Rongey: What stats explain White Sox' disappointing season?

 
 
Updated 8/30/2015 11:17 PM

When a baseball team does well -- or poorly -- we often look for a single statistic that stands out. The kind that will make you say, "Oh, THAT'S why!"

Sometimes the numbers don't make any sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With the White Sox, there isn't any particular number that explains away an entire disappointing season, but there is one that illustrates the frustration.

Multiple times over the last several years we've declared a particular White Sox team one with a "small margin for error." It turned out to be true this season, and I now realize just how true that is.

This year the Sox are 24-26 in 1-run games. On the surface, that record isn't dreadful, and it doesn't necessarily tell the full story. Some good American League teams are sub-.500 in 1-run games, like Kansas City and Toronto, while Seattle has the league's third-best record in such games.

What is important is the total of those types of games played. Nobody has played more than the White Sox (50), and nobody has lost more (26).

Odd side note: the Sox are the best extra-inning team in the AL at 12-3. Like I said, some numbers don't make sense.

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Meanwhile, 73 of their games have been decided by 2 runs or fewer. That's about 57 percent.

What does that mean?

Well, the Sox really couldn't afford to make many mistakes this year, but they did, especially early.

Overall, the White Sox have been nearly equivalent to New York in terms of runs saved by their defense. However, the Yankees' offense has scored the second-most runs in the league.

The difference is New York often covers those mistakes since they've hit so well all season. The Sox don't have the same potent offense and therefore don't have the same luxury.

Just imagine how many of those 26 losses turn into wins just by eliminating a simple mistake here and there. Even if it's only 4 (a conservative estimate, I think) they're in the thick of the wild-card hunt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Meanwhile, before the all-star break the Sox scored the fewest amount of runs in the AL. Since the break they have the fifth most. It's not a stretch to say an extra run or 2 every now and then would have won them another couple of contests, at least. Add those to the 4, and things get real.

The White Sox didn't need to have the best offense or a top defense to be a playoff contender this year. All they really needed was to avoid being so miserable for so long. The sum of tight ballgames they played demonstrates that this season easily could have gone the other way.

Certainly, there's a great deal of luck involved, but it isn't just that. A number of other teams can say the same thing.

I'm not sure there's anything unlucky about Adam Eaton's rough beginning or Jeff Samardzija's puzzling season.

Much of this team probably will still be around in 2016, and the organization can only hope for a better start. They can begin by eliminating silly blunders.

Had they done that this season, it just might have saved them.

• Chris Rongey is the host of the White Sox pregame and postgame shows on WSCR 670-AM The Score. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRongey and at chrisrongey.com.

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