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Longball Fever

by Mike DePilla
Saturday, April 24, 2010
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The White Sox scored all their runs today on batted balls that went over the fence.

Since two of those balls stayed over the fence, the trend continues: The Sox have yet to win a game in 2010 without hitting at least two homeruns.

Alex Rios and Paul Konerko lifted the Sox to victory today with 9th inning homeruns, and Alexei Ramirez would have added one of his own if not for an awkward but run-saving play by Mariners leftfielder Eric Byrnes.

This of course comes on the heels of the Sox win last night, which was powered by four homers, including a walk off shot by Andruw Jones. Ozzieball, we hardly knew ye.

Though I have doubts as to whether they can sustain this kind of homerun rate as a team over the course of the season, I don't have a big problem with this longball fever. In other words, I would call BS on two of Ozzie's preseason wishes: I would not rather the Sox have more stolen bases as a team than homeruns and, much to Ozzie's chagrin, I would certainly take a hypothetical 50 dingers over 50 stolen bases of "production" from Alex Rios.

Maybe it's time to come to terms with the fact that, despite all of the rhetoric that says otherwise, this team will score a large percentage of their runs via the longball. Can the stubborn skipper be OK with that?

If Ozzie can wrap his head around that concept, it would be a very smart idea to organize the line up with better OBP at the top. With his occasional singles, inefficient stolen base percentage and refusal to take a walk, Juan Pierre adds very little as a lead off man for a team that is going to hit the ball over the fence behind him. To maximize the run-scoring efficiency of the homers, the Sox need to have guys on base.

Even when Juan Pierre is right, he doesn't add much OBP. The way he's going now, with a .271 OBP, he's a major hindrance to this offense's ability to score runs. His stolen bases aren't adding much either, especially when he does his Scott Podsednik impression and gets picked off/thrown out on those rare instances where he does reach first.

*As an aside, Gordon Beckham isn't adding much right now in the second hole either, but I have a lot of faith that he will turn it around. More on that tomorrow.

To put it bluntly, the team was assembled without much care for OBP in the first place. The powers that be just don't value it very highly. Pierre, Ramirez, Kotsay, Vizquel, Pierzynski... all of the guys Ozzie tries to create opportunities for are hackers.

For now, the guys getting on at a decent clip need to be at the top of the order. Mark Teahen's OBP is .380. Can he keep it up? I don't know. But for now it would be nice to see him scoring ahead of all of these homeruns the team is hitting.

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