An explanation for White Sox’ offensive struggles

Despite the Sox’ relatively high batting average, deficits in secondary average and isolated power are holding their offense down.

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Jose Abreu is the only White Sox player whose secondary average is higher than the major-league average for the stat.

Jose Abreu is the only White Sox player whose secondary average is higher than the major-league average for the stat.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

For decades, it would have been taken as an anomaly that a team ranking as high as the White Sox in batting average ranked so low in runs scored.

Through Sunday, the Sox’s .259 batting average was tied with that of the Mets for fourth-best in the majors, 16 points better than average. But at 4.26 runs per game against the major-league average of 4.31, the Sox ranked 18th.

Fans today know where to look, with common stats such as OPS and weighted runs created plus. For those who want to look further, secondary average and isolated power focus on pieces of the puzzle.

The Sox have stayed in the American League Central race despite being short on power and so-so at getting on base. They rank 25th in the majors with 101 home runs. Only the Tigers’ 269 walks are fewer than the Sox’s 272, so despite the high batting average, the Sox’s .313 on-base percentage is only one point better than the major-league average.

The Sox’s 101 wRC+ ranks 14th and their .700 OPS 17th.

Secondary average and isolated power have been with us since the ‘‘Bill James Baseball Abstracts’’ of the early 1980s.

Secondary average focuses on bases beyond reaching first on a hit. The formula is ((total bases - hits) + walks + hit by pitch + stolen bases - caught stealing / at-bats).

By subtracting hits from total bases, you leave the bases beyond first not covered by batting average.

The two teams averaging more than five runs per game are also the only two with secondary averages higher than .300. The Yankees (5.18 runs per game) are at .326 and the Dodgers (5.40) at .316. The major-league average is .254. The Sox rank 29th at .205.

The only Sox player above average has been Jose Abreu at .275. With 28 doubles, 14 homers, 49 walks and five hit-by-pitches, he has gained enough bases beyond singles to rank 76th in a category topped by Aaron Judge at .563. Andrew Vaughn (.236) and Luis Robert (.221) are next on the Sox.

Isolated power (ISO) focuses on extra-base hits. The formula is ((doubles + (2 x triples) + (3 x home runs)) / at-bats. If you have a stat page in front of you, the quick calculation is to subtract batting average from slugging percentage.

The Sox’s .129 ISO ties the Athletics for 27th place. As with secondary average, the category is dominated by high-scoring teams, with the Yankees first at .195, the Dodgers third at .190 and the Braves in between at .193 to contribute to their third-ranked 4.80 runs per game.

Vaughn (.174) and Abreu (.162) exceed the major-league ISO average of .153. Judge again is the leader at .377, with Yordan Alvarez (.327) and Byron Buxton (.323) also above .300.

It takes more than batting average to make an offense run. Perhaps Eloy Jimenez (.204 secondary average, .150 ISO) can pick up the pace or Yoan Moncada (.202, .117) can recapture his old form. More times on base and extra bases would be welcome.

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