If you gaze at the White Sox' offensive numbers as a collective, they look deceptively close to normal.
Prior to their 3-1 road loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night, the Sox ranked eighth out of the 14 American League teams with 4.12 runs per game.
They stood ninth in on-base percentage (.309) and OPS (.679). Not good, but not dramatically worse than the league averages (.317 and .710).
But when you take the plunge into Baseball-Reference.com and wade deeper into the numbers, you realize just how dreadfully the White Sox are performing at the top and bottom of their lineup.
Try on this trend for size: In 12 of the Sox' last 13 games, nobody slotted in the 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 spots in the order managed to score a run.
Re-read that sentence, if necessary, to allow it to sink in.
Only in the 9-2 rout of Tampa Bay on April 21 did anybody in those five spots cross the plate.
Seems impossible, right? Yet Baseball-Reference.com makes it easy to see there's no fluke involved.
The website splits every team's lineup into three groups: The table-setters (1 and 2 hitters), the thumpers (3 through 6 guys) and the rest (7 through 9).
In the first two spots of the order — filled primarily by Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham — the Sox entered Wednesday's game hitting .250 with a .295 on-base average and .319 slugging percentage.
Before your eyes glaze over, here's the point: The table-setters' collective OPS of .614 stands 81 percentage points behind the league average.
And when you compare the Sox to the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, who get an .867 OPS out of their top two guys, it's easy to understand why Cleveland ranks second in the AL in runs per game.
Now let's examine the 7-through-9 guys. It's the same story as the top.
The White Sox' collective OPS in those spots is .619, which falls 71 percentage points behind the league average.
None of these numbers, by the way, include Wednesday's 1-for-18 effort by the 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 hitters against Bartolo Colon and Mariano Rivera.
A.J. Pierzynski's infield single in the second inning served as the only safety in that impotent group.
His scratch hit up the middle loaded the bases with nobody out, but Beckham (No. 8) struck out without swinging while Omar Vizquel (No. 9) and Juan Pierre (No. 1) followed with lazy fly balls that squandered the threat.
The White Sox wound up outhitting the Yankees 7-6 Wednesday, but Mark Buehrle surrendered a rope of a 3-run homer to Robinson Cano in the first to make the difference.
Picture Cano's line drive that Brent Lillibridge caught to save Tuesday's win ... and add 40 feet to it.
The Sox got their run in the sixth when Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn strung together singles.
Quentin, who apparently realizes he needs to provide enough offense for six guys, continued his herculean month. He entered Wednesday's game with 18 extra-base hits — 5 more than anybody in the majors not named Troy Tulowitzki — and added a first-inning double Wednesday as part of his perfect night.
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen missed almost all of the swift game. Guillen was thrown out by plate umpire Todd Tichenor after Konerko took a borderline third strike to end the first.
While the replay suggested Colon nailed the low, inside corner for strike three, Guillen suggested the problem began one pitch earlier when Konerko received the call on a close fastball.
Guillen said the Yankees bench, including Tony Pena, chirped at Tichenor after that one. Of course, Guillen had to have his say, too.
“Don't let those guys intimidate you,” Guillen told reporters.
That's apparently not what Tichenor heard.
“I don't think he made the wrong decision to eject me,” said Guillen, who raged at Tichenor while Buehrle warmed up. “But I think he (didn't) hear what I was saying.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.