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MLB rule changes: White Sox early season winners and losers

by Matt Cotner

In the backdrop of the White Sox disappointing start to the season lies the biggest MLB rule changes in quite some time. So far, these rules changes seem to be fairly well received by fans and players, but how have the White Sox fared amidst the new rules? Below are the White Sox early winners and losers thus far for each major rule change.

Shift ban

Winner: Yasmani Grandal

After a lackluster 2022 season marred with injuries, Yasmani Grandal is having a better year at the plate. This is perhaps the least surprising outcome of the rule changes. In our rule change preview article, Nico Andrade pointed out that Grandal was poised to benefit, as he was being shifted on in 76% of his lefty at-bats. 

Grandal’s batting average is up to .258, improved from the .202 he hit last year. Certainly, some of his positive regression is due to his health thus far in the campaign. However, the shift ban likely plays a role as well. Grandal’s BABIP is .313, much higher than the .249 last year, suggesting that some of the contact that may have led to shifted outs last year is finding a gap in the right side this year.

Loser: Aaron Bummer

White Sox fans are frustrated with Aaron Bummer’s start to the year, and understandably so, as he holds an 8.00 ERA through 23 appearances. The shift ban cannot be wholly responsible for his underperformance, but it certainly has not helped. 

Bummer is a lefty, and his appearances are often set up to feature lefty-lefty matchups. The shift ban helps lefty batters more, as it makes it easier to pull the ball through the right side for a single. Not to mention, Bummer is a ground ball pitcher. These pulled ground balls to the right side that would have been easy outs with the shift are instead singles. This has likely affected all lefty pitchers so far this season, but Bummer’s rough start is the best example.

Pickoff limit and bigger bases

These two new rules are combined because they ultimately point to the same outcome: more stolen bases.

Winner: Tim Anderson

I was tempted to write no one for this question. Or maybe opposing pitchers and catchers. The White Sox have not taken advantage of these more baserunner-friendly rules, as they rank 25th in stolen bases per game.

I chose Tim Anderson because he does lead the team in stolen bases with six. Elvis Andrus and Andrew Benintendi are next with five apiece. Moving forward, the White Sox need to improve in this department.

Loser: Michael Kopech

This is another unsurprising outcome of the rule changes. Kopech’s delivery has always been slow, and making it easier to steal has exacerbated that problem so far this season. Nine bases have been stolen off of Kopech this season, second on the team to Mike Clevinger with 12. Thankfully, Kopech has still put together some of the best outings of his career in the past few weeks. Ultimately, the whole team needs to improve, as the White Sox are 29th in opponent stolen bases per game, giving up just over one a game (1.04).

Overall, these rule changes encouraging base stealing have hurt the White Sox on both sides of the ball, as they do not steal very much and cannot stop teams who do.

Pitch clock

Winner: White Sox hitters

White Sox hitters have adjusted nicely to the pitch clock. During Spring Training, many batters across the league were called for violations because they were not attentive quickly enough. Thankfully, this has not translated to the White Sox hitters in the regular season. They currently sit tied for second-fewest timer violations in MLB with three.

Loser: Reynaldo Lopez

Lopez only has two pitch-timer violations so far this year. However, when watching White Sox pitchers, he seems most uneasy with the pitch clock. The timer constantly runs low before he begins his delivery. According to Statcast, he manages the second slowest pitch tempo on the team, behind only Mike Clevinger.

The beginning of the season has not been kind to Lopez. He struggled in the closer role and gave up far too many home runs. The pitch clock surely cannot be solely blamed for this; however, Lopez often looks rushed on the mound, and the new pitch clock could certainly be a part of his struggles thus far.

Ultimately, the year is still young, and the narrative around these rules changes and how they pertain to the White Sox can surely shift. However, these new rule changes have impacted the game and the White Sox, and analyzing them can offer a glimpse into the poor performance so far.

Be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for more!

Featured Photo: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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