Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Another Sabermetric White Sox Overhaul

Hello reader.

It's been a long time since I last posted. Unfortunately I've been so busy and distracted by other events (projects, NCAA's, fantasy baseball drafts) that I've neglected this site. My apologies. But I think that updating this page with regularity is probably something I'm not going to be capable of doing. It takes forever to run stats on a blog anyway. Instead I'll just randomly post here and there, whenever I get some free time to crunch White Sox numbers.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

2005 State of the White Sox: Part 1

Welcome to the Sabermetric White Sox 1st Annual State of the White Sox Address. As Spring Training quickly approaches, it is time to look to the past, present, and future of the Chicago White Sox organization. What will follow is an examination of the past season, the current roster, and the White Sox farm system. So, without further ado:

2004 RECAP:

2004 will go down in the annals of Sox history as another lost season. The White Sox were off to a quick start with new manager Ozzie Guillen at the helm, going 13-8 in April, and 16-12 in May, thanks in part to a hot start by Juan Uribe and the surprisingly steady play of Aaron Rowand. They were in 1st place in the AL Central in June, but had not been able to put the Twins away. Kenny Williams' surprising acquistion of Freddy Garcia seemingly sealed the deal for the Sox, but a collision between Magglio Ordonez and Willie Harris sent Ordonez to the DL with a knee injury, that would require multiple surgeries. Despite a brief comeback, Ordonez was more or less lost for the season. Soon after, Frank Thomas went down with an ankle injury, and he was out for the season. The Sox continued to play hard, though, and despite the losses of their 3 and 4 hitters, were able to put together a 5 game winning streak before the All-Star break, and limp to a 12-13 June record. The Sox ran out of gas, though, in July. A contreversial collision at the plate between Torii Hunter and Sox catcher Jaime Burke turned the tide for the Twins, and left Sox fans scratching their heads as to why Ozzie didn't order a retaliation. It was the start of a 7 game losing streak and a tailspin from which the Sox would not recover. Carl Everett and Robbie Alomar were once again acquired, and Esteban Loaiza was traded for Jose Contreras in a vain attempt to save the season. The Sox would go 11-16 in July, 12-17 in August, and only a brief spark in September and October, 17-12, and 2-1 respectively, prevented the Sox from finishing behind Cleveland for the 2nd spot in the AL Central.

LOOK AT 2005:

The White Sox were busy in the 2005 offseason. In: Jermaine Dye, Dustin Hermanson, Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino, A.J. Pierzynski, Orlando Hernandez, Tadahito Iguchi. Out: Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Jose Valentin, Robbie Alomar, Mike Jackson.

Let's go position by position and see what the Sox have going for them. I'm going to use Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections, TangoTiger's Marcel's, and BaseballThinkFactory's ZiPS for this discussion. These are all 2005 projections, by the way.

Corner Infield

Paul Konerko1B
PROJECTIONAVGOBPSLG
PECOTA.276.353.494
Marcel's.274.345.485
ZiPS.276.352.497
AVERAGE.275.350.492
Joe Crede3B
PROJECTIONAVGOBPSLG
PECOTA.266.321.459
Marcel's.261.315.444
ZiPS.258.313.462
AVERAGE.262.316.455
Ross Gload1B/OF
PROJECTIONAVGOBPSLG
PECOTA.270.318.435
Marcel's.295.355.454
ZiPS.298.339.468
AVERAGE.288.337.452


**Before you scream at me, I'm going to put Frank Thomas in with the DH's.**

Paul Konerko is obviously the new leader and face of the Chicago White Sox. That's what happens when you finally put together a full season of great stats, especially when guys like Thomas and Ordonez go down and you pick up the slack. While the Sox may have been trying to move Konerko for Randy Johnson, now that they have moved Lee instead, Konerko appears to be the man on the South Side. He's in a contract year, and will demand big bucks, but look for the White Sox to get a deal done with him sometime during the season. If anyone benefitted from the renovation at the Cell, Konerko was it. He hit 41 HR in 2004, 29 of which came at the Cell. Those 29 home park HR led the league, by the way. Though it's unfair to expect similar production from Konerko next season, he should probably only suffer a slight drop-off in all categories, especially if he doesn't improve on his road stats. But, with balls flying left and right out of the cell, Paulie will once again be looked to as the main power source in 2005.

Joe Crede is still a black hole at 3rd. This guy has lived on potential for years, and followed up a sub-par 2003 season (.261/.308/.433) with an even worse 2004 (.239/.299/.418). At times last season, Crede was an automatic out, and remember, he was the White Sox's "Least Valuable Player" last season. This year the projections have him bouncing back at least to his 2003 levels. I don't buy it. Despite reports of Crede working all winter with hitting coach Greg Walker in a cage Crede had built at his off-season home, I'd say tops for Crede are probably .250/.305/.410, and that's being optimistic. Add to this the fact that Crede has always been overrated defensively, and is nothing better than average at 3rd. Is this the year the Sox finally realize that Crede can't cut it? Maybe, but the scary thought is they have no backup plan at 3rd. If Crede struggles out of the gate, look to Kenny to make a move to get a solid 3B in here. The White Sox can ill-afford another 2004 Joe Crede-like season from their 3rd baseman, especially when it is quickly becoming the deepest position in baseball.

Ross Gload finally got some playing time in 2004, and made the most of it, going .321/.375/.479 in 234 AB's. Rumors flew during the off-season about the Sox shipping Konerko and giving the job to Gload. Personally, I think that's a mistake. 234 AB's is not nearly enough playing time to prove to me that Gload can handle the job. The guy is a journeyman; he's as old as Konerko for pete's sake, people often forget that. For 2005, Gload has earned the right to get just as much, if not more playing time. However, he's blocked by Konerko (unless Paulie is traded or goes down with injury), Everett, and Dye. He'll spell those guys until Thomas comes back, at which point Gload will probably see a lot of the bench. If only Ross knew how to field 3rd...

Coming soon: Middle Infield...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Under the Radar... 2004-2005 Hot Stove Season


"Kenny, we're reading bogeys on your six. Looks like Sabean and Epstein."
Kenny Williams: Flying Under the Radar
"I can't shake 'em! I can't shake 'em!"



If the 2004-2005 offseason will be known for anything, it will be for Kenny Williams' "Flying Under the Radar." If you will remember, the Sox began the off-season making it publicly known that Omar Vizquel was their #1 priority. A deal was seemingly done for 2 years at $10 mil. Then, out of nowhere, Brian Sabean and the San Fransisco Giants swoop in and give Vizquel $12.25 mil and a guaranteed 3rd year. All of this for a 38 year old shortstop... AMAZING!!! Of course, if you've ever visited The Hardball Times, you know how much Sabean loves the older players.

After that incident, Kenny told the media he was going to be "Flying Under the Radar" for the rest of the off-season, and that's pretty much what he did, making surprise deals here and there. The Sox signed Dustin Hermanson and Jermaine Dye a few days after they declined to offer arbitration to Magglio Ordonez (who as of yet has not signed with another team.) Then, and probably in the most surprising and shocking move of the White Sox off-season, the White Sox sent Carlos Lee to Milwaukee for Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino, and a player to be named later, who turned out to be Travis Hinton, a 24-year old minor leaguer who led the Single A California League in nearly every offensive category.

That's not all, either. Kenny then tried to use the money to sign Cubs pitcher Matt Clement, but was outbid by Theo Epstien and the Boston Red Sox. So Kenny went to Plan B, Orlando Hernandez, and signed him on the cheap, 2 years at $8mil. That may end up being the best signing of the off-season, but Kenny STILL wasn't done. He then goes out and signs A.J. Pierzynski for 1 year at $2.25mil. STILL not done, Kenny then goes out and signs Japanese import Tadahito Iguchi for 2 years at $4.9mil, with a club option for a third year. Phew, let me catch my breath. Overall, the Lee deal ended up netting Podsednik, Vizcaino, Hernandez, Pierzynski, and Iguchi. The move filled four holes (leadoff hitter, 5th starter, catcher and 2nd base) and shored up the bullpen.

I decided to wait until the end of the off-season to analyze how the Sox did, as it makes more sense to analyze the moves in an aggregate rather than position by position anyway. Although there is a rumor of the Sox shopping for a backup shortstop, they appear finished. So, let's pull out the nifty table function of w.bloggar... (Note: Below are 2004 stats)

IN
PLAYERAVGOBPSLG
Dye, Jermaine.265.329.464
Podsednik, Scott.244.313.364
Pierzynski, A.J..272.319.410
Iguchi, Tadahito.340.438.573
AVERAGE.280.350.453
OUT
PLAYERAVGOBPSLG
Ordonez, Magglio.292.351.485
Valentin, Jose.216.287.473
Lee, Carlos.305.366.525
Alomar/Burke.287.342.358
AVERAGE.275.337.460



You may be asking yourself, "Where's Willie on that chart?" Well, he's still on the team (for now), so I didn't include him. The other point I need to make before I start analyzing is that Iguchi's stats are from Japan. Aaron Gleeman over at The Hardball Times has already written the article I was about to write, about Japanese players making the transition to the US, and he went ahead and projected Iguchi's stats. So instead of me repeating the same stuff, you can read his article here. On average (remember this is a very small sample size we're dealing with, so these numbers aren't extremely accurate), there's about a 10% dropoff in batting average, 12.7% dropoff in on-base percentage, and a 24.4% dropoff in slugging percentage, which for Iguchi project to be about .300/345/.425. If you throw those numbers into the table, the new White Sox "IN" average is .270/.327/.416.

The White Sox obviously lost a lot of power. Using the new Iguchi numbers, they're down 44 points in slugging, about 9.5%. But the White Sox obviously are believing players like Podsednik and Dye will have some sort of a rebound. I see Podsednik's batting average climbing back up to the .260-.270 range, and his OBP climbing back up to around .340, but I don't see much imrpovement in Dye's numbers. At this point, I'd say that given the amount of money they paid him, and his injury record, Jermaine Dye is probably the most likely candidate for most disappointing signing of the off-season.

Now let's look at the win shares exchanged by the White Sox this off-season:

IN
PLAYERWIN SHARES
Dye, Jermaine13
Podsednik, Scott15
Pierzynski, A.J.13
Iguchi, Tadahito17*
TOTAL58
OUT
PLAYERWIN SHARES
Ordonez, Magglio8
Valentin, Jose14
Lee, Carlos24
Alomar/Burke7
TOTAL53

* Iguchi's win shares are based upon his projected 2005 stats. He's most similar to Placido Polanco in 2004, and Polanco's 17 win shares in 2004 are the basis of this estimate. Not very scientific, but good enough for our purposes.

Obviously, the OUT guys have more win share potential, as Magglio's 8 are way down from his career average of 19 before the 2004 season. Then again, Magglio still isn't signed, still hasn't had a workout for teams, and there are serious doubts that he will ever play again.

Looking at the win shares, the White Sox did pretty well. They didn't lose anything (if Iguchi preforms at expected levels), and the upgrade at catcher is significant. The White Sox are starting to look like a more balanced team.


As for pitching:

IN
PLAYERWLSVKIPERAERC
Hernandez, Orlando8208484.23.303.71
Hermanson, Dustin69171021314.534.03
Vizcaino, Luis44163723.753.40
OUT
PLAYERWLSVKIPERAERC
Jackson, Mike20026465.015.31
Adkins, Jon23044624.655.90
5th Starter?


I've been digging around for 5th starter stats and can't find them yet. Without looking at them, though I can tell you they probably look pretty grim. The White Sox improved their pitching staff much more than their offense, and they didn't lose any of their key pitchers in the process. Just about anyone is better than Mike Jackson, and although the Vizcaino deal made the Hermanson signing moot, it's still great to have quality arms in your pen. Orlando Hernandez, even if he has an ERA in the high 4's, is a significant improvement over the 5th starter. That spot in the rotation has been the black hole of the White Sox for years, and I'm very happy to see they've finally done something about it.

I've also included Bill James' ERC (component ERA) stat, which computes what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on his performance, just to see who over/underachieved. Also, win shares for Hernandez, Hermanson, and Vizcaino are 9, 6, and 6 respectively.

Conclusion:
Though the White Sox did not compensate for their biggest offensive loss (Carlos Lee) they were able to use the money saved on his contract to pick up 5 players, and fill 4 holes in their lineup. It is really quite amazing what Ken Williams was able to do in just moving one contract. However, though the Sox may look like a different team, looking at the numbers shows that they are not necessarily better. I'm not going to go and predict a 90-win season or anything, but the White Sox are at least exciting again. How long that excitement lasts is the next question.




Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Meet the new and improved Sabermetric White Sox!

Well, almost... I was looking at my blog the other day and I realized how poor it probably looked on 800x600 screens, so now we're user-friendly. I'll probably tweak here and there, but it's about done. And now I can focus on what's important... baseball writing. Now that the Sox are finally done (or are they?) I'll review their off-season. Thanks for bearing with the changes.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Re-Design!

Hey, I'm working on a re-design of this site. Hopefully it'll be up soon. Check back.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Wha Happened?

Hey, I'm still around. It's been busy, with the holidays and all. The Sox have been busy too. Let's see, since I last posted they traded Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino, and the ever popular player to be named later. They also signed P Orlando Hernandez. I'll be doing a full write up about that trade soon. Sit tight.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Good...

The White Sox signed Jermaine Dye to a two year, $10.15 million dollar contract, which pays Jermaine $4mil in 2005, $5mil in 2006, and has a team option for $6mil in 2007 (or a buyout of $1.15mil.) Dye took this contract despite higher offers from other teams after he verbally agreed to terms with the White Sox. Way to go! I like the guy already. Let's see if I still like him after I look at his 2004 stats...

BAHRRBIRSBBBKOBPSLGBA/RISP
.265238087449128.329.464.240


Now, normally I'd look at his 3-year stats, but Dye's missed 153 games over the last three seasons, and 2004 was the only season in which he was relatively healthy, thus giving him the label of "Injury-Plagued," (and not "Injury-Prone") by the Chicago Tribune. (By the way Trib, I can't wait for this year's version of "Prior Watch...")

Anyway, let's start the analysis by saying that Dye is not Magglio Ordonez. If healthy (and we can't assume Maggs will be healthy ever again) Dye couldn't hold a candle to Maggs' production. His career RCAA is 5. Magglio's career RCAA is 143. Huge difference... But Dye is a servicable stopgap until Ryan Sweeney or Brian Anderson arrive (or by some miracle Joe Borchard learns how to hit a curveball.) His defense in RF is slightly better than Maggs', and the saving of $10 million in the payroll gives the team some long-term financial flexibility they wouldn't have had with Maggs.

What bothers me about Dye is his 128 K's. I'm sure Billy Beane wasn't too happy about that either. He needs to learn some plate discipline, badly. He should be drawing about 80 walks a year, and cutting those K's to below 100.

But the alarming stat... .240 BA with Runners in Scoring Position. EGADS!!! Dude, Jermaine, you've got to do better than that. Remember, the Sox were second best in the majors last year in BA/RISP. The only problem was they were second worst in getting runners on base in the first place. So, Jermaine, help your team, help yourself; draw some walks and get those hits with men on 2nd and 3rd.

Still, getting a player of Dye's caliber as cheaply as Kenny Williams did, I have to give kudos to the GM. And Dye earns bonus points for being a classy guy and honoring a verbal agreement to the White Sox. Good signing.

... The Bad...

I'm a little late here with this, but anyway...

The White Sox signed RP Dustin Hermanson to a two-year, $5 million dollar contract. The contract is $2 million for 2005, $3 million for 2006, and a team option of $3.5 million for 2007. My only question is why are we paying him so much money?

Here's his stats from last season:

IPERARAAFIPG/FK/9BB/9HR/9
131.04.53-34.121.057.03.21.0


My biggest problem with this signing is that Hermanson is, at best, a slightly above average relief pitcher. His 4.12 FIP is better than the 2004 NL average of 4.31, so there's a glimmer of hope. He commanded the dollars he got this off-season because he became the defacto closer with the Giants last season, after Robb Nen couldn't return from injuries and Matt Herges couldn't close a game to save his life. Hermanson did convert 17 of 20 save opportunities, but became expendable when SF signed Armando Benitez. His ERA as a reliever over the past 3 years is 5.67.

Kenny Williams must love his versatility as a reliever and a starter, because nothing I see with his stats lead me to believe he is worth more than $2mil per, and I'm stretching with that number. I honestly believe a pitcher like Kevin Walker could have just as productive a season as Dustin Hermanson, and for a lot less money.

I sometimes think a GM struggles most with the bullpen, since those pitchers are the guys that aren't good enough to be starters or closers, and are basically a crapshoot every year. Putting figures on that must be difficult, and as such I feel the Hermanson signing will turn out poorly for the White Sox. But, at least the Sox recognized that they have holes in their bullpen that need filling. I just wish it was somebody else they filled the hole with, like Shawn Chacon...

...The Ugly

It's sad to see one of the great players in your organization leave like Magglio Ordonez did, but it's really sad when he goes and says, "Why not the Cubs?... I think it would be a good place for me. They have great fans. They're sold out every day. They have great pitching and they have a good chance to win it all. All I want to do is win. Winning is my No. 1 priority."

What a slap to the face of White Sox fans who cheered for him and revered him for years! What else does Maggs go on to say?

"I wanted to come back, but they never made me feel comfortable that they wanted me. They never said, 'We want you here. We want you to be our franchise player.' I was almost traded to Boston. How could I feel comfortable they really wanted me after that happened?"

Never made you feel comfortable? $14 million a year isn't "comfortable?" Believe me, if I had a $14 million a year salary, I'd be pretty damn confortable. And about being traded to Boston, remember Magglio that YOU were the one who wouldn't re-sign with the Sox, and thus made you tradeable.

I liked Magglio better when he didn't say anything. Now the truth comes out. Winning is his No. 1 priority, but only after he gets the Sacajuweas. Go ahead Maggs, sign with the Cubs. If you thought Sammy Sosa got booed at Comiskey, you haven't heard anything yet...