. As a result, they have scored only 219 runs. They have 212 on the road. If the trend continues, they will wind up with a hideous 597 runs. If I’m a pitcher on the Sox, I might consider suing the offense. Last season, the Sox hit 211 homers and scored 748 runs. They wound up with 85 wins. Those numbers are eye opening to say the least. This season, the Sox will wind up with around 150 homers, scoring approximately 150 fewer runs – or one a game. Imagine what their record might be if they hit 211 homers this season? I will surmise much better, though the defense would not have allowed them to be a playoff team.
Talk to me about on-base percentage later. Just do the math Sox fans: homers equal victories. The more this team hits them, the better their chances are of competing. You could say that about every team if you want, but the ones who play in home run heavens must have home run hitters. The Sox don’t have them this year, which is why it is absolutely incumbent upon management to find some, and quickly. I’m not discounting the other aspects of the game. You can’t. But in a park that screams power, the Sox are simply whispering.
The demise of Paul konerko, the mysterious disappearance of power from Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez, the lack of home run production from third base and behind the plate have resulted in this team’s inability to produce more runs… and more wins. Back in 2010 the Sox finished first in the majors in homers and third at home and wound up with 88 wins. In 2008, when they made the playoffs, they ranked second in the majors and first at home and won 89 games. Same thing happened in 2006 when they won 90. And in their championship season of 2005, the Sox finished second overall in homers and fourth at home. Their pitching, which was sensational in the playoffs, ranked 13th in the regular season.
In this day and age of WAR numbers, zone ratings, BABIP, etc., the one word the Sox must embrace is power. When they employed Thomas and Ordonez, Konerko, Lee and Valentine, the Sox mashed the ball. They didn’t have the requisite pitching but they embraced U.S Cellular Field for what it is. It’s an even better place to hit homers than it was then and unless a pair of big boppers arrive next season, this team will struggle to score and win.
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM. Look for him on Facebook and find him on Twitter at @georgeofman.