Baseball by the numbers: White Sox are both sorry, starry

The voting for baseball’s annual All-Star Game is underway, and casting a ballot presents a challenge to White Sox fans.

At 18-38 and waiting for the young reinforcements to arrive, the Sox are not overburdened by star material.

But there are bright spots, so let’s check out numbers for Sox position players at 1.0 WAR or better, as calculated at Baseball-Reference.com.

Jose Abreu: Just by doing what he always does, Abreu ranks among the top American League first basemen. His .300 batting average and .879 OPS are a near match for his career .301 and .883 norms, and with nine home runs and 32 RBI, he’s on a pace just below career averages of 31 homers and 103 RBI.

Jose Abreu watches his double off a pitch from Orioles starter Andrew Cashner during the first inning of a game May 21. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The Red Sox’ Mitch Moreland leads AL first basemen with a .305 batting average and 1.001 OPS, with Abreu second in both categories. With park adjustments, Moreland’s 164 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) leads runner-up Abreu 164-137.

To include defense, where Abreu struggles at negative-4 runs saved, the bWAR leader is the Blue Jays’ Justin Smoak at 1.6, compared to 1.5 for Moreland, 1.3 for the Athletics’ Matt Olson and 1.1 for Abreu.

Tim Anderson: The Indians’ Francisco Lindor (3.7 bWAR), the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons (3.3) and the Orioles’ Manny Machado (2.6) top AL shortstops. But it has been a breakthrough age 25 for Anderson with a 1.4 bWAR, even though a .239 batting average is the lowest of his career. That’s largely due to a .262 BABiP that is likely to rise.

Nevertheless, Anderson’s .751 OPS would be a career high, his 11 home runs are about a 30-home run pace after 17 last year, and his 12 steals have come in 13 attempts.

Anderson has cut strikeouts to 22.5 percent after 27.1 percent in 2015 and 26.7 in 2016 while increasing isolated power — the portion of slugging percentage that comes from extra bases — to .214 after .149 and .145.

Yolmer Sanchez: At age 26, Sanchez is on about the same pace as last year. In 2017, he hit .267 with 12 homers and a .732 OPS. This year, he’s at .279 with three homers and a .734 OPS.

Among AL third basemen, Sanchez’s 1.4 bWAR ranks fourth behind the Indians’ Jose Ramirez (3.3), the A Matt Chapman (2.9) and the Tigers’ Jeimer Candelario (2.0).

Sanchez has been a more extreme ground ball hitter this year, with 50 percent of batted balls on the ground (up from 44.4 percent last year), 26.8 percent flyballs (down from 33.9) and 23.2 percent line drives (up from 21.6).

Matt Davidson: Among designated hitters, Davidson ranks third with 1.1 offensive WAR, trailing the Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez (2.7) and the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo (1.4).

Davidson, hitting .243 with 11 homers and an .890 OPS, has cut strikeouts from 37.2 percent of plate appearances to 32.2, while walks have soared from 4.3 percent to 15.8 percent.

The vastly improved walk rate has sent Davidson’s on-base percentage from .260 last year to .368 in 2018, making this a strong age 27.