Last season, the Chicago White Sox had the worst offense in the American League. Their hitters had a collective .249/.302/.378 line for an 83 wRC+. No hitter had a wRC+ above 110, and Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Avisail Garcia were the only bats to post a wRC+ above 100. Rios was traded midseason to the Texas Rangers, and Garcia had just 168 plate appearances.
This year, things have been different. White Sox hitters are combining to produce a .262/.328/.420 batting line for a 105 wRC+. Of the seven players that have received at least 100 plate appearances, six have a wRC+ of at least 108.
Offseason acquisition Jose Abreu, who was signed to a six year, $68 million deal, is looking like a coup. He’s hammering the ball to the tune of a .266/.325/.619 batting line with 12 home runs. There’s a lot of swing and miss to Abreu’s game, and he has one of the highest chase rates in baseball, but the lack of contact hasn’t mattered too much up to this point. If he was a free agent now, he might receive $168 million instead of $68 million.
Dayan Viciedo is off to a nice start after subpar seasons in 2012 and 2013. His chase rate is way down, and his contact rate is way up, especially on pitches in the strike zone. His in-play batting average will drop, but more of his fly balls should leave the yard. Viciedo’s game isn’t well-rounded enough for him to be a big impact player, but these offensive games should make him a decent starter instead of a replacement level player.
Adam Eaton, who was acquired via trade this offseason was off to a nice start before a hamstring injury landed him on the disabled list. He’s using his walks and contact game to produce a .276/.363/.378 line. He doesn’t have the power of some of his teammates, but he’s likely to post an on-base percentage of at least .350.
Alexei Ramirez had a power surge earlier in the year. Tyler Flowers success is completely unsustainable considering that he’s combining a 33 percent strikeout rate with no power, but if his season ended now he’d be more productive than last year. Likewise, Dunn’s batting average is due for a 30-40 point drop by the end of the season, but this looks like his best year with the White Sox, and only Jose Bautista, Joey Votto and Carlos Santana are walking more frequently.
It’s likely that White Sox hitters won’t stay on this pace the whole year. After all, their 23.1 percent strikeout rate is the 4th highest in the majors, and their in-play batting average of .322 is almost sure to drop. Some regression has occurred already. After the first two weeks of the season, the White Sox had the best offense in baseball, and they’ve been slightly below average since then. Still, it’s clear that General Manager Rick Hahn has made some good moves that are paying off.