Sox looking to limit unearned runs
How pitchers react to miscues as important as defense
CHICAGO -- Entering Sunday's series finale against the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field, manager Ozzie Guillen's crew finds itself at the top of a rather dubious statistical category.
The White Sox have allowed 43 unearned runs in 2009, leading the Royals by three in the American League. They had committed 12 errors in their past seven games, including three Saturday that led to three unearned runs.
In order to correct this game of giveaway, all parties agree that the adjustment is on the pitchers almost as much as the defense.
"You have to focus on the next pitch, that's the biggest thing," said hurler Clayton Richard, who has permitted four unearned runs in 2009 and has made two errors. "That stuff happens. It's like the fielders getting mad at us when we walk somebody. It's out of our control. We know they won't make every play, and for the most part this season they've done a really good job behind us."
"We need good pitching, good hitting and good defense," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "A lot of days, we are getting some but not all of the above. We've got to be able to catch the ball better. Our pitchers rely on it."
Cooper's assessment stands as spot-on, considering the White Sox have a starting rotation without a pure strikeout pitcher. In making the opposition put the ball in play, the starters need to be confident that the defense will avoid providing too many extra outs.
Then again, those same pitchers have to occasionally pitch around a miscue. Bartolo Colon, currently on the disabled list, has found the most trouble following an error, with 13 unearned runs yielded. Five unearned runs have scored against right-handed setup man Scott Linebrink.
"Unearned runs are not just about the fielders," Richard said. "When there's an error, we have the responsibility to make the most of that situation and not let that run score. They are still runs. It's definitely not all on the defense."
Dealing with a young infield, including Gordon Beckham [five errors] at third and Alexei Ramirez [team-worst 10 errors] at shortstop, playing their respective positions for the first time in their Major League careers leads to some expected problems. But according to Cooper and Guillen, the play in the field has to improve.
"If we have the defense and the pitching working together, we are going to be in the ballgames," Cooper said.
"Like I say, there are good errors and bad errors," Guillen said. "We know we have kids playing, but we're making a lot of bad ones. We need those guys to make the plays."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.