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White Sox Analysis

Updated: 2015-09-16T15:13:31.278-07:00


The End


This is a sad day. I am officially declaring this blog dead. I decided that it was too difficult to motivate myself to write long winded analysis of the White Sox on a regular basis (as evidenced by the fact that this is the first post of 2006). In an effort to blog more often I have started a new, quite different blog with much broader content. Feel free to pop on over to and take a peak. I will leave this blog as long as blogger allows me in case anyone has interest in the old content and to leave open the (remote) possibility of reviving it sometime in the future. I am extremely grateful to anyone who ever read one of the entries in this blog. Thank you.

An Unexpected Interruption


It would be incredibly easy for me to analyze this trade to the point of excess. Aside from a few brief comments about Javier Vazquez and a discussion of the money changing hands in the deal, I intend to spend this entry explaining why over the last several months I informed the Sox fans I hold dear that 1) Chris Young had become my favorite White Sox player 2) I could tolerate virtually any move Kenny Williams made over the offseason as long as he did not deal Chris Young 3) Chris Young is an elite prospect who should not be lumped together with Brian Anderson, Chris Owens, and Ryan Sweeney despite the fact that all four players are worthwhile prospects.When the Yankees traded for Vazquez and signed the righthander to an extension in 2004, I considered the move a major coup. The Yanks had apparently locked up one of the five or ten best starters in baseball at the ripe age of 27. As everyone knows, Vazquez imploded after the All Star Break in '04 and had a mediocre ERA and W-L record in 2005. The good news is that Vazquez improved to sport a stellar 4:1 K/BB rate last season. The bad news as pointed out by many, including BP's Nate Silver via Jonah Kerri, is that Vazquez has averaged a terrifying 34 home runs allowed the past two seasons and is now moving to the park which has produced the second most home runs in baseball over the past two seasons. Most likely, the fact that Vazquez pitched better than his ERA and record last season will be cancelled out by the fact that The Cell will detrimental his production, and we will see a performance along the lines of his 2005 season.Immediately after the trade was announce, I read the amount of money sent from the D-Backs to the Sox in the trade rumored at $3 million (by the AP), $5 million (by the Chicago Tribune), and $8 million (by USA Today). Well the deal finally became official this week and the actual dollar figure ended up being $4 million. A good deal of the analysis I have seen from White Sox fans regarding this trade suggests the fact that Arizona is paying some of Vazquez's salary is one of several factors that makes this deal a success for the White Sox. I do not understand this logic for a second.While $20 million for two years is not a bad deal for a good number three starter, especially in baseball's current economic climate, this is due to the number of years remaining on the contract and not Vazquez's annual salary. While Vazquez has a good shot of outperforming Toronto's $11 million per season man, A.J. Burnett, I am not so sure he will perform far better than Paul Byrd ($14.5 million for two years), Matt Morris (3 years, $27 million), or even Esteban Loiza (3 years, $21.4 million) even though I believe Vazquez to be the best of that group. Consistent with Jerry Reinsdorf's prudent unwillingness to sign pitchers, the best part of Vazquez's deal is that there are only two guaranteed years remaining on his contract, so that if he has flashbacks to the second half of '04 or goes under the knife (knock on wood) the club will be able to avoid reliving the Jamie Navarro saga all over again.What blows my mind most of all though, is that people are singing the praises of this trade due to the cash included when in reality the Sox will be paying Vazquez more money per season than the Diamondbacks would have had they held onto Vazquez! When the Yankees shipped Vazquez to Arizona, they sent $9 million dollars in the trade meaning that Vazquez's salary was lowered from $36 million over three years to $27 million over three years, in other words $9 million per season. Well, the Diamondbacks theoretically put one third of that money towards paying Vazquez's salary in 2005, leaving $6 million to put towards his salary in 2006 and 2007. $4 million of this money was shipped to the White Sox while $2 million was apparently pocketed by the D-Backs for other purposes. In short, taking into consideration the money Arizona received to pay Vazquez's salary a year ago, the Sox actually paid the Diamond Backs $2 million dollars to acquire Vazquez. That'[...]



Five months without an update has clearly robbed this space of the minimal legitimacy it once possessed. That is without evening mentioning the fact that by far the most historic White Sox moment in my lifetime occurred during that time span. Much like a cheating husband crawling back to his wife for the upteenth time, I refuse to promise things will be different from here on out because past experience emphatically suggests otherwise. However, I will state that I sincerely hope to update the blog with more frequency and that I fully expect to have more free time to discuss the World Champions in the near future.I would be remiss if I did not spend this rare entry discussing the most momentous White Sox transaction since at least the Scott Podsednik for Carlos Lee deal last offseason. In what is perhaps an attempt to be more diplomatic in my assessment of Kenny Williams' moves, I will proceed to address both the good and bad aspects of this trade. While, as usual, I have substantial concerns about this trade, there several highly admirable qualities of this maneuver for which Williams must be congratulated.The Good:1) Jim Thome has been a tremendous player throughout his career. It is highly encouraging to know that Williams appreciates Thome's skill set. With all the talk of small ball, grinders, and speed last season it is a massive relief that Kenny was able to both identify and properly value the club's weakness and Thome's strength: the ability to work the count. Overemphasizing Thome's strikeouts and mediocre batting average demonstrates an intense inability to read between the lines and understand the finer points of the game. Thome's career .408 on base percentage and .556 slugging percentage speak for themselves and leave no doubt the man has been one of the four or five best hitters in the game over the last decade. Admittedly, the gamble here is Thome's ability to bounce back from a trying, injury plagued season at age 35. Regardless of the outcome, however, the fact that Williams has displayed a genuine appreciation of his game is important.2) Convincing a team to pay a player over 20 million dollars to be a member of a different team is highly impressive. Obtaining half a player's salary is a major feat even when you're dealing with someone like Mike Hampton who had completely imploded when the Rockies moved him. Securing such major cash considerations for a player like Thome who is only one season removed from greatness is truly a thing of beauty.3) The key to repeating is understanding a World Series trophy in no way enhances a team's odds of winning games the next season. Certainly retaining talent from a championship club elevates the Sox's chances of winning well above those of the Devil Rays and Pirates of the world. However, the belief that the team is the favorite or even one of the top three of four contenders to win it all in '06 due simply to the hardware the players are now sporting can only serve to hurt the team. Like every other World Series victor before them, the White Sox would not have ended up on top without considerable luck. Immediately jumping to the conclusion that the organization would not benefit from change can only lead to failure because receiving identical baseball bounces in consecutive seasons is close to impossible. Winning the series does not mean the team lacked weaknesses or that there were not critical lessons to be learned from the team's performance throughout the season. As countless professional baseball writers have acknowledged before me, Williams' desire to improve the World Champions speaks volumes. While I believe his fearless aggressiveness has proven rash in the past, this eagerness to improve the roster figures to be highly effective with a roster full of "proven winners", many who have likely become overvalued at this point in time.The Bad:1) The White Sox parted with the organization's top two pitching prospects in a trade for a player the Phillies wanted to move so badly that they were willing to pay h[...]

Here we go again?


According to the Chicago Tribune, Kenny Williams is willing to deal Brandon McCarthy and Damaso Marte for A.J. Burnett provided the club is allowed a 72 hour window to resign Burnett. This is a deal largely similar to the Freddy Garcia trade I detailed in my last two entries. My mantra remains more or less the same in this case. A 72 hour window to resign Burnett is nice but it doesn't mean he will sign for peanuts, he and his agent will still demand at least 8 million dollars a year which is not chump change. I'm all about Jerry Reinsdorf adding more payroll but a starting rotation with Buehrle making 7.75 million, Garcia making 9 million, Contreras making 7 million (?), El Duque making 4 million, and Garland well on his way to 20 wins and arbitration eligible (figure at least 5 or 6 million) is a very expensive rotation. The reason I scoff at the 72 hour window a bit is that somewhat like the Garcia deal there's absolutely no reason to believe the Sox would have a better chance of signing Burnett in the 72 hour window than they would in the off season. In fact, you could argue that with such a limited amount of time the club's odds of signing Burnett are actually worse.My two largest problems are the fact that I don't think another starting pitcher is particularly valuable to the club at this point and that trading McCarthy for a rent a player is a considerable mistake. I said in my last entry that I don't believe dealing a top 10 prospect for a rent a player is ever an acceptable move and in response to a comment authored by Flight I wrote that I believe trading a top 30 prospect for a rent a player is borderline disastrous. Brandon McCarthy may not be a top ten prospect at this point but he's certainly a top 30 prospect. He's no doubt had a disappointing season evidenced by several disastrous starts with the big league club. However, we're still talking about a pitcher who reached AAA at a very young age (21), most likely would not have spend the season in Charlotte and the big leagues if not for an outstanding spring which earned him universal praise, and only has one legitimate flaw (allowing the long ball). I'll be the first to admit, allowing 22 home runs in 122.2 innings is terrifying but Charlotte (and the Cell for that matter) is a band box, McCarthy is still very young, he'd only pitched 4 games above A ball prior to this season, and his K/BB ratio is an outstanding 111/30 this season. Barring injury (which is a significant concern for a young pitcher) this kid should be a very solid major leaguer at the worst.A huge problem here is that the Sox don't have much use for another starter. First of all, adding another starter presumably means the club will be paying a pitcher at least four million dollars to pitch long relief which is mind boggling for a club that is by no means the Yankees or Red Sox in terms of payroll. The most important consideration is that with the second best team ERA in baseball, how much value could a starting pitcher - even one of Burnett's caliber - actually add to the team? The team's worst starter is Hernandez but apparently now healthy and tossing a solid 6.2 IP 2 ER tonight, he really doesn't appear to be much of a liability at this point. I'm not a Jose Contreras fan by any means but with a 4.34 ERA it's hard to argue he isn't a capable fourth starter and therefore belongs in the pen. My concern is that an additional starter will be of little to no value to the club for the duration of the season under the team's current circumstances. With a 11.5 game lead and a .529 third order win percentage , BP's Postseason Odd's report pegs the ChiSox with over a 95% chance of reaching the playoffs through 5/22. That suggests that virtually no player the Sox could add between now and the trade deadline will substantially increase the team's chances of reaching the postseason since a playoff birth is more or less guaranteed.It seems unlikely that an additional starter is going to have any large effect on the tea[...]

Part 2


As promised, today I am returning to discuss the players received by the White Sox in last summer's trade with Seattle one year after the fact. For starters, Ben Davis seems to pretty clearly represent the most inconsequential player involved in the Sox-M's swap. Once regarded as a top catching prospect in San Diego's system, Davis' stock had dropped considerably by the time he was dealt to Seattle in 2002. This is however, not to say that Davis completely lacked value in his time with the Mariners. From his last season with the Padres in 2001 through 2004, Davis performed at a level similar to Miguel Olivo's previously discussed 2003 full season debut. Davis' performance was consistently above replacement level but with potential which dwindled each season and he eventually appeared best suited for a back up role. However, early last season, the Mariners came to the conclusion Davis was incapable of sticking with a Major League roster in any role, demoting him to AAA after a stretch of 33 horrific at bats to open the season. Davis remained at Tacoma until Kenny Williams freed him in the Garcia deal. With the Sox, Davis bounced back from his poor start and demotion to the minors but still continued the downward slide apparent ever since his final season with the Padres in '01 by putting up a homely .231/.276/.400 line. Still, while Davis clearly did not represent the everyday catcher some Sox fans naively described him as after a two week hot stretch in August, he was reasonably inexpensive and provided useful catching depth in light of Olivo's departure. The team stood to lose little from including Davis as part of the trade so with the exception of the highly unlikely event that he took the place of a player with legitimate potential or value, it is virtually impossible to condemn such a minor aspect of the deal. Ken Williams' decision to consider Davis for the club's starting catching vacancy and sign him to a million dollar deal this off season on the other hand represents a far less harmless move. However, that transaction occurred separate from the Garcia trade and Williams deserves quite a bit of slack for bravely reversing course and shipping Davis off to Charlotte in favor of A.J. Pierzynski and Chris Widger. All in all, aside from wasting a million dollars of payroll, acquiring Davis was harmful and in some ways resembles some of the low risk/high reward deals that have paid of for Williams in the past.While I stated earlier that Jeremy Reed has always been the key to the trade for the Mariners, the same applies tenfold to Garcia's presence in the deal for the Sox since he is the only significant piece the team acquired in the move. I find it important to first state the obvious: Freddy Garcia was a far better pitcher than any other pitcher the White Sox could have reasonably managed to acquire last season and substantially improved the strength of the pitching staff. The key to examining the trade from the Sox end is answering the immensely difficult question of whether or not Garcia has improved the club enough to justify the young talent the organization relinquished.One difficulty in weighing the costs and benefits of the Garcia trade for the White Sox is determining exactly how much of the value Garcia generates in a Sox uniform should be considered a direct result of the trade. While Freddy has no doubt been a major piece of this season's enormously successful 62-29 team, the White Sox traded Reed, Olivo, and Morse for Davis and Freddy Garcia at a point during which Garcia was signed only through the duration of the season. The three year $27 million extension the right hander reach with the team represents a separate transaction which followed weeks later. Considering the idea that the extension is in fact a separate move, a major point of contention is - had the trade never happened, could the three year deal with Garcia still have occurred a few months later in the off season? Since Garcia mere[...]

The Freddy Garcia Trade One Year Later


I stumbled across an old comment posted by my old WSI friend Flight regarding the purported success of the Freddy Garcia acquisition which altered the direction of the franchise last summer and decided to write a series of blog entries reexamining the move. At the time of the trade and in the following months I was extremely outspoken in opposition of the deal, creating dissension which eventually led to my partially voluntary exile from WSI. My criticism of the trade centered around the following issues 1) Jeremy Reed should have been untouchable. While no player is actually untouchable (certainly Reed should have been available for Mark Prior or Joe Mauer) I held the opinion that due to Reed's status as one of the 5 or so top prospects in the game (Baseball Prospectus rated Reed baseball's second best prospect behind Mauer heading into the 2004 season) and readiness to play at the major league level it was unacceptable to peddle Reed in a standard deadline deal. Including Olivo in the deal who was hitting .270/.316/.496 at the time meant the Sox were trading away two future starters and quite possibly two future all-stars for that matter. While Michael Morse did not appear to have a future as bright as Reed and Olivo it seemed unnecessary to include him as a throw in. In short, I believed the team parted with too much young talent and my hopes of transitioning to a young team centered around Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Reed, and Olivo were dashed. 2) The club further overpaid by dealing for Garcia at the peak of his value and paying for a top of the rotation starter when Garcia would more closely represent a number two starter once he left the cavernous dimensions of Safeco Field and regressed to his career norms. 3) By trading two and possibly three future fixtures in the lineup for a pitcher signed only through the remainder of the season, the Sox took on too large of a risk. Unless the team won the World Series the entire deal would be for naught as Garcia could have just as easily been signed in the off season for the price of a first round draft pick (who turned out to be Lance Broadway) at the absolute most. The best approach to winning a World Series is to build a strong team with relatively young, inexpensive players tied into long term deals who will be in contention every season barring catastrophe. Since five and seven game playoff series are largely based on luck, going all out in an attempt to succeed in the playoffs in one season is a dicey proposition because even if one assembles the best team, the odds of winning it all are slim. The greatest odds of winning the World Series can be obtained by making the playoffs as often as possible with a very good team as opposed to making the playoffs once with a great team. I will discuss each of the three different accusations I leveled at Kenny Williams in separate entries beginning today with analysis of the three players the Sox sent to Seattle.I have no doubt that at this point it would be highly embarrassing to go back and read some of the posts I made at WSI praising Miguel Olivo at the time of the deal. To state that Olivo has been dreadful for Seattle since the trade would be an understatement of epic proportions. Furthermore, Olivo somehow seems to continue to play worse and worse all the time. He's already seen time at AAA Tacoma this season and at his current rate he will be auctioning off Richie Sexson autographed baseballs on EBay for a living in no time. The inclination is to say that Miggy's 2004 performance for the Sox was simply a fluke bolstered by a few weeks of blistering hitting towards the beginning of the season. Still, Olivo has not even sniffed his unappealing yet far from worthless, above replacement level numbers of .237/.287/.360 from 2003. This seems to be a situation where some unforeseen and drastic mental, physical, or skill level deterioration renders a player a complete shell of his former self ([...]

Prospect Hot List


Two months since a post. Yikes. My apologies.With the All-Star Break approaching, I want to take a look at some of the most exciting and surprising performances by White Sox minor leaguers this season. The list is not intended to be a top prospects list but instead simlar to Baseball America's Prospect Hot List. While Brandon McCarthy no doubt remains the club's best prospect, his performance has been undeniably disappointing this season so he won't find a spot on the list.1. Chris YoungFor a 21 year old skipping advanced A ball, Young's performance has been nothing short of brilliant. His numbers may not stand out at first glance but his plate discipline and spectacular power elevate what are otherwise so so numbers. Young has walked 42 times in 366 plate appearances putting him on pace for around 80 free passes over the course of a 162 game season. Perhaps most impressive are the extra base hits Young's bat has yielded. While most can recognize that a .525 slugging percentage is an indication of good power, Young's slugging percentage is astounding when examined in context. Slugging percentage is calculated by dividing total bases by at bats, meaning the ability to hit for average contributes substantially to a player's slugging percentage. Pure power can be measured more accurately by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage to create a statistic referred to as isolated power (ISO). So while Moises Alou is slugging over .500 on the season (.514 to be exact) his .321 batting average heavily contributes to that figure. A whopping ISO of .267 tells us that Young is hitting for far more power relative to his number of hits than someone like Alou (.193 ISO). An ISO above .200 is considered excellent so Young is more or less off the charts if not quite in Adam Dunn (.315 ISO in 2005) or Barry Bonds (a mind blowing .311 over the course of his career) territory. To further understand Young's potency at the plate, consider the fact that of his 81 hits 48 have been for extra bases and Young has hit just three fewer doubles than singles! Combine this power with strong plate discipline, youth, speed (15 stolen bases in 19 attempts), purportedly outstanding athleticism, and the ability to play a defense oriented position (center field) and Young should have a very bright future in the organization.2. Gio Gonzalez94 strikeouts against just 22 walks with only 5 home runs allowed in 66.1 innings and a promotion to High A at 19, need I say more? Pray for continued good health.3. Charles HaegerHaeger exploded out of nowhere to post a 3.20 ERA at Winston Salem and earn a promotion to Birmingham at the tender age of 21. Believe it or not Haeger, drafted out of a Michigan high school in the 25th round of the 2001 draft as a 17 year old, actually quit baseball in 2003 on the heels of two unimpressive seasons in rookie ball. In 2004 Haeger returned to the organization armed with the decision to rediscover his old friend, the knuckleball. Haeger was hardly dominant in Bristol last season but seems to become comfortable with the pitch this year, baffling hitters with the knuckler and a mid 80s fastball. While Charlie's 75/45 K/BB rate is nothing to drool over, knuckle ball pitchers are the rare breed of pitcher able to limit the number of hits allowed on balls in play and can therefore succeed with tepid strikeout rates. Furthermore knuckle balls are extremely difficult to hit for home runs as evidenced by the fact that Haeger has allowed just 3 (!) long balls in 101.2 innings. Sabermetricians have theorized that since it takes most knucklers until their mid to late 20s to master the pitch and reach the show, the ability of a pitcher as young as Haeger to advance to the high minors is remarkable and suggests a high ceiling. The community is slightly less willing to embrace this logic after the theory's poster boy Charlie Zink (who oddly enough shares Haeger's surname)[...]



The e-mail I sent BP's Joe Sheehan in response to his AL Central Preview:


I get the impression you may have received a barrage of angry e-mails from White Sox fans in response to your AL Central preview the other day. As opposed to casual baseball fans stumbling across your column, like most devout BP readers, I agree that the White Sox off season was not successful and that the team does not figure to contend late in the season without catching quite a few breaks. However, I felt the need to voice my disagreement on a few specific points in the article.

Clearly, Frank Thomas suffered yet another serious injury last season. BP 2005's contention that if Thomas' string of injuries persists his career may very likely be over before long. That said, while Will Caroll has yet to release his White Sox THR, I have not encountered any published speculation or notes in Under the Knife suggesting Thomas' most recent injury is career threatening. There are indications that Thomas' size and age could lead to further ankle/foot injuries which would threaten his career but the odds of suffering another injury prior to a May return seem slim. While I would struggle to strongly argue against the statement that Thomas is at risk of returning and sustaining another injury at some point in the season, suggesting there is a substantial possibility that Thomas will not return at all this season strikes me as highly speculative and at least midly irresponsible.

The aspect of the AL Central preview I struggle the most with is the assertion that Mark Buehrle is a "mid rotation innings guy". While agree with applying the sentiment to Freddy Garcia, lumping the two pitchers together is highly inappropriate. Buehrle has spent four full seasons in the majors and finished 9th, 11th, and 16th in VORP in three of those seasons and projects to finish 13th in 2005 according to PECOTA. Furthermore Buehrle is still only 26 and finds himself coming off a season in which he posted career bests in BB/9 and K/9 with a negligent increase in HR/9. If Buehrle is a mid rotation pitcher then there are extremely few pitchers who qualify as legitimate aces. Sadly, there's not a lot in the White Sox organization I will bend over backwards to defend in the dreadful Kenny Williams era. Arguing that Mark Buehrle is an elite pitcher is a cause I will take up any day of the week.

BP on stolen bases


Baseball Prospectus is stealing my ideas and writing better columns on them!! Haha. Seriously, if anyone found my analysis of the team's outlook on the basis in 2005 interesting, BP has a slightly more sophisticated take in the most recent White Sox triple play. I've had a pair of midterms this week but I should be back with a new entry next week, assuming I can come up with a decent topic to write about.

The Basepaths


In Sunday's Chicago Tribune, Bob Foltman writes an interesting piece on the White Sox' basestealing prowess and approach to baserunning in the upcoming season. Foltman discusses the club's high stolen base totals from the 90s and suggests that the club will need a large improvement from last season to represent a strong running team. I found the article highly disturbing due to the fact that at no point in the entire piece is the concept of stolen base success rate addressed. In fact the closest the article comes to discussing outs on the basepaths is this nauseating passage:Guillen wants his runners to be aggressive going from first to third on hits, and if that means they sometimes run the team out of innings, so be it. "That's fine with me because if you're afraid to make a mistake running the bases, you're not going to be aggressive enough," Guillen said. "I'll take the chance because in the long run, we'll have the [last] laugh."Rest assured, if the Sox run wild on the basepaths and find themselves running into outs 40% of the time, Ozzie Guillen will not be laughing this season unless the club benefits from a number of huge breaks to compensate for the baserunning blunders. For some time now, it has been well accepted in the sabermetric community that for a stolen base to increase a team's chance of scoring runs, a player must be successful roughly 75% of the time. Fans subscribing to more traditional baseball knowledge tend to scoff at this assertion for reasons I've never been able to completely understand. Even children in little league understand the concept that being thrown out on the basepaths costs the team scarce opportunities to score runs. Everyone should be able to agree that there is a point at which a player is caught stealing too frequently to render his stolen bases valuable. For those who consider the 75% figure to be arbitrary, Joe Sheehan wrote an outstanding article for Baseball Prospectus about a year ago that demonstrates the strength of the calculations based on run expectation and dispels the common misconception that intangibles such as distracting the pitcher are not accounted for in the calculations.Now, with the help of the always wonderful let's take a look at the Sox' potential to generate runs on the basepaths in 2005 compared to the teams of the 90s:YearSBCSSuccess Rate19901409060.9 %19911347464.4 %19921605773.7 %19931065765.0 %1994772774.0 %19951103973.8 %19961054171.9 %19971065267.1 %19981274673.4 %19991105068.8 %20001194273.9 %20011235967.6 %2002753170.8 %2003772972.6 %2004785160.5 %A few things stand out from table. First of all, despite Foltman's praise for the baserunning ability of the Sox clubs in the 90s, none of those teams scored substantially more runs through the act of stealing bases. While the clubs with success rates above 70 % certainly were not killing the team on the basepaths, the rate still falls below the 75 % break even point. As far as the current club's prognosis, while we have only the admittedly small sample size of one season, it appears Ozzie Guillen's aggressive approach towards baserunning is hurting the Sox' ability to score runs. The table suggests that Guillen inherited a power laden team with few stellar baserunners and encouraged them to run wild in 2004. While the team's number of stolen bases remained virtually the same as the past two seasons, the number of attempts increased, leading the club's success rate to plummet more than ten percentage points. Perhaps such a decrease should not come as a shock for a team managed by a man with a putrid 61 % success rate during his playing career.The optimistic outlook on the Sox' ability to steal bases this season states that Guillen now has the proper personnel to fit into his baserunning philosophy and the team will therefore be more succe[...]

Random Notes


First of all, congratulations to Brandon McCarthy and Brian Anderson for nabbing spots 23 and 32 respectively on Baseball Prospectus' Top 50 Prospects list. Ryan Sweeney also added an impressive nod as the favorite outfield prospect of BP's prospect guru Rany Jazayerli during the site's outfield prospect roundtable.

Today's interesting bit of news regards Willie Harris' prospects of making the roster as the Sox' utility infielder. The Chicago Tribune states:

Guillen wasn't sure about having Harris take ground balls at short to add to his versatility. Harris played some shortstop in Double-A and also can play center field.

"It's not easy moving from one position to another, especially shortstop," Guillen said. "He had some innings there but I don't know that he can play shortstop that quickly at this level."

It's assumed Harris is going to be shopped this spring, but the Sox may want to wait and see how Iguchi looks when the games start. Plus, Harris' speed would seem to fit Guillen's style.

The bottom line is that while Harris has limited experience playing shortstop, he is not completely green at the position and appears to clearly represent the club's best option as a utility infielder at this point in time. Harris' would be a valuable asset as a pinch runner, has demonstrated strong on base skills despite his lack of power, and would presumably make up for minimal defensive lapses at shortstop with the versatility of being able to play any outfield position. If Harris proves himself completely unable to handle SS in spring training, the trading block seems like a reasonable option. Otherwise, Harris should be given the hardest look of any player on the roster at the utility infielder spot this spring.

A New Format

2005-02-21T17:10:46.733-08:00 the event I still have any readers remaining, one might notice this is my first entry in two months. Sadly this phenomenon cannot be explained by a lack of White Sox news as both Tadahito Iguchi and A.J. Pierzynski were signed during that span. My explanation (aside from the nightmares generated by the thought of attempting to spell the names of those two players) is sadly mere general laziness. In an attempt to rediscover my original intent in creating this space, I am hoping that writing shorter, less expansive analysis will make writing these entries more fun and less daunting. Hopefully what will be lacking in the length of the entries will be made up for in the frequency with which I post. Here goes nothing:

The Daily Southtown and a number of other sources are reporting that at this point in time the Sox are leaning towards moving Aaron Rowand to left and leaving Scott Podsednik in center field as a means of keeping Rowand healthy. The timing of the report is somewhat odd, considering that Rowand played in 140 games last season - the second most of his career - and as far as I can tell did not miss a single game to injury. The club's concerns about Rowand's health presumably stem from the fact that he has a reputation for playing with reckless abandon, earning the nickname "Crash" due to a propensity to collide with the outfield walls. The reality of the situation though is that apart from missing a handful of games after slamming into the wall on a highlight reel grab in '01, Rowand has never missed substantial time due to injury and has never landed on the DL. The only serious injury Rowand has experienced while in the organization was a non-baseball injury, his dirt bike accident in the 2002 offseason. Furthermore, there are outfield walls to crash into in left field as well as center field. The unique health benefits of a move to left are almost completely lost on me.

As I noted in my previous entry on the club's outfield defense, he downside to selecting Podsednik and not Rowand as the team's center fielder is considerable. BaseballProspectus' metrics rate Rowand as slightly above average in '04 while rating Podsednik below average in his two full seasons. Perhaps more importantly, as noted in the Southtown article Rowand had more outfield assists last season and conventional wisdom suggests a strong arm is more important in center field than left field.

Thoughts On Outfield Defense


The conventional wisdom spewed forth from the mouth of Ken Williams states that by swapping Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik and adding Jermaine Dye in right field the White Sox will follow through on promises of improved pitching and defense with vastly superior outfield defense in 2005. Considering the effort I've invested in finding some upside to the Lee-Podsednik swap beyond an additional $6 million in payroll, $4 million of which has already been invested in Orlando Hernandez, I would love to believe that the team has replaced an outfield of plodding sluggers with tremendous athletes who will routinely race to the gaps to catch balls which previously would have dropped for doubles. Unfortunately, the available data suggests that the purported improvements in the club's outfield defense for 2005 are overblown at best. The majority of the misconceptions about the White Sox outfield defense seem to stem from flawed perceptions of Carlos Lee's play in left field. Sox lore states that Lee was an absolute butcher in left for his first several Major League seasons after making the move from third base just prior to his debut. In spring training in '03 Lee was reported to have spent considerable time on his fielding with then manager Jerry Manuel and the coaching staff. During the '03 season, it became accepted that Lee had improved his fielding and reached the skill level of an average or slightly below average left fielder. The numbers tell a somewhat different story. Clay Davenport's fielding statistics at do demonstrate Lee struggling as an above average fielder his first three seasons before improving to average in 2002 and 2003. However, in a development which may shock many Sox fans, Davenport's numbers peg Lee at a spectacular 13 runs (or more than a game) better than the average left fielder in 2004. Michael Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) more or less confirms BPs findings through '03 rating Lee as slightly above average in range. It will be highly interesting to see if the UZR numbers incorporating '04 reflect the same leap in performance as BP's figures. Perhaps most illustrative of Carlos' underrated defense however is the writing of Tom Tippett at Diamond Mind baseball, most likely the first to stumble upon Lee's success in the field. Examining the gold glove races in the 2003 season Tippet wrote: There are several other AL outfielders who might be worthy of consideration if not for the presence of these three guys. Among the corner outfielders we noticed are Winn, Garrett Anderson, and (believe it or not) Carlos Lee. I'm sure that last name will come as a surprise to many of you. It came as a big surprise to us, too, because Lee has a reputation as a defensive liability and has been removed for defensive purposes more often than any other fielder in recent years. As a result, we spent a lot of time studying his performance, and here's what we found: - Lee stole 18 bases in 22 tries this year, and his career totals are 53 steals and a 72% success rate, so he does have some speed - according to our analysis, Lee had no weak spots ... he was at or above the league average in all zones and depths ... and while he hasn't been this good before, he was slightly above average in 2001 and 2002, so this type of performance isn't as much of a reach as you might think - other systems place him in the top half ... he was 24 points above average in the STATS zone rating system, and his range factor and adjusted range factor were both a little better than average - the defensive replacements are easy to explain ... he was being replaced by two exceptional fielders, Aaron Rowand and Willie Harris, so even though Lee was getting the job done, these guys we[...]

Five For Fighting


Something amazing happened today: Kenny Williams made a solid baseball move. First, let's address the negatives. Orlando Hernandez is old, he is injury prone, and $4 million dollars is a large sum of money for a "fifth starter". Rumors have persisted for years now that El Duque may be closer to 45 than his listed age of 35. Clearly, we are looking at a pitcher on the downside of his career capable of missing quite a few starts the next two seasons despite a salary which would have netted Miguel Bautista or Mark Redman last offseason. However, it has become evident over the last few weeks that this is not last offseason. Contracts for starting pitchers in particular have spiraled out of control and at some point one simply has to accept that the only alternative to overpaying for pitching is working out a trade or perhaps forgoing pitcher in favor of adding more offense. With the club's sights set on adding more pitching, acquiring a fifth starter via free agency was clearly the White Sox best option as Jason Grilli is a tremendous liability in the starting rotation and Williams is a tremendous liability in trade negotiations, especially with one of the game's top pitching prospects down on the farm.

The good news is that Hernandez is still a very good pitcher. After returning from rotator cuff surgery last season, El Duque posted healthy strikeout and walk rates for a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Perhaps more imporantly, he was stingy with the long ball for the second consecutive season after surrendering nearly 45 home runs in just 300 innings in '00 and '01. When healthy, Hernandez will easily be the team's third best starter behind Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia. Based on reports of fatigue late last season, using the fifth starter's spot to give Hernandez the occasional extra day or two of rest and ensuring Ozzie Guillen understands that Duque cannot go 110 pitches every game at this point in his career would be a good start towards preserving the pitcher's health.

Rumors Abound


Sometime last last night, rumors emerged that upon completion of the three way trade agreed to in principle by the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers the White Sox will acquire Javier Vazquez from Los Angeles. The intensity with which Kenny Williams has supposedly pursued Vazquez, a tremendous pitcher who is theoretically undervalued at this point in light of a poor second half for the Yankees, has both suprised and impressed me throughout the offseason. However, two somewhat problematic issues emerge in acquiring Vazquez. First, an average of $12 million dollars a year for three more seasons is a large sum of money to pay a pitcher coming off a down season. While earlier three way trade proposals involving the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and White Sox included cash from New York, the current three team deal includes Yankees prospects Dioner Navarro and Eric Duncan, precluding the inclusion of money to cover a portion of Vazquez's salary. The Dodgers do not figure to send money to the Sox in the event a trade for Vazquez is in fact consummated. $12 million dollars a season is not an unreasonable figure for a legitimate ace who figures to rebound in '05 particularly in light of some of the mind boggling signings this offseason. However, paying Tim Hudson $13 or 14 million dollars over the course of a three year deal next offseason would involve far less risk albeit less upside as well. The second complication with a trade for Vazquez is the talent the White Sox would be asked to surrender in return. Most print rumors have the Sox offering Paul Konerko, Jon Garland, and Damasso Marte in return for Vazquez. Needless to say, this would be a horrific deal for the White Sox. While moving Konerko and his $ 9.25 million dollar salary coming off of what figures to be the first baseman's best season is a sensible move, including Garland and Marte in the deal is overkill. Even if Vazquez replicates his best season with Montreal in a Sox uniform, using Baseball Prospectus' metrics, the team would be trading away a total of fourteen Wins Above Replacement (five a piece from Garland and Konerko, four from Marte) from '04 while receiving only nine or ten WARP in return. While Garland receives a lot of flak from White Sox fans for failing to develop into Kevin Brown, he has become an exceedingly valuable innings eater at the back of the rotation and once luck and park effects are factored into the equation, his dissapointing '04 season closely resembles his solid '03. Acquiring Vazquez at the expense of Garland while also plugging a sub replacement level Jason Grilli into the rotation and losing the team's most reliable hitter and reliever would decimate the Sox 2005 season. A second variation of the deal originating at and purportedly based on a report from WFAN 66 AM in New York includes only Konerko and prospects in return for Vazquez. A deal allowing the Sox to add Vazquez at a price of only Konerko and prospects is far more promising. While the team would still struggle to score runs while fielding perhaps the worst lineup in baseball, at two years younger than Konerko, a revitalized Vazquez figures to be of more value to the club over the next several seasons. The downside of this deal is Paul DePodesta acquiring prospects from Kenny Williams and the White Sox. Williams has shown an extreme willingness to part with prospects in return for veterans in recent seasons and DePo is bound to press for the inclusion of the unreal Brandon McCarthy in the deal. After cruising through the Sally League, the Carolina League, and concluding the season in AA while improving throughout the season and finishing with a ungodly 202 to 30 K/BB ra[...]



So amidst rumors of yet another White Sox trade and an inexplicable bout of insomnia that awakened me at 6 AM despite less than four hours of sleep, I've finally managed to create a "blog" where I can discuss White Sox baseball.

First, a brief note about how I got here: I spent the better part of the last couple seasons feverishly posting about the worth of various Sox players, transactions, potential transactions, the quality of the team's in game strategy, and hypothetical transactions I believed the team would be wise to pursue at Unfortunately, my performance based analysis and refusal to back down in debates got under the skin of a number of posters on the board. My disagreements with WSI's dominant faction eventually culminated in an ugly incident where I was temporarily banned for responding in kind to a moderator's sarcasm. Unwilling to accept the censureship of my opinions in light of the vast amount of time I already spent posting about baseball at WSI and extremely busy with school and my part time job, I retired from the world of baseball message boards in October.

While typing the above paragraph, I found myself engaging in the most pathetic form of internet drama. Whining about temporary banishment is in reality no better than whining about the fact that your internet girlfriend of two weeks cheated on you by participating in cyber sex with a random guy she met on Live Journal. However, while I promise never to engage in such behavior in the space again, my experiences at WSI are illustrative of what I hope to accomplish in this forum. Most importantly, I hope this space allows me the opportunity to analyze Sox moves in greater detail than national performance based analysts such as and While the analysis provided by these sites is tremendous and will certainly prove far more insightful than any perspective I can offer, with 30 teams to cover, discussion of White Sox transactions is often brief. Comparatively, with somewhat limited restrictions on my time, it is not out of the realm of possibility for me to post four or five entries on a single transaction over the course of a week when waranted. The recent string of White Sox transactions revealed to me that I might very well lose my mind without the opportunity to offer my opinion on the team's trades and signings (one discarded title I considered for the "blog" was "What did Kenny Williams do now?!").

Another lesson I've taken from my time at WSI is that I am no longer interested in painfully long debates over baseball. I highly encourage anyone who stumbles upon this web site to comment on my entries when criticism is warranted. I also hope to respond to any comments appearing on the site. However, I no longer have the patience to engage in nonstop, back and forth conflicts. If a disagreement with my opinions exists which cannot be resolved through a brief conversation, it will most likely never be resolved. Hopefully the absence of constant bickering will allow me to effectively communicate my thoughts on the White Sox in a fraction of the time I devoted to posting at WSI.

With these guildlines established, let's play ball! (I apologize for being far too weak to avoid the cringe-inducing cliche.)