The White Sox scored 12 runs last night in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. They collected 16 hits in the process. It was quite the bounce-back from their performances in Game 1 and Game 2, where they scored 5 runs combined.
Although home plate umpire Tom Hallion’s missed called-third strike on Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal in the third inning proved enormously consequential — Grandal proceeded to produce two of the frame’s five subsequent runs — Chicago hitters were awfully fortunate when it came to putting the ball in play.
On the night, they hit .390. But in terms of their team Expected Batting Average (xBA), it was .221. Perhaps the greatest cause for suspicion is a looney tunes BABIP of .571. It would seem this type of production is fairly unsustainable.
In the first two games of the series, the Astros did not allow a home run. The home run is paramount, as the best teams tend to hit the most while allowing the fewest. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a theme of this postseason. Through 10 games, the team that has hit more is 9-0.
In Game 1 and Game 2 of the ALDS, the White Sox lineup had a collective launch angle of 2 degrees (10.4 during the regular season). An abundance of ground balls significantly hampered Chicago hitters’ output in Houston. Despite tallying 18 hits combined in both games, none went for extra bases.
The South Siders finished the regular season with the third-highest ground ball rate at the plate. Led by Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros pitching staff yielded the seventh-highest mark on the mound. The meeting of the two units resulted in a 53.8 percent figure combined in the first two games of the series (no lineup in baseball eclipsed 50 percent in the regular season).
Interestingly enough, Game 3 was more of the same. The White Sox again hit the ball on the ground a lot (46 percent), but the results were exponentially better. 13 of their 28 batted balls were ground balls with 7 of them being hits, good for a .538 batting average.
As for the xBA? .144.
To be fair, a playoff series generates microscopic sample sizes that can create unusually large discrepancies between different stats and metrics. Moreover, expected stats are not all-knowing. But with that said, it doesn’t appear the Astros pitched poorly enough to surrender 12 runs. Thanks primarily to Cristian Javier’s efforts, the White Sox struck out 13 times. In addition to the aforementioned batted-ball numbers, utility man Leury García’s three-run home run in the third inning was Chicago’s lone Barrel of the night, and it could be reasonably argued that he shouldn’t have had that opportunity, given what had transpired earlier in the inning.
The Astros’ ability to keep the ball on the ground — and subsequently enabling their tremendous defense to do its job — is key to the club’s run prevention. Exploiting their opposition’s inefficient tendency in the process proved highly beneficial in their first two affairs, and should the status quo remain the same going forward, Game 3 may well prove to be a fluke.