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2006 Team Previews: Chicago White Sox, Positional Players

Make sure to check out the Royals portion of the AL Central Roundtable, over at Royals Review.

The 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox did not sit on their hands this offseason, which, considering the factors that led to their 2005 title, was a good thing for ChiSox fans. They had an incredible season, but excellent pitcher health, strong starting pitching, and exceptional defense (as well as an excellent record in one-run games) helped give the White Sox one of their most successful seasons in history. These are all things that you cannot simply hope to happen again (ask the 2005 Red Sox, who after wonderful health from their core starters in 2004, fell in the first round of the playoffs to these same White Sox).

  • Acquired
  • Jim Thome
  • Rob Mackowiak
  • Alex Cintron
  • Lost
  • Frank Thomas
  • Carl Everett
  • Aaron Rowand
  • Willie Harris
  • Timo Perez
Losing Rowand is certainly a blow defensively, although Rate doesn't necessarily like him. If Thome is capable of putting up even 75% of normal Thome numbers, then they certainly won't miss the overall runs, especially considering that he is replacing the below average Carl Everett at DH. Thomas would be a major blow to the offense, except he did not really contribute that much in 2005 anyways. Rob Mackowiak and Alex Cintron should be better utility players than Willie Harris and Timo Perez were, although Pablo Ozuna is still around.

The rules are the same as last time. I'm using Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA Cards in order to assess the projected AVG/OBP/SLG of the new players. I am also calculating positionally adjusted Net Runs Above Average. If you've read any of the previous team reviews posted here, or already are full of wonderful NRAA (and pNRAA) knowledge, feel free to skip down to the section labeled Catcher

NRAA of course measures offensive and defensive value together in rate or cumulative form, depending on whether or not I leave it in per 100 game form, or if it is adjusted for games played. The idea behind pNRAA is -- you guessed it -- to adjust for positional differences. My favorite example so far is Darin Erstad. Using the raw figures for Net Runs Above Average, Erstad is an above average combination of offense and defense. In fact, he is considered to be worth 2.51 NRAA per 100 games (which from now on, will not have a per 100 games after it; NRAA is in the per 100 game form). Using the positional adjustment, Erstad's value drops all the way to -9.90; first base was the position with the most offensive contribution in 2005, and Erstad's adjusted numbers suffer for that. In fact, if Erstad was a league average defensive player rather than 9 runs above average per 100 games, his pNRAA would be -18.90, which is to say in my Boston speak, "wicked awful". With results like this for various players, I really enjoy what pNRAA brings to the table analysis wise.

AVG/OBP/SLG will be used along with pNRAA (remember, per 100 game form) and pNRAA/GP (Games Played).

Catcher
2005: A.J. Pierzynski .257/.308/.420; +2.60 pNRAA; +3.32 pNRAA/GP

2006: A.J. Pierzynski .274/.315/.429; +6.17 pNRAA; +6.85 pNRAA/GP

Pierzynski is expected to raise his offensive contributions slightly, and considering downward trends of offense throughout the team reviews so far, that increase is more significant than the lines indicate by themselves. This is seen in the roughly 4 run increase in pNRAA. To show you that even more, his defense is expected to take a drop to league average, down from a Rate2 of 103 in 2005. Then again, a portion of his increased projection in comparison to last year could stem from his previous two successful years; I guess we'll know for sure after this season plays out.

First Base
2005: Paul Konerko .283/.375/.534; +14.70 pNRAA; +23.22 pNRAA/GP

2006: Paul Konerko .280/.362/.506; +9.09 pNRAA; +13.08 pNRAA/GP

How important was Paul Konerko to the 2005 Chicago White Sox offensive and defensive games? Take a look at this:

Konerko towers above the rest of the roster, and helps to offset the negative production of Everett and Iguchi. Adding Thome to the mix should certainly help.

That graph looks like a better 2006 is to come at first glance, until you notice that the range is only to 15 pNRAA/GP. The highs for the 2006 team aren't expected to be as high, but some of the lows have been removed from the equation, and adding Thome should certainly help add some more to that middle range. Konerko is a good signing for Chicago; if he had signed in Anaheim or elsewhere, the results would not be that pleasant, considering his problems hitting on the road in years other than 2005.

Second Base
2005: Tadahito Iguchi .278/.342/.438; -9.66 pNRAA; -13.04 pNRAA/GP

2006: Tadahito Iguchi .277/.341/.424; -2.05 pNRAA; -2.72 pNRAA/GP

Iguchi hits well for a second basemen. The problem is that Rate thinks he fields terribly. David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range had Iguchi somewhere in the middle of the second basemen in rating. David Gassko's Runs Above Average system from The Hardball Times annual says Iguchi is a few runs below average, -2.1 in 1171 innings. If he's as good as Pinto's system says he is, then he is useful considering his bat. If he is as poor as the DT Cards says he is, well then, he's just giving away runs.

Third Base
2005: Joe Crede .252/.303/.454; +3.37 pNRAA; +4.45 pNRAA/GP

2006: Joe Crede .259/.311/.447; -0.04 pNRAA; -0.05 pNRAA/GP

Crede's projection is down from 2005's season for one reason: his defensive statistics are all over the place over the past three years. He has had 0, -8, and +9 Fielding Runs Above Average the past three seasons, which accounts for the +2 expected in 2006. Gassko's numbers show he was above average last year, although not as much as Rate does. If he can contribute the same defensive skill as in 2005, you can expect a pNRAA closer to +7, rather than the slightly below average figure presented here.

Shortstop
2005: Juan Uribe .252/.301/.412; +0.07 pNRAA; +0.11 pNRAA/GP

2006: Juan Uribe .267/.315/.448; +9.46 pNRAA; +12.02 pNRAA/GP

The best defensive player on the team without argument now that Aaron Rowand has been traded. Uribe's defensive chops in 2005 are a large reason the pitching staff was so successful, although his bat is almost as much of a reason that the lineup was so plain. PECOTA expects a jump in offensive production, and his defense is expected to be stellar once again. If Iguchi is as bad as Rate says he is, then they certainly need the defensive help up the middle that Uribe brings. Interestingly enough, Uribe is expected to have the third best pNRAA of any of the Pale Hose, behind Thome and Konerko.

Left Field
2005: Scott Podsednik .290/.351/.349; -1.93 pNRAA; -2.49 pNRAA/GP

2006: Scott Podsednik .274/.336/.374; -6.97 pNRAA; -9.06 pNRAA/GP

Considering he is the leadoff hitter, and considering what we know about the value of OBP in the leadoff spot, an increase in slugging and a decrease in on-base percentage is not what the White Sox want from Pods, especially due to the ChiSox focusing slightly more on offense this year than last. Also, Podsednik for some reason is expected to drop from +11 FRAA to -1 FRAA, which is extremely significant. I honestly cannot explain why this is though; as a centerfielder was always below average, but he was very good in left in 2005. David Gassko has him ranked third among leftfielders, and David Pinto has him ranked 13th overall, but with positive contributions. It is possible PECOTA is wrong, or maybe it is turning into an evil cyborg program that can take over the world at will, much like the Calculando Calrissian 2000. If anyone reading understood that joke before they clicked on the link...honestly, I don't even know how to feel about that.

Center Field
2005: Aaron Rowand .270/.329/.407; +3.46 pNRAA; +5.43 pNRAA/GP

2006: Brian Anderson .269/.329/.468; +6.13 pNRAA; 6.62 pNRAA/GP

A defensive downgrade with the potential for a very good offensive upgrade. Anderson's weighted mean projection exceeds Rowand's 2005 production, the the mid-to-upper limits of his PECOTA projection are extremely appealing. The only negative I've heard in regards to Brian Anderson is that the Sox kept the wrong outfielder (trading Chris Young to the D'backs in the Javier Vazquez deal). Should be interesting to watch; John Sickels gave him a grade of B in his 2006 prospect book, while saying "Solid...productive...good but not great". Incase you are wondering, Chris Young received a grade of A-...

Right Field
2005: Jermaine Dye .274/.333/.512; +2.94 pNRAA; +4.26 pNRAA/GP

2006: Jermaine Dye .264/.327/.467; -0.53 pNRAA; -0.60 pNRAA/GP

Dye's 2005 season was one of my mistakes from last year. I'll be honest; I expected the A's to survive with Swisher in Oakland over Dye, expecting him to match his production, and I certainly did not expect a .274/.333/.512 line. That said, expecting Dye to surprise again is a mistake for Chicago this year. The minor league system does not really have an adequate replacemet for him as of yet; Ryan Sweeney is projected to hit poorly, and his defense is not quite there yet, although he has a strong arm, and he is a rightfielder. Midseason, rightfield is one of the positions that the White Sox may need to improve upon.

Designated Hitter
2005: Carl Everett .251/.311/.435; -13.09 pNRAA; -17.67 pNRAA/GP

2006: Jim Thome .263/.386/.505; +11.67 pNRAA; +9.22 pNRAA/GP

Jim Thome seems to be in good shape so far this season. The White Sox are going to need his bat in order to succeed in 2006, but simply outproducing Everett's dismal line would be an improvement. If Thome's multiple injury problems from last season don't surface, the White Sox have themselves quite the addition to their lineup, although they did trade a considerable amount for him.

Let's take a look at my guess for their expected lineup, as well as the lineup presented by the Lineup Analysis tool.

  1. Projected Lineup
  2. Podsednik
  3. Iguchi
  4. Konerko
  5. Thome
  6. Dye
  7. Pierzynski
  8. Anderson
  9. Crede
  10. Uribe
Most likely, I've made a mistake in that lineup, and it probably centers around Anderson's spot. This lineup is expected to score 5.126 runs per game, or 830 runs. Considering they only scored 741 runs in 2005, that would be a huge boost, although the defense is considerably less effective.

Using the Lineup Analyis tool, we get a lineup that is expected to score 5.216 RPG, or 845 runs on the season. Not a huge difference, but a difference nonetheless. This lineup would be extremely hard to push through, as Thome is expected to bat in the leadoff spot. This is the problem with a lineup full of OBP sinkholes and the approach taken with the Lineup Analysis tool.

  1. Lineup Analysis
  2. Thome
  3. Konerko
  4. Uribe
  5. Anderson
  6. Dye
  7. Pierzynski
  8. Iguchi
  9. Crede
  10. Podsednik
Well, at least Podsednik is considered the second leadoff hitter, right?

The White Sox should be able to compete for the division title in the central, but trying to pick the winner of one of the now most competitive in the game is going to be very interesting, and fun to watch. The Twins and Indians will certainly give them a run for their money, and I bet a healthy and growing Tigers team could help make it a four-way race.