Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

30 Teams: Chicago White Sox

By Mike Moritz

Switching over to the American League after starting with the NL for the first two Team-Posts, I'm gonna go ahead and write about one of my favorite teams. But the Chigcago White Sox are not my third favorite team for any peticular reason, they just are, I don't know why but I like them. They finshed second in the AL Central to the Minnesota Twins by six games and won 88.

The White Sox and GM Kenny Williams brought in a great signing in the four-year, $56 million deal that is bringing the powerful Adam Dunn and his 287 pound body frame to the South Side. Just like the White Sox are one my favorite teams, Dunn is one of my favorite players in the league. He gets on base at a rate that holds 131 points between his career batting average (.250) and OBP (.381). He sees consistanly sees over 4.00 P/PA and has never hit less 26 homers but is esstially a consistant 40 homer guy. O yeah, and he is amazingly durable. Look, I am not going to overlook his weird year last year. His walk rate was his lowest of his career (11.9%) and his strike out rate (35.7%) and his BABIP (.329) were his highest of career. His P/PA also dropped to 4.11 after averaging around 4.20 P/PA througout his career. And most notably, his O-Swing% was way off: 19.4% in 2009 and 28.5% in 2010. His Contact% also dropped to 68.2% with a career 71.1% mark. Definitely something weird is going on here. I will elaborate on this topic in a full post on him sometime before the season starts. But this is still a great sign, perhaps a little too much money for a DH.

The White Sox also brought back Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski but they let Andruw Jones head over to New York to join the Yanks. 

Gordan Beckham seems to be an interesting topic. He was former top prospect that had a nice rookie season in 2009 but hit a wall in 2010, his "sophomore slump". Personally, he isn't my favorite player; he has an unorthodox "pre-swing" where his look like they could be a little higher, does not see many pitches, not a very good batting average and OBP differential and really did not have a lot of time to prove himself in the minors, which more of an organizational mistake, at least in my opinion. He played in seven games in AAA.  I am kinda looking at the "sophomore slump" as a little bit of an unlucky season regarding his horrid start to the season, but he did turn it on later in the season by hitting .354 in July and .309 in August before going down for most of September with a hand injury. His ground ball rate in the last three months of the season was 40.3% which is right around his 2009 mark of 40.4% and from June to the end of the season, his fly ball rate was much better AND it kept getting better from there. He never posted below a 38% FB rate from June on. I predict a bounce back year, he is one year closer to his prime at the age of 24. I'm gonna go ahead and project over 40 doubles. His fly ball rate, as mentioned before, is on the rise but I think it is a little early for those fly balls to turn into homers. .270/.345/.500/.350, 15-20 homers and 40 doubles.

The White Sox pitching last year was good. Not amazing but certainly good. The team xFIP was 4.10 and the team ERA was 4.09. They lost closer Bobby Jenks this year (not that they were really inclined to bring him back even tough he had a 2.62 xFIP,  a career best) go to the Red Sox but it looks as though they more than filled in for him this season: they snagged both Jesse Crain and Will Ohman off the free agent market. Crain is on a three-year, $13 million contract and Ohman to a two-year, $4 million contract. They also have a stellar pitching prospect by the name of Chris Sale who is said to have a great future, I will hesitate to agree that he will be good right of the bat (no pun intended) because he only pitched 10.1 innings in the minors last year before getting to the majors for only about 23.1 innings. Sale has a very deceptive fastball due to his 3/4 arm slot that runs at about 93mph and also has an above average change-up (81-84mph) and a slider.

The pitching rotation is looking the same as last year except for the loss of Freddy Garcia:
1.) Mark Buehrle
2.) Jake Peavy
3.) John Danks
4.) Gavin Floyd 
5.) Edwin Jackson

That looks to be a very solid rotation. Obviously, Jake Peavy is a big question coming off surgery and has not pitched more than 107 innings in the last two seasons. Before his injury in 2010, he posted a 4.63 ERA and a 4.08 xFIP. I do not think Peavy will return to his previous, start-studded form. He will probably keep hitting the DL due his mechanical issues (he whips his arm back up after every pitch, instead of following through). So I am not that high on him anymore but he is still a solid pitcher. 

Brent Morel is the new third basemen for the Chi-Sox this season. Morel is 23 years old and showed that he can surely hit after hitting .320 between AA and AAA last season. He showed the ability to draw an average number of walks early in his pro career but that number dwindled to just 4% in AAA last season. He looks to be a guy to put up massive doubles numbers; he has 70 in the last two seasons. And even though he is going to hit all these doubles, he still looks to gave below average power, 10-15 homers. He is also known to be very smart on the base paths.

I think the fact that Adam Dunn will be the DH will brings a lot to the table for the White Sox (he is a terrible fielder (but he did post just a -3.1 UZR). Paul Konerko is not much of a better fielder though so there might be some problems over at first but no question in terms of the offensive production.

Chicago will once again be competing for a spot in October but I think that they will miss out again. The AL East is just too competitive plus the Athletics should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. 88 wins again this year is very realistic, I am gonna go with 90, though.

(Stats in courtesy of: espn.com, fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com)

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