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White Sox have power to spare

Through Sunday, the Sox’ 55 homers led the American League and were tied with the Padres for second in the majors behind the Dodgers’ 59.

Jose Abreu hit six home runs last weekend against the Cubs and has 11 for the season.
Jose Abreu hit six home runs last weekend against the Cubs and has 11 for the season.
Jeff Haynes/AP

The White Sox and home runs have not always been the best of friends, but there’s no doubt they are now.

Through Sunday, the Sox’ 55 homers led the American League and were tied with the Padres for second in the majors behind the Dodgers’ 59. That power has helped the Sox to a 17-12 record one game shy of the halfway mark in this abbreviated season.

First baseman Jose Abreu, whose 11 homers include six against the Cubs last weekend, was one behind former Sox farmhand Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres for the major-league lead. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez wasn’t far behind with nine.

Of the Sox’ 145 runs, 81 have been driven in by homers. That’s a 55.86% Guillen number — a name coined by Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan during the Sox’ World Series run in 2005. The average Guillen number in the majors is 45.19%.

That’s a big change from 2019, when the Sox ranked 25th in the majors with 182 homers and scored 43.36% of their runs on homers.

Should the Sox lead the majors in homers this season, it would be the fourth time in the 2000s. They never led the majors until 2004, when they tied the Yankees with 242 behind Paul Konerko’s 41. They topped the Braves 236-222 in 2006 and out-homered the Red Sox 235-214 in 2008.

That was part of a run in 2000-08 in which the Sox hit 200 or more homers every season but 2007, when their 190 were sixth in the majors.

A run such as that would have been unthinkable in the original Comiskey Park, where the Sox played from 1910 through 1990. Distances varied with bullpen placement and wire fences, but it maxed out at 445 feet to center field and 362 feet down the lines.

Big home-run seasons were rare. The Sox didn’t top 100 homers until hitting 116 in 1955 and were below 100 as late as 1989, when the major-league average was 119 and the Sox’ 94 ranked 24th among 26 teams.

The 1959 AL champion Sox were last among the 16 major-league teams with 97 homers, 80 behind the leading Braves.

Catcher Sherm Lollar led the ’59 Sox with 22 homers, seven shy of the then-club-record 29 by Gus Zernial in 1950 and Eddie Robinson in 1951. Bill Melton’s 33 homers in 1970 made the Sox the last of the 16 pre-expansion teams to have a 30-homer man.

Since the park now known as Guaranteed Rate Field opened in 1991, Sox players have hit 40 or more homers 12 times — five by Frank Thomas — with a club-record 49 by Albert Belle in 1998.

The raw numbers won’t be as high in 2020 because of the 60-game season, but the Sox of Abreu and Jimenez are averaging 1.90 homers per game. The club record is 1.49 per game in 2004.

It took time and a change of ballparks, but homers and the Sox of today are friends indeed.