Offseason Diatribe – Chicago White Sox

November 19, 2009 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment

This continues a series of posts where I examine where teams stand this offseason position by position, what we can predict from them for next season at each position, and what free agents and trades the team may look into. Next up is the White Sox (I may limit this to the Central division. Or maybe I’ll do all of baseball. It’s a free country).

The White Sox were mostly terrible in 2009. You never quite know if they’re a 90 win team or an 80 win team, but they’re usually one or the other, at least since their championship season of so long ago (Goin on 5 years now). This year, their players got old, real fast. Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and Jim Thome, the stalwarts of the Sox’s monstrous 2006 offense, realized they cannot battle the ravages of age any longer. Kenny Williams has gone on record saying he won’t make any big free agent splashes, given his limited resources. Kenny does fib from time to time, but what can the Sox really expect for next year? Their offense is entirely depleted; only a completely resurgent Carlos Quentin can keep them from a Giants-esque showing offensively next year, it would seem. Luckily, their pitching looks to be marvelous, so let’s break down the Sox by position.

Catcher – A.J Pierzynski isn’t getting any younger, but the man can still hit .300 and be an above average, and quite durable, backstop. The Sox even have young Tyler Flowers to back him up, a catching prospect that hit .297/.423/.516 in the minors the past year, mostly at double A, but showing respectability at triple A as well. He’s 23; when does he take over for A.J for good?

https://i2.wp.com/chicagoist.com/attachments/chicago_benjy/2006_05_sports_barrett_pierzynski.jpg

If A.J. ends up murdered, the Sox have Flowers as a solution

1st base – Paul Konerko was a solid contributor for my fantasy team last year, in that I forgot to get a first baseman during the first few rounds and had to scrounge to find a somewhat resurgent Konerko off the scrap heap. He’s a below average first baseman at this point. But who can the Sox replace him with? Perhaps they could pluck Adam LaRoche or Hank Blalock out of free agency to reasonable contracts. Ryan Doumit via trade? The answer isn’t Mark Kotsay, that’s for sure.

2nd, 3rd, SS – The Sox have a bevy of options here, but not enough to really put forth a really strong infield. Mark Teahen adds versatility, I guess. But he’s kind of a black hole anywhere you put him, and Kenny seems to think he’ll be at third. Alexei Ramirez is a strong shortstop. Young phenom Gordon Beckham will apparently man 2nd next year; I worry jerking him around too much may cause B.J Upton – Joba Chamberlain type issues, but who knows, the kid will most likely hit regardless. Beyond that, you have Brent Lillibridge and Jayson Nix. They’re sort of young, and they’re both probably better than Matt Tolbert, but they shouldn’t start anywhere. What you have here is a wonderfully pedestrian infield. Teahen is bad, Konerko is meh, Ramirez is decent, and Beckham could be great, but maybe not as soon as next year. I also doubt Kenny looks to improve his infield much, as Ramirez and Beckham are young and established, Konerko hasn’t turned into a pumpkin quite yet, and Teahen is his valued trade acquisition.

https://i1.wp.com/www.midwestsportsfans.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/gordon-beckham-white-sox.jpg

Gordon Beckham: The only guy who can give this infield a shot at not being the Giants.

Outfield – Jermaine Dye likely isn’t coming back. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Sox may have to resign Scott Podsednik one more time. And that Alex Rios would have to make a remarkable turnaround to make good on his outlandish contract. And that Carlos Quentin would have to rebound as well for this outfield to be worth mentioning. The upside is that Scotty Pods hits .300/.350/.380, Quentin becomes 2008 Quentin, and Rios becomes 2007 Rios (.297/.354/.498). The downside is Rios keeps underperforming, Quentin gets hurt, and Podsy gets designated for assignment. Combined with the averageness of the infield, that scenario could be frightening for Sox fans. Signing Mike Cameron? A great idea, but I doubt it comes to fruition.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2008/baseball/mlb/11/17/bp.alcentral/carlos-quentin.jpg

Omnomnomnom
Silly Carlos stop eating bats and focus on why your OPS+ dropped 49 points last year

Starting Pitching:

Jake Peavy – Yes, good, you have this guy now. He dominated in his short time with the Sox, and frankly, he’s a dominating type pitcher. He’s no longer in Petco, and he doesn’t have much defense behind him, and he’s never pitched a season in the AL, but uhh.. I’m predicting an ERA in the low to mid 3’s, with tons of strikeouts, which is just fine in my book. He’s a good one to have.

John Danks – Also good, he’s been great the past few seasons. However, his home run rate rose dramatically last season, and his strikeout/walk ratio went south. These aren’t predictors of great success generally, but Danks will be just 25 next year; he won’t implode I wouldn’t think. Maybe some slight regression is in order.

https://i2.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01001/john_danks_080930e_1001759c.jpg

Danks runs on dank ass drank

Gavin Floyd – After his 2008 season, which was about as lucky as they come, Floyd actually proved doubters wrong and had quite a 2009 for himself. His strikeouts went up, his walks went down, as did his hits/9 and his home runs allowed. His BABIP went up a sizeable amount, as well. He improved in every way a pitcher can improve. Is it because he threw more sliders and more changeups? Who knows. But Floyd and Danks have really flip flopped since last year at this time, when Danks was coming off the superior all around season, and Floyd had capitalized on a lot of luck.

Mark Buehrle – He’s going to be 31 next year. He’s thrown more than 2,000 innings. But why count him out just yet? His fastball last year clocked in on average at 85.7 MPH. That’s pretty close to what he’s always done. Yeah his FIP last year was the highest it’s been besides that weird 2006 season where Buehrle just sucked. But I think he can still be effective, particularly in the context of him not leading the staff anymore. He’s now a #4, and that’s about where he should be at this point.

Freddy Garcia and Daniel Hudson share this spot. Garcia was decent last year, and Hudson rose through the minor league ranks, showing great numbers at each stop. Clearly, the Sox don’t really need to upgrade their rotation when they have these options for their #5.

Bullpen:

Scott Linebrink – This guy was terribly unfortunate the past year. His BABIP rose from .267 to .372. That’s nothing short of remarkable, but tempered somewhat by Linebrink having his highest line drive rate since 2003 (23.7%), a year removed from his lowest, and most flukish, line drive rate in 2008 (17.8%) His strikeout rate improved in ’09, so a regression closer to the mean, maybe somewhere around his career FIP of 4.07, will likely be in order for 2010.

D.J. Carrasco – A somewhat average, and already 32 year old, right hander, Carrasco posted a career best 3.46 FIP last year. So his decent 3.76 ERA was actually a tad unlucky, but then the White Sox don’t figure to be any better defensively next year. So Carrasco figures to continue his relative success of the past few years, relying on an above average walk rate and a spectacular home run rate (.48 HR/9).

Matt Thornton – Thornton is quite strange. He keeps getting older (He’ll turn 34 next season), and yet he keeps getting better, as well. His line drive rate last year was a solid 17.3% (19.6% in ’08), but his BABIP nevertheless was a high .312, an increase over his 2008 BABIP of .276. He’s always been a ground ball pitcher. His ERA stayed about the same in ’09, at 2.74, and his FIP decreased for the 4th straight year to a stellar 2.46 (Better than Joe Nathan’s). ’09 was also his best year in terms of strikeout rate (10.82/9). So if Bobby Jenks struggles much coming back from his season ending calf pull last year, Thornton should get every opportunity to replace Big Bob, as he is already the better pitcher.

https://i0.wp.com/marinerds.com/pictures/042406/soxbullpen.JPG

Hey I just established a new career high in k rate at the age of 33. Who wants HGH?

Octavio Dotel – As someone who has struck out 940 men in 770.1 innings during his career, Dotel should have had a more successful career. Injuries and a persistently high walk rate (5.20 last year) have kept him from being a storied closer. Regardless, he did strike out 10.82/9 last year, and limited his hits as well on the way to a tidy 3.32 ERA. However, of the relief pitchers for the Sox, only Dotel and Jenks had ERAs lower than their FIPs; an indicator of good fortune. Given the Sox dismal defense, normal luck should produce pitchers with ERAs higher than their FIPs. In other words, Dotel can’t keep walking more than 5 guys per 9 as he ascends into his late 30’s; his strikeout rate can’t save him forever.

Tony Pena – He’s not a bad guy to have around, as he has demonstrated good control, a healthy strikeout rate, and has been plagued by a very high BABIP ever since his fine ’07 campaign with the Diamondbacks. He’s 27, and could certainly develop into a nice setup man in the near future.

Bobby Jenks – Another strange man, Jenks has remained quite fat since he burst on the scene in 2005. Back then, his fastball averaged a robust 97 MPH. Last season it stood at 94.8. That’s a decent difference, and could factor into Jenks’ now middling strikeout rate. His FIP last season stood at 4.47, a far cry from his glory days of ’05-’07 when he posted FIPs of 2.69, 3.20 and 2.56, respectively. In ’09, Jenks also posted his worst ground ball rate since ’05, on the way to giving up a career high 9 home runs. He may be on decline, but a pulled calf doesn’t generally end careers, and Jenks is still just 28. He has the closer’s job until further notice, but obviously the Sox have a few good options to replace him if need be.

https://i0.wp.com/blogs.suntimes.com/whitesox/bigbadbobby1.jpg

Faaaaaaat.

And through all of this, what I can gather is that Sox fans are in for another 90/80 win season. It really depends on whether the offense underperforms or if it  lives up to its upside with (Particularly with regards to Quentin, Rios and Beckham, although Konerko and Pierzynski need to prove they aren’t in the midst of serious decay at their age). Because the pitching side looks good, especially the starting staff.

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