White Sox notes from The Bill James Handbook 2018

The numbers confirm hunches about Yolmer Sanchez’s defense and Rick Renteria’s bunting

Last week, FanGraphs got a jump on Baseball Info Solutions’ shifting data for 2017, which showed that the White Sox bucked a leaguewide trend. Rick Renteria almost doubled the Sox’ shift total from 2016 while the rest of the baseball retreated slightly from the practice.

Because it focused on the direction of all 30 teams, the post didn’t answer how many runs it saved for the teams that deployed them frequently. Now that I got The Bill James Handbook 2018 for myself, I can see what the batted-ball data says for the Sox’ effectiveness in this area.

Sure enough, the White Sox ranked fifth in runs saved by shifting after deploying the fourth-highest total of them, but there isn’t quite a direct correlation or a flat rate when looking at the leaderboard. Likewise, doubling the shifts didn’t double the runs saved by them, but the White Sox still came out ahead in the Handbook’s analysis.

The White Sox increased their shifting the most, nearly doubling what they did in 2016 and consequently saving an extra seven runs (22 in 2017 compared to 15 in 2016).

Here’s what else I found while thumbing through the book I’ve purchased for the 12th consecutive year...

Defense

*The Sox ranked 18th overall in defensive run saved with 2. The combination of Melky Cabrera and Nicky Delmonico in left was the greatest drain on the team ranking.

*The Handbook loves Yolmer Sanchez’s defense. The Sox had the best aggregate defensive performance at second base mostly because Sanchez led the AL second basemen in DRS (+8). However, he also finished with 8 DRS at third base, which is why he finished third in Fielding Bible voting among both second basemen and multi-positional players.

*Most surprising DRS score: Adam Engel at -1, although his arm (-2) dragged it into the negative.

Offense

*Jose Abreu was fourth in baseball in hard-hit rate (30.4 percent), so it makes sense that he led the White Sox in long outs with 72.

*The White Sox fared much better in baserunning in 2017, improving from 28 bases lost to three bases gained. They ranked just 22nd because of their lack of activity in the base-stealing department.

*Melky Cabrera had the second-best OPS in the AL against curveballs (1.140), Abreu the third-best against changeups (1.259), and Leury Garcia the most success against sliders (1.132).

*Abreu had the eighth-highest RBI percentage in the AL (40.42), while Anderson had the third-lowest (26.73).

*Rick Renteria led all of baseball with 150 lineups, and the American League in sac bunt attempts with 47. The other 14 AL managers averaged 26 times, although Paul Molitor had 46 himself.

*Garcia’s projection for 2018: .278/.335/.426.

Pitching

*In a huge departure, the White Sox finished below-average in long outings from starters, going from an average of 35 during Robin Ventura’s tenure to six in Renteria’s first year.

*That said, Renteria matched Ventura’s slow-hook total from last season (58). “Long outings” are pitch-based while “slow hooks” are damaged-based, so that combination shows you how much the quality of starting pitching dropped.

*Tommy Kahnle threw 98 100-mph pitches in 2017, good for the fifth-highest total in the AL.

*Mike Pelfrey led all AL starters by allowing 26 stolen bases. Julio Teheran matched him in the NL, but he also threw 68 more innings.

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