A Third Through
The baseball season is a little over 1/3 complete, and the White Sox are still in first place. Few people expected the White Sox to be in this position, and I'm no exception. I thought there was a good chance this season would be mediocre or even a disaster.
I wasn't a fan of the direction in which Ozzie Guillen and the team's management took to the offense during the offseason, and I'm still not a fan. But hey, as long as the wins come, I can grin and bear it.
Here's a comparison of Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projections for White Sox hitters this season to their actual numbers-to-date. I've kept this simple...I'm just trying to get a quick feel for who could improve/get worse over the next 100+ games.
|Player||PECOTA Projection||2005 Numbers-to-Date|
** -- Iguchi projection taken from this Harball Times article
Sample size caveats apply, especially with the last four guys in the table.
A few guys--Rowand, Scotty Pods, Iguchi--have been pretty much what has been expected of them. At this point, that Hardball Times projection for Iguchi deserves a kudos, as it has been almost dead-on. Just about everyone is underperforming their PECOTA projections, which isn't surprising considering how mediocre the offense has been this year. Pitching was the story in April, and it's the story now.
It's gotten to the point where I can't watch Joe Crede or Juan Uribe hit. Watching those guys hack like they're paid by the swing is painful. Just call my man Juan Uribe the Bassmaster, 'cause he's always going fishing. It's too bad Big Willie Style can't play shortstop, because I'd love to see him get some of Uribe's playing time.
Paul Konerko isn't hitting for average, but he's made that less important with an increase in his walk rate. His on-base percentage is acceptable despite his average, and compared to the other guys on the team, it's downright good.
The White Sox are 8th in the AL in runs scored, 10th in batting average, 9th in on-base percentage, and 8th in slugging. They lead the AL in stolen bases (that is, after all, the supposed key to the "multidimensional" offense this season), but have only been successful on 67% of their SB attempts. Scott Podsednik already has 28 bags, so he's well on pace to surpass the PECOTA projection of 41 steals.
What's funny is that the White Sox aren't even on pace to score as many runs as they were projected to score in this AL Central preview article, an article in which Joe Sheehan predicted the less-potent Sox would finish 20 games under .500. The difference of course is that Sheehan thought the Sox would allow 800+ runs while they're on pace to allow a little over 600 runs. That runs allowed prediction is looking downright laughable at this point.
Still, if any part of the roster is due for taking a step or two backwards, the pitching staff is it:
|Player||PECOTA Proj ERA||2005 ERA-to-Date|
All five starters are outperforming their projections, and so are several relievers. Luis Vizcaino and Shingo Takatsu have been terrible disappointments, but beyond that, everyone has been solid. The starters have gone deep almost every night. Jon Garland was brilliant in April, though he has had a more typical go of it in his last three starts (1-2).
Mark Buehrle continues to garner absolutely no respect from PECOTA, but that's okay. He outperformed his projection last year, and he'll do it again this year. The other guys...who knows.
Four starters boast low batting averages on balls-in-play (batting average against the pitcher, not including HRs or strikeouts). See what I mean here. Jose Contreras has the lowest BIPA in the American League (.210), so he's been lucky. The average BIPA is usually (don't quote me on this) around .300, I think. Anything significantly below that probably means that the pitcher is getting opposing batters to hit it at his defense more often than usual. That sort of thing can change at any time.
I've mentioned previously that Freddy Garcia's K-rate is down this year, yet his ERA is better than typical Freddy standards. In other words--low BIPA (15th lowest among AL pitchers).
Including today's win, Chicago is 13-11 since May 9th. They've been mostly treading water since their hot start, playing more like everyone thought they would. During one six game stretch in the last few weeks, the team never scored more than three runs in a game.
But Frank Thomas is back, and he's going to make the offense better. Well, if Ozzie Guillen keeps him in the lineup. Hopefully the offense will improve to match the pitching staff's impending decline, though I know better than to expect that.