Sunday, March 04, 2007

Preseason Preview: White Sox

The White Sox, another one of those "cursed" teams that had a monkey on their back since 1917 and the infamous "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, finally broke their World Series drought in 2005, leading everyone to be very afraid. I do believe that if the Cubs had won the Series in '06, the world would have ended, but fortunately, the Cards made sure that the third sign of the apocalypse didn't stack up just yet. Awww, how considerate of you, boys.

Let's examine the lay of the land on the South Side.

The Chicago White Sox

1. Mark Buehrle, LHP
2. Jon Garland, RHP
3. Jose Contreras, RHP
4. Javier Vasquez, RHP
5. Gavin Floyd, RHP

1. Bobby Jenks, RHP
2. David Aardsma, RHP
3. Boone Logan, RHP
4. Matt Thornton, LHP
5. Andrew Sisco, LHP
6. Mike MacDougal, RHP
7. Heath Phillips, LHP

1B Paul Konerko
2B Tadahito Iguchi
SS Juan Uribe
3B Joe Crede
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Darin Erstad
LF Scott Podsednik
C A.J. Pierzynski
DH Jim Thome

The 500 Word Rundown

It’s a testament to the strength of the top half of the AL Central when you consider that the White Sox won 90 games in their attempted title defense and still finished six out from the crown. They still have an offense that’s one of the best in the game, but their pitching has degraded. A glance at the names seems to stack them in prime position, but Mark Buehrle went 12-13 with a 4.99 ERA, Jose Contreras went 13-9/4.27, Javier Vasquez went 11-12/4.84, and Jon Garland won 18 games but was helped out substantially by their offensive thunder as his ERA was 4.51. That averages out to approximately a 4.65 ERA per pitcher, which is what you’d expect from a middling-to-low-end bullpen stopgap, but not from a pitching staff that’s been previously hailed as one of the best in the AL. If you contrast that with the Tigers, where almost every starter had an ERA below four, then there’s a stark difference. The pitchers will still win plenty of games, but only as long as their bats back them up, and if that doesn’t happen, their overall loss numbers could rise.

And as for that offense – one through nine, it is one of the most fearsome in baseball, with very few weaknesses. First baseman Paul Konerko posted a .313/35/113 line, backed up by DH Jim Thome (.289/42/109) and right fielder Jermaine Dye (.315/44/120). Third baseman Joe Crede continued to shine defensively while chipping in .283/30/94 for the cause. Even catcher and perpetual asshat A.J. Pierzynski hit close to .300 with 16 HR. This lineup is so scary that even second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, playing at a traditionally light-hitting position, went .281/18/67. Juan Uribe hit a lowly .235 but when he did get hold of the ball, he mashed it to the tune of 21 HR and 71 RBI. The Sox have amassed a lineup that could, and probably does, give a number of AL pitchers nightmares.

The lone exceptions in this monster’s row appear to be Scott Podsednik, who’s speedy (40 stolen bases) but utterly lacking in power (.261/3/45). The other exception is Darin Erstad. There seems to be some sort of love affair going on with him because he’s “gritty” and “plays the game the right way.” Let me set the record straight. Erstad is not “gritty” because he played football in college; he was a punter. And if playing the game the right way involves hitting .221 with 0 HR and 5 RBI last year, then my beloved baseball is unequivocally doomed. Erstad’s last good season was in 2000, when he hit .355 with 25 HR and 100 RBI for the Angels. From there, it’s been all downhill. If hitting 7-10 HR a year and driving in about 60 runs makes you a gritmeister superstar, then we’d have a lot more than we do. Erstad may have passion for the game. Commendable; a lot of players do, that’s why they devote their lives to playing and practicing every single day. But Erstad just isn’t, how shall we say this, good. By the end of the season, he will have taken up far too many at-bats and the South Side faithful will be sick of him.

I still see the White Sox finishing with a win total in the high-80s/low-90s, mainly thanks to that lethal batting order. But the pitchers aren’t as good, and the competition is too stiff. I don’t see them edging out both the Twins and the Tigers for another crown.

Projected Finish: 89-73, third place, AL Central

1 comment:

Shmorg said...

Randomly came across your blog. Great work, you really do your homework. I'm a huge STL cardinal fan. I grew up in STL and just moved to Buffalo where I am stuck with minor league baseball.
Keep up the great writing, I'll be back.