The White Sox have a bench? The White Sox have a bench!

The White Sox have a bench?  The White Sox have a bench!
Right on time, Tyler // José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

The White Sox scored the decisive runs on Sunday just like you’d expect–Jordan Danks walked and was knocked in by a Tyler Flowers homer.

That’s sarcasm, of course.  A little joke for everyone who knows that the White Sox bench spent the first four months of the season being terrible.  Not problematically terrible, since they’re just reserves who rarely play, and the team was winning a division just fine while no one without a starting gig was managing an OPS over .600 besides Jordan Danks (who has now predictably dropped to .597).

It’s not as if the White Sox assembled their bench incompetently.  The pre-season goals didn’t justify anything more expensive than a Kosuke Fukudome flier, the rest was filled out with guys who could at least step up and occasionally crank a home run (Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge), and there was an emphasis on gathering players who could at least field their position.  Unfortunately, Lillibrdige and Flowers both collapsed, but Tyler’s stuck around because, well, someone always needs to catch.

But now Tyler is 11 for 26 with four home runs in August, which constitutes a 1.368 OPS.  That’s an absolutely minuscule sample, but would easily be his most active month if not for A.J. Pierzynski’s oblique injury in July, and has been enough to drag his season line to almost where we’d could have hoped it would be pre-season. – .237/.293/.439.  There’s the big power (.202), and truly garish strikeout totals (36.6%) that drag down his on-base percentage.  The only thing missing is the walks he drew in the minors, but high average on balls in play is serving as a placeholder for that at the moment.  He’s right around league-average production, which is enough to get people to dream on him as a starter, even if it’s hard to imagine another guy whiffing at Adam Dunn rates in the lineup.

Before that controversy takes hold of everything, Flowers’ hot streak offers comfort, even if it’s just a big strong bat running into a few balls and not him actually gaining a foothold at the plate.  Robin Ventura has a little less reason to ride Pierzynski into the ground while trying to field a viable lineup.

Also helping in that regard, is Dewayne Wise, who is rewarding management’s quick decision to shut down Alejandro De Aza and plug in him by hitting .321/.333/.509 in a Sox uniform.  There’s a lot of scoffing to be done here, since Wise has built himself a nearly 1000 plate appearance track record, and it’s not good.  But since fliers on Quad-A veterans aren’t much more than hoping to run across a hot streak, the White Sox have already made out like bandits.

Without launching into a belabored explanation of the ‘weighted-runs created’ stat (but I’ll link to one here), but here’s the overall offensive production of a few bench players expressed as a single number.

The main takeaway here, is that Wise has been already been more productive than every bench player save for Flowers, in less plate appearances than everyone else.  Even if he’s due for a swift return to the reality, and not actually thriving after an adjustment to his stance, he’s still improbably carried the Sox through a DL stint of their leadoff hitter with little-to-no lost value.  That’s something this bench was blatantly not set up to do at the beginning of the year, or even last month.

Delightful bench surprises are just the garnishes of successful season, something that we only really take the time to worry about when the main course is on point.  As it happens, the White Sox are in position to need just a smidgen of extra help to hold off the Tigers behemoth, and here’s Dewayne and Tyler.  Nice how that’s worked out.


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