One of the things we heard early in the year was how much better and faster the White Sox rebuild was, but I was always skeptical on that. People raved about how the Sox struck early in the process to get MLB ready talent like Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu (whom we'll have more on tomorrow) -- and somehow forgetting that the Cubs picked up Anthony Rizzo and Travis Wood, not to mention starters Luis Valbuena, David DeJesus, and Paul Maholm.
They raved about how the White Sox traded a closer and picked up a 3B prospect like Matt Davidson (.169 average and .559 OPS to start the year), but the Cubs were busy adding top 40 prospect Jorge Soler and parlaying free agents Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez into first round picks, which they used to pick up top 10 pitching prospects Paul Blackburn and Pierce Johnson.
Are the White Sox really building quicker than the Cubs? It certainly doesn't seem that way -- and when you take into account that the Cubs did tremendous work over the next couple of years to build a top 5 farm system with some of the best impact position player prospects in baseball, it would seem the White Sox have a lot of catching up to do to try and build the same long term outlook that the Cubs have now.
But what really got people's attention was the Sox fast start this year. They have since faded to 15-17 after a dramatic come from behind victory on a 3-run HR by Dayan Viciedo. Before that miracle win, they were staring into a 14-18 start, which is exactly the point they were last season after 32 games.
So let's not throw them too many bouquets yet.
What's more, the two teams have roughly the same run differential this season (Sox is -4, Cubs is -6) and roughly the same Pythagorean record (Sox 16-16 and Cubs 14-15).
But you could say it took the Sox to get to where the Cubs are in one year. Well, to that I say the two teams took very different approaches. The Cubs front office tore down much of what was here to start over. The Sox are still relying on key starters from last year, including Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, Adam Dunn, Chris Sale, Carlos Quintana, and John Danks.
A lot of their current key players were there already from a team that won 88 games just two years ago. The Sox didn't expect to be as bad as they were last year, but off years and injuries eventually led them to tank the last half of the season, something they did even better than the Cubs.
The Sox also have had the benefit of what are quick, but likely unsustainable starts. Alexei Ramirez has a .352 BABIP, which is 33 points higher than his career high which was set last season. Dayan Viciedo is at .383, 75 points higher than his previous career high in a full season. Tyler Flowers BABIP is at ,537! Tremendous start but ZiPS has him at .232/.308/.377 for the rest of the season.
All of this happened in April, which gives it high visibility, especially when contrasted with another slow Cubs start. It's easier to see a good start in April than a good few weeks somewhere in the middle of June.
So I really don't think the rebuilding plans should be judged by one month. I see one team still relying on players from a more successful season in the recent past while the other team had nothing to build on and sees it's future ahead of them in a still very young core and places like Iowa, Tennessee, Daytona, and Kane County.
The Cubs 2 main core players are 24 years old and with very sustainable BABIPs (Castro .323, 20 points lower than in his best seasons) and Anthony Rizzo (a league average .308). 27 year old Welington Castillo is high at .348 -- but he's always in that range, so maybe that's his norm at this stage in his career.
I am not saying the White Sox haven't done a nice job, because they have, especially given their resources and tradeable talent (or lack thereof). They turned the ship around and it's easy to envision them finishing around .500. I can see them continuing to add rather than tear down and rebuild because they have that luxury and that has been Kenny Williams m.o. since taking over.
But if you ask me whether I would choose the Cubs future or the Sox future, there isn't a doubt I'd pick the Cubs younger core and substantially better farm system as the better bet to have long term success -- and judging by the numbers this year (run differential, Pythagorean Record, Cubs just one game behind Sox in loss column), they're neck and neck with the Sox for short term success as well.
We can use this as a game thread as well, so here is the Cubs lineup against lefty Jose Quintana...
- Bonifacio CF
- Lake LF
- Rizzo 1B
- Castro SS
- Castillo C
- Schierholtz RF
- Olt 3B
- Barney 2B
- Jeff Samardzija, SP
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