First, a quick review of the second week of the season:
So that first week optimism ended pretty quickly. Beckham got hurt. And then the Sox started losing. And then losing some more. Eight games later, a 4-2 start has become a 6-8 record. I’m staring down the panic button as I type.
So what happened?
And the Sox deciding that walks were lame. One problem, losing is lamer.
The walk totals are ugly. Prior to last night, Joey Votto, with 21 free passes, had out walked the entire White Sox team in about 13% of the plate appearances. That’s not brutal, that’s unacceptable.
Again, prior to last night the Sox only 18 walks for the entire team—a horrifying 3.9% walk rate. Viciedo, Keppinger and Gillaspie have all yet to walk this season (Gillaspie did take a free pass last night).
That’s led to a brutal On Base Percentage: .278 good for 29th in the league (the Cubs are last with an OBP of .259). However, the Cubs (and Marlins, Rays and Mariners who all are near the bottom in OBP) can at least blame bad luck for the main reason they’re OBP stinks. The Cubs BABIP sits at .259, a full .014 points lower than the Sox. The same is true for batting average. Sure the Sox have been unlucky, but they haven’t been *that* unlucky.
Everyone’s going to point at Adam Dunn’s decision to be aggressive and the drop in his walk rate (Cameroon’s piece on Dunn is excellent btw). And yes, that’s part of it. And yes, it makes no sense for Dunn to change how he approaches at-bats at this point in his career (Shelley Long career move advise!). But De Aza and Konerko are both below where one would expect them to be. Flowers hasn’t walked since the Sox hit the road. Keppinger has never been much of a walker, but you’d figured he’d be a little more patient than he has been in the first 13 games.
It’s early. Things will ‘even’ out a bit. Dunn probably will start walking more. If not, we might be looking at a season worse than his 2011. Konerko and De Aza’s slight drop in their walk rate probably has more to do with it being 13 games than any sort of trend.
But the White Sox won’t even be in the discussion of playoff baseball if this continues. If the Sox don’t get men on base, they’re not going to win many games.