Baron: Don't stress over Sox's record in 1-run games

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The White Sox's Jose Abreu is expected to lead the American League again in grounding into the most double plays.

    The White Sox's Jose Abreu is expected to lead the American League again in grounding into the most double plays. Associated Press

 
By Matt Baron
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 9/18/2021 5:51 PM

How concerned should White Sox fans be over the team's losing record (15-22) in games decided by one run?

Not too much -- over the past decade, the 20 World Series teams have won only an average of 53% of contests separated by one run. Six of those teams lost more such games than they won, with three winning it all: the 2014 Giants (18-22), the 2016 Cubs (22-23) and the 2019 Nationals (17-21).

 

Also, consider this year's top American League team, the Tampa Bay Rays, is 18-21 in games determined by one run. It just makes sense: Better teams are more likely to win more games by larger margins, while tighter games are more prone to be "up for grabs," regardless of a team's overall success.

Of the Top 10 MLB teams, five have losing records in games ending in a one-run margin: In addition to the Sox and Rays, it's the Dodgers, Blue Jays and A's.

Abreu leads with GIDPs

For the third straight year, Jose Abreu is all but certain to lead the American League in an offensive category. No, we're not talking about runs batted in, though he has a shot at that three-peat, as well.

He is a shoo-in for once again grounding into more double plays than anyone else. His 25 are five more than Minnesota's Josh Donaldson.

Silver lining: There is a strong correlation between running a high GIDP tally and being an All-Star, and even a Hall of Famer. The all-time leader is surefire future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols (412), who has led in this humbling department four times -- twice in each league.

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And since the stat started getting tracked in the 1930s, the only player to lead his league four straight times is Boston's Jim Rice (1982-1985), a Hall of Famer who holds the single season mark with 36.

Other greats who have grounded into a twin-killing at league-high rates: Tony Gwynn (in 1994, no less, when he batted .394), Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken Jr., and Hank Aaron. And Miguel Cabrera's 2012 season will be remembered much more for his winning the Triple Crown than his Major League-leading 28 GIDPs.

200 innings no sure thing

For the first time in Major League history -- strike-shortened seasons aside -- it appears the AL will not have a pitcher throw 200 innings.

The current leader is Toronto's Robbie Ray, with 177⅓ innings. A strong Cy Young Award candidate, Ray figures to start three more games and would need to average over 7 innings per outing to reach the 200-inning threshold -- something he's done just once in his 29 starts thus far.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The lowest NL total for an innings pitched leader is 207⅔, by Jeff Samardzija of the San Francisco Giants in 2017. In the AL, Ray is poised to dethrone Boston's Chris Sale (214⅓ in 2017) for this peculiar distinction.

ERA title elusive for Lynn

Despite a career-best 2.50 ERA, Sox pitcher Lance Lynn is a longshot to wrest the AL ERA title from the Blue Jays' Robbie Ray, though Ray's mark is higher at 2.64. To qualify, a pitcher needs to average one inning per team game played. Scheduled to take the mound Saturday at Texas, Lynn needs 7⅓ innings to get to 148 innings in Chicago's 148th game.

At most, Lynn will have two more starts before the regular season ends, as manager Tony La Russa is likely to set the stage for Lynn to start Game 1 of the Divisional Series. Rather than going 14 innings in those final two starts, Lynn is certain to be kept to a strict pitch count to ensure he's fresh for the postseason.

Ironically, Lynn led the AL in innings pitched last season, going 84 innings for the Rangers over the 60-game schedule. Three times, he's hurled over 200 innings and of his eight full MLB seasons before 2021, he's thrown enough innings to qualify seven times.

• Matt Baron supplements his baseball brainpower with Retrosheet.org for research.

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