The Chicago White Sox pursuit of ineptitude has been historic

Apr 23, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech (34) walks to
Apr 23, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech (34) walks to / Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox did something unusual Tuesday night. They scored five runs. They still lost, of course, 6-5 to the Minnesota Twins. But at least they scored.

So far, the 2024 season has been as if the Sox gave up scoring for Lent and didn’t get the word that the penitential season ended three weeks ago. Consider the numbers:

*They are last in scoring with 50 runs, a total that is 18 fewer than the next least productive offense.

*They have 10 fewer base hits than any other team, four fewer home runs, and 20 fewer RBI.

*The team batting average is .192, a dozen points lower than the team in 29th place. They are last in on base percentage, last in slugging, and – as a consequence – last in OPS by a depressing 38 percentage points.

On their way to a 3-20 start to the season, the White Sox have been shut out eight times. They’ve only reached five runs in five games this season, and just to show how bad things have been on the South Side, they’re 1-4 in those five highest-scoring games.

Through 23 games, Chicago is averaging just 2.17 runs scored per game.  Does that sound low to you? It is, extraordinarily so. Here’s some perspective.

White Sox pathetic offense by the numbers

Over the past decade, the game's weakest offense belonged to the 2014 San Diego Padres. In a season in which they finished 77-85, the Padres offense managed 3.30 runs scored per game.  That’s the worst offense in baseball over the last decade, yet it’s 55 percent more productive than the 2024 White Sox.

To find any team that averaged fewer than three runs per game, you have to scroll back more than a half century through the record books. The last two to do so were the 1972 California Angels (2.93) and the 1972 Texas Rangers (2.99). That was one year before the American League instituted the designated hitter rule.

It also came during a time when pitching was more dominant than it is today. In 1972, the average number of runs scored per game was 3.69; thus far this season, the comparable figure is 4.37, more than a half-run higher. If you run a test of exceptionality, it works out that the 1972 Angels offense was only 1.49 standard deviations below the MLB average. The 2024 White Sox are scoring at a rate that is 2.44 standard deviations worse than the MLB average.

While it’s unthinkable that the White Sox offense will continue to be this extraordinarily anemic, it’s not beyond the pale to imagine Chicago making a run at some ancient standards of scoring ineptitude.

To find the last team that finished a full major league season with productivity below even 2.70 runs per game – remember, the White Sox are at 2.17 – you have to reach back to World War II. In 1942, the Philadelphia Phillies finished last in the National League with a 42-109 record, averaging just 2.61 runs per game.

The 1942 Phillies are the only team in the past century to complete a season averaging fewer than 2.8 runs per game.

The all-time record for offensive incompetence was set by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals, who averaged just 2.42 runs per game.  The White Sox, remember, are at 2.17, a full quarter-run per game less.

For the record, here are the 10 most incompetent teams in MLB history – that is, dating back to 1876 – for average runs scored per game.

(2024 Chicago White Sox                2.17)

1 1908 St. Louis Cardinals               2.42

2 1908 Brooklyn Dodgers               2.44

3 1909 Washington Senators         2.45

 4 1942 Philadelphia Phillies          2.61

5 1906 Brooklyn Dodgers             2.68

6 1907 St. Louis Cardinals             2.70

7 1909 Boston Doves                     2.76

8 1904Washington Nationals      2.78

9 1909 Brooklyn Dodgers            2.85

10 1918 Brooklyn Dodgers          2.86

      1963 Houston Astros               2.86

     1968 Chicago White Sox         2.86

White Sox apologists and a few math nerds will argue that it is too early to project the Sox attaining a place on this ignominious list by season’s end. It’s certainly true that 23 games does not a season make. But consider this.

In order to avoid having one of the 10 least productive offenses of all time, the White Sox would have to score 413 runs over their final 139 games. That’s almost exactly three runs per game.

Through their first 23 games, the Sox have scored three runs just eight times, about 33 percent of their games.  They’ve scored zero runs or one run 11 times, almost half of their games.

Without a significant uptick in productivity, they’ve established a plausible chance to become the least offensively productive team in franchise history, and one of the least productive in MLB history.

There's no saving grace to the Chicago Cubs' bullpen (