The White Sox’s last seven games were supposed to be an excellent spot on the schedule to gain some ground in the AL Central Division. It included four games against the last-place Baltimore Orioles and three against the underachieving Los Angeles Angels.
The White Sox went just 2-5 in those seven games. During that stretch, they hit just three home runs. All three of those home runs were hit during the pair of White Sox victories. It’s clear that the White Sox must hit more home runs to win games.
Through 74 games, the White Sox are .543 (25-21) when hitting at least one home run. When they hit two or more in the same game, that winning percentage jumps to .700 (7-3). Unfortunately, they have hit multiple home runs in the same game just ten times this season.
It has become abudantly clear that the White Sox have a home run problem. As a team, they are averaging one home run every 41.6 at-bats. This is unacceptable when you play half of your games in a hitter-friendly park.
On Tuesday, Johnny Cueto came into the dugout after allowing three home runs in the third inning with a message to the team.
“I told (the hitters), just hit homers,” Cueto told reporters through interpreter Billy Russo. “Let’s put the ball in the air because the ball is carrying today.”
Josh Harrison proceeded to hit a game-tying two-run homer in the fifth, which was followed by a near 450-foot moonshot from Luis Robert.
If Johnny Cueto has to be the one to tell players to put the ball in the air, then there is a severe problem on the South Side.
The White Sox are currently 25th in the MLB in home runs. They are on track for their worst total since 2019, when they also finished 25th in the league in home runs. Their home run production has dropped in each of the last three seasons. Last season they were 19th with 190. In 2020, they finished third with 96 in 60 games. In 2020 they averaged a home run every 21.3 at-bats. So what has changed?
Health and poor performance from key players is the biggest factor.
The White Sox’s six highest-paid players are Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Tim Anderson, AJ Pollock, Eloy Jimenez, and Jose Abreu. They are being out-homered by the six lowest-paid players on the roster.
Eloy Jimenez has the most raw power on the team, yet he has played more rehab games in Triple-A Charlotte than he has with the big league club.
Yasmani Grandal ranked second on the team in home runs last year with 24. This season he has dealt with the after-effects of knee surgery and currently sits on the IL with what the White Sox call “back spasms.”
Their approach at the plate has been the other issue.
Last season White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino was quoted saying, “fuck the home run. Let’s hit .300. Then we will worry about the other stuff later.”
He was talking about Andrew Vaughn when he said this, but it summed up his feelings on the White Sox as a whole. Focus on hitting the ball hard, and home runs will come.
It would be one thing if the White Sox were all batting for a high average. But ten players on the White sox have an average of .240 or lower.
The modern-day MLB game has shifted its focus to launch angle for a reason. Home runs equal wins. The Yankees lead the MLB in home runs in 2022. They also own the best record in baseball. This is no coincidence.
The last three World Series winners have all finished in the top three in the MLB in home runs. The message to the White Sox is simple. Hit more home runs. At this point in the season, that is easier said than done.