Dunn's hitting, so why aren't the Sox winning?

Dunn's hitting, so why aren't the Sox winning?
May 8, 2012, 9:48 pm
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We're just over a month into the 2012 season. Adam Dunn has been fantastic, posting a .364 OBP with 9 home runs heading into Wednesday's game against Cleveland. That's the kind of production the White Sox missed last season. They still may not have made the playoffs with it, but it probably would've helped stave off that miserable 4-18 stretch in April and May that put the team behind the 8-ball far too early.

With Dunn's production this season, though, the White Sox have lost 11 of their last 14 contests. At 13-17, they're only two games ahead of their 2011 pace through 30 contests.

The good news is that the White Sox have scored 116 runs and allowed 118, which cranks out an expected win-loss record of 15-15. The Sox are 2-6 in one-run games and have lost three games in which either Hector Santiago or Matt Thornton blew a save opportunity.

The bad news, though, is that generating offense continues to be a problem, even with Dunn seemingly back to normal. By weighted on-base average (wOBA, a better version of OPS), the Sox have the 19th-best offense in baseball, ahead of only the reeling Twins in the AL Central.

Along with Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Alejandro De Aza have been fantastic, although Pierzynski has started to come back to earth lately after a torrid start. But beyond those four, the Sox have struggled to do much at the plate.

Fangraphs breaks down wOBA into seven rough categories -- for example, an average wOBA is .320. They define an "awful" wOBA as being .290 and below. Four White Sox starters fall into that category: Gordon Beckham (.279), Dayan Viciedo (.262), Alexei Ramirez (.212) and Brent Morel (.195). And the backups haven't been much better, as all four Sox bench players have a wOBA below .280.

De Aza, Dunn and Konerko will have hitless games from time to time. That happens. But when it does, the Sox lineup doesn't stand much of a chance of scoring runs.

The Sox probably need two of those four struggling players to pull out of their slumps and become average-at-worst contributors to the lineup. Beckham, to his credit, has been solid since the start of May (.357.400.643 with 2 home runs), although whether he can turn eight good games into consistent offensive production remains to be seen.

Ramirez, hopefully, is just going through his usual pre-Memorial Day struggles -- the same ones that plagued him through his first three years in the league (although last season, Ramirez had an OPS above .700 on May 15 for the first time in his career).

The improved plate discipline Viciedo showed in 2011 has since escaped him -- he's walked in just 2.2 percent of his plate appearances after working a free pass in over 8 percent of his trips to the plate last year. At this point, he's struggling to hit much of anything, as over his last 18 games he's hitting .190.217.241 with one walk and 18 strikeouts.

And then there's Morel, who's only walked four times in 97 plate appearances while striking out 32 times. He only has two extra-base hits -- both doubles -- and only Marlon Byrd rates as worse than the third baseman by wOBA this season.

There's certainly hope for these guys, seeing as it's not even mid-May. But if June rolls around and these guys are still lagging, the Sox will be in big trouble, to say the least.