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A Ground Ball Revolution?

It has been an odd year for the Chicago White Sox thus far. The club is leading baseball in pitching WAR behind the dominating trio of… Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, and Michael Kopech. Major injuries have and will keep Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez out of the lineup for much of the season, and their most productive bat to date is a 28-year-old who did not have a major league hit entering the season. But potentially weirder than all that is the way in which Chicago has amassed one of the best offenses in the early portion of the season: the ground ball!

Entering May 28, the White Sox were second in MLB with a 114 wRC+, fourth at 5 runs per game, and second in wOBA at .330. This offensive success is not unprecedented, as last year’s Sox featured a high-power offense as well.

White Sox Offense: 2020 vs. 2021
Category 2020 2021
wRC+ 113 114
wOBA .334 .330
Runs/Game 5.10 5
OBP .326 .343
ISO .192 .149
GB% 45.4% 48.9%
BABIP .314 .317
2021 data as of May 27

What does stand out is the lack of power from this year’s team. Chicago has the sixth-fewest homers and a league-leading 48.9% ground ball rate (league average is 43.5%). If that rate were to stand for the remainder of the season, it would be the seventh-highest ground ball rate since FanGraphs batted ball data started being collected in 2002. The White Sox also have a 8.9% average launch angle that would be the sixth lowest in the Statcast era. Chicago’s grounder-centric offensive success stands in stark contrast to the other nine clubs that round out the 10 teams with the highest grounder rates since 2002. Read the rest of this entry »