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Comparing the Sox and Cubs rebuild: Both teams doing well, but I like Cubs long term -- and they're very close in the short term

Comparing the Sox and Cubs rebuild: Both teams doing well, but I like Cubs long term -- and they're very close in the short term

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...

  1. Bonifacio CF
  2. Lake LF
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Castro SS
  5. Castillo C
  6. Schierholtz RF
  7. Olt 3B
  8. Barney 2B
  9. Jeff Samardzija, SP

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  • For all the plaudits and hype that Jose Abreu has received this year, his OPS is .006 higher than Anthony Rizzo who is 3 years younger.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Yes, and Abreu's is very driven by HRs. Looks like it's the tool that will carry him.

    Article on those two tomorrow.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Looking forward to that article, good topic!

    Nothing against Abreu, but I would take Rizzo any day. Rizzo's approach this year has been phenominal; he will wear out the National League at this pace. Rizzo's success is much more sustainable, and not flukey.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    The league is also beginning to catch up to him. 1-21 before yesterday with 9 ks. Betweem him, Alexi Ram and Flowers, the Sux offense will likley fall closer to last years levels.

  • but the Sox are exciting!! :rolleyes

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Dramatic wins! They're so clutch!

  • It'd be really nice to have Abreu in our line up, duplicating Rizzo's OPS. He's only 26, right? Wasn't too expensive. So I'm wondering why Cubs did not go after him? This FO seems to be among the best in judging talent, but I assume they missed on this one.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Unless you are suggesting replacing arixzona with Abreu, I don't know where we would put him. In reality, the sox didn't have a place to put him either, but who wouldn't love to do a DH platoon?

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    In reply to TTP:

    Neither Abreu or Rizzo can play OF. The Cubs simply cannot play both of them, period. This is why we made no play.

    IIRC, Abreu grades as a pretty poor 1B, so an AL team where he can go DH if he really stinks there was the best fit. Of course, Rizzo is a plus defender at 1B.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Ooops. As you can now tell I NEVER watch the ChiSox -- although I'll watch them over the next four days.

    I thought Abreu played OF. My bad.

  • In reply to TTP:

    He is 27 as of Jan 29.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Where was he going to play. If you add Abreu's numbers, you lose Rizzo's. It's a wash.

    And Abreu is a DH playing 1B right now and will likely end up there soon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly....another point, both Puig and Cespedes had huge first months in the majors, followed by less stellar numbers after that. Fukudome too. Established IFA's have an initial advantage when they first show up, before teams get scouting reports on them.

    Abreu will be a productive slugger even with the adjustment, but I don't think superstar

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Good point.

  • I have Jose Abreu on my fantasy team so I'm glad he's doing well, but the league will catch up with him in due time. There is no comparing the Cubs top prospects with the Sux top prospects. When they start coming up the Cubs fortunes will start to turn around. The FO has to get a TOR pitcher this off season though.

  • In reply to lets go cubs:

    Agreed. Advanced scouting reports will catch up.

  • Given the choice between what the Cubs have both on the field in Wrigley now and coming up in the Farm over the next several years,..... and what the Sox have in that combo,....

    I'd pick the Cubs too. Although - regardless of whether it is sustainable through this year and into next - the Sox have been fun to watch this year judging by the comments made by my older brother who somehow inexplicably morphed into a Sox fan sometime in the 1980s-1990s (truth be told - he was a huge Frank Thomas fan, which probably contributed).

    The acid test will be - do the Sox or Cubs continue to progress next year, and through the continuation of this year?

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    Your points John are excellent....it's two different cases. The deep system talent is quite bare on the South Side. Erik Johnson and Marcus Semien were the only BA Top 100 prospects heading into this season, and they are both in the majors. There isn't alot coming up right now for them.

    Credit the Sox with getting more from '08 to '10 drafts, culimating with Chris Sale in 2010 (picked 3 spots ahead of Hayden Simpson). But their rebuild right now is a bit front-loaded, and I don't think they can sustain an improvement without opening their wallets more.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks and yes, I think things are aligning for the next 2-3 years, which is why I can see them go college arm in this year's draft.

  • I smelled the rat when I saw how "people," especially the local print media, treated treated the Davidson pick up versus Olt after his vision problems were correctly diagnosed and treated this offseason. In the real world, Davidson and Olt are comparable, i.e., they're both just highly-touted 3B prospects, we really don't know how either will pan out. But "people" treated the acquisition of Davidson as proof that the Sox rebuild was focused on today whereas the Cubs were still in tear-down mode. Meanwhile, Davidson is still in AAA and Olt is on the 25-man roster and playing at Wrigley.

  • I imagine if Adam Dunn played in Wrigley Field, he'd hit 40 home runs.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    He hit 40 HRs for the Sox in 2012 and the Cell is easier to hit homers in than Wrigley. So what is your point, do you want Dunn?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Did you know that the Cell has allowed more HRs than Wrigley in 10 of the last 11 years? Dunn is luck to be where he is.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe it's not the park, but the difference in power hitters in the two leagues. Who won the last World Series?

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Boston Red Sox won the last World Series.

    Oh-and if you're referring to the 2005 World Series-that is no longer a viable argument for Wsox fans. I looked it up-you only get to use that for 8 years. It's in the Unofficial Fan Argument Guide.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I think if you check the numbers you'll find that it doesn't make as much difference as you think. In fact, the last 2 years 4 of the top 6 HR parks were in the NL.

    And the WS argument has nothing to do with rebuilding the current teams.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    ... and cost the team 400 runs on defense in LF.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Ha! LOL. Great comment.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Dunn was DH much of the time.

  • The Sox have something that the Cubs don't have and that's a legitimate #1 starter in Sale. That is a great piece to build around. I like Shark but he's a number 2 or 3 until proven otherwise. I firmly believe that Theo has no qualms about paying big time money to retain Shark if he doesn't fade in the second half this year and pitches like a #1 for the whole season. Theo wants Shark to prove it. If Arrieta gets consistent and we retain Wood and Shark the Cubs potential for future success really speeds up

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    If Samrdzija proves himself an Ace then Theo/Jed might very well offer Shark a big contract but as far as the 2nd half of this year, whether he fades or not won't matter because he will be pitching for someone else. Shark has pretty much said in every way possible that e won't sign long term and Theo/Jed have all but said it's not going to happen unless something drastically changes. If Shark becomes an Ace wherever he goes, he has made it clear it's his "duty" to test the market and get as much as he can, so if the Cubs are up and coming contenders at that point then it might happen but he is a goner this trade deadline. Book it.

  • Why is Schierholtz starting against a left hander again? He hasn't even hit a right hander yet this year. At least Kalish could draw a walk against a lefty.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    My thoughts exactly.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Trade value? Maybe trying to establish him as an everyday player.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Somebody has to start against Lefties. Nate is in a slump, but safe to say he has a longer track record of hitting decently than Kalish does

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Could be...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bonifacio's fast. Couldn't he just play both center and right and bat twice?

  • sale is 150 pounds and has terrible mechanics. injured again. not going to build anything around that, he was best suited in the bulllpen as a + closer. the wear and tear are going to destroy his career and with those mechanics he's not going to last.

  • The White Sox have Chris Sale... Enough said... He's the ace Samardzija is yet to be and the Sox cab build around him or they can trade him for more than what the Cubs can get for Shark.

    In fact, it seems to me like the White Sox had more young pitchers ready to contribute this year, unlike the Cubs in 2012.

    That said, even if the White Sox win 75 games and thr Cubs win 70, you can't tell me that it means their rebuilding has been better.

  • In reply to Caps:

    If the Cubs trade Shark and the Sox traded Sale, the Cubs would still be in a better position, because what they have already in the minors is way beyond what the Sox have. Even with what they'd get for Sale, because the Cubs would also get some good pieces for Shark.

    The Sox might have had pitchers ready to contribute this year, but it hasn't helped them. They are ranked 28th in team ERA, while the Cubs are ranked 12th. Of course the Sox have a tremendous offense. Maybe we should just combine the two teams?

  • A nice counter to Tom Loxas' post on Insider about being jealous of the Sox. The Sox have always reminded me of the Bears, or at least hopefully the Angelo and before Bears. They were always building with the hope of catching lightning in a bottle. The Sox caught it in 2005, when their whole roster basically had career years. It came together perfectly, with the help of Ozzie. The Sox will probably be more exciting to watch this season, but they probably still won't make it to the playoffs. And maybe they won't next year either because they aren't building for sustained success and don't seem interested in doing it.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I actually didn't see Tom's article but I'll have to check it out. I do agree that seems to be the White Sox MO since Kenny Williams took over. He seems to want no part of a full blown rebuild like the one the Cubs undertook,

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I bet one factor is attendance. The Cubs can crater on the field, call it a rebuild, and still draw decently. If the Sox were to embark on a stated rebuild, how many empty seats would you see at the Cell? It would be bleak....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That is true...but I think part of is it in KWs DNA not to rebuild. Himes did a nice job of it when he was there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I personally think KW is one of the luckiest GMs in the history of baseball. Other than Sale his drafting has been pitiful, his free agent signings as bad as Hendry's. I won't diminish 2005 for them at all, but I refuse to give Kenny much credit for it either. Not to mention the fact that he seems like a Hawk Harrelson-esque ass in every respect. But Jerry is loyal, that's what everyone always says about him, so Kenny failed upwards to a better title with more money.

  • Talking about the ground up rebuild, I'm generally very pleased with the job Theo & Co. have done. But I scratched my head when they took Zastryzny in the 2nd round last year. I had my eyes on guys like RHP Ryan Eades, 3B Ryan McMahon, RHP Clinton Hollon, OF Austin Wilson and LHP Kevin Ziomek. It's still early and nobody's perfect, but...

    Ziomek (1.69 ERA 6.8 H/9, 3.7 BB/9, 9.4 K/9) 22 yrs old - Low A
    Eades (2.87 ERA, 8.9 H/9, 2.9 BB/9, 8.3 K/9) 22 yrs old - Low A
    McMahon (.284/.386/.653 9 HR, 17 BB/32 K) 19 yrs old - Low A
    Wilson (.303/.375/.485 3 HR, 6 BB/ 20 K) 22 yrs old - Low A

    Hollon is in EXST and will start in short-season again this year but put up a 3.12 ERA, 4.2 H/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 7.8 K/9 as an 18 year old last season.

    Ouch.

    At the time, both the Zastryzny and Hannemann picks had the flavor of "Tim Wilken ego-filled you'll see in the end how much smarter I am than you by taking the late riser" selections. I doubt he has that kind of influence anymore as a Special Assistant to the President/GM and Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod have the ultimate responsibility, but I hope picks like Zastryzny's will be the exception and not the norm going forward.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Wilken doesn't have that strong a voice anymore and I did know that of those players, the Cubs had some interest in McMahon -- though not in the second round. Most didn't have him that high -- and I believe the guy they really wanted, Andrew Thurman, was selected one pick ahead of them by the Astros

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    McMahon and Eades were the two picks immediately following Zastryzny. I liked McMahon because he was from my nape of the neck...neck of the woods...he was from my area. Eades was someone mentioned on this blog quite often. I just want this rebuild to succeed so badly, it hurts when they go off of the known quantities and miss.

  • I know Wilken doesn't. There was just an eery resemblance. Thurman's looking pretty good. He's getting hit a bit 10.1 H/9 but his K (10.3) and BB (2.9) rates are sexy.

    Well, you can't win them all and there's still time for Z. Hannemann looks like he could be something.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I don't agree with the characterization that Wilken is some ego-maniacal genius trying to prove how smart he is, I think anyone who has met and spoken with Wilken (myself included) would tell you the opposite. He's about as humble, soft spoken guy as you'll meet.

    Honestly,, McLeod was the one talking up Zastryzny after the draft, I think it was his pick all the way.

    Keep in mind too that Zastryzny's k to BB ratio is also very good and he's been victimized by a high BABIP, low strand rate, and flyball to HR ratio,

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    John, I'm really disappointed that you left out the one thing the Cubs rebuild has failed to add that the Sox have...

    WTW! Until we find that WTW, all is lost!

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    LOL!

  • Looks like they gave Baez the day off again today. Really scuffling right now.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    And naturally, the I-Cubs explode for 12 runs.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Thank god. I hope they sit him for another game or two.

    I can't say for sure since I'm not at the games, but it seems like he's just swinging instead of adjusting.

  • No doubt the Cub rebuild is better than the Sox... I wouldn't even call what they're doing on the S.Side a "rebuild"- it's more like an attempt to patch up an aging roster for a reload. Both teams have about a $91M payroll this year, but the Sox are on the hook for $46.4M next season and the Cubs $31M. Add to that the fact the Cubs farm is so much stronger, the ChiSox are in for some serious issues next season.

    The Zas pick doesn't look real good today but we have have a long way to go before we can classify him as a bust. Hanneman was a reach but his upside might be enormous, and look at what Godley is doing. Tseng appears to be a real find. I'm not real concerned about high round draft picks being studs if some others take their place. I still say that Bruno dude is going to be an OBP machine in the majors some day.

  • John, I'm busy trying to throw myself off the ledge here. Would you please STOP MAKING SENSE! Thank you.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Haha!

  • The article does not give a start date for the rebuild of both teams. If the start date of the rebuild is the beginning of the Ricketts' ownership....the White Sox have won 23 more games than the Cubs over the 3+ years. The White Sox wins exceeded the Cubs wins 2 out of 3 years of Ricketts' rebuild. And so far, the White Sox are slightly outperforming the Cubs in 2014, plus they are projected to have a better record. The only argument favoring the Cubs are subjective evaluations of the strength of the farm system. Rating farm systems and determining which minor leaguers make a big league contribution is uncertain until they prove themselves at mlb level. So an argument can be made in favor of the Sox.

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    We made some pretty objective arguments -- similar Pythagorean record, run differential, the unsustainability of current White Sox statistics as compared to the sustainability of the Cubs core pieces.

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    Who cares about 23 extra wins? What has either team accomplished in those 3+ years? No postseason appearances. I guess the Sox made a bit of a run in 2012 but then fell apart late in the season.

  • I can see the Sox being forced into a two-part rebuild, having to trade the likes of Sale, Viciedo, Davidson, and Eaton to really stock their farm system for a run a few years into when the Cubs should be really hitting their stride.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    To go along with that, the Cubs won't be forced to gamble in free agency. The White Sox window is the next few years, so they may be forced to make a regrettable win-now signing. The Cubs will have the luxury of waiting for the right piece, or trading some depth for an area of need.

  • I think if you took away the "core four", I would still take the Cubs farm system over the White Sox.

  • Olt with another throwing error. yay

  • Tennessee Smokies on a rampage right now. Batting around and scoring at will.

  • Tennessee 3rd:
    3 singles
    1 double
    1 ground out
    1 home run (Silva)
    1 ground out
    1 error
    Pitcher hits the showers...

  • Oops. Insert 3 singles between ground out and home run.

  • Third time's a charm:

    Tennessee 3rd:
    3 singles
    1 double
    3 singles
    ground out
    home run
    ground out
    error
    ground out

    8 runs on 8 hits.

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    So what your vote - what 4 pack would you take:

    Rizzo
    Castro
    Bryant
    Baez

    vs
    Sale
    Alexi R.
    Eaton
    Abreu

    I guess the difference is whitesox guys are all up now and playing well. I expect Byrant and Baez to as well.

    I dont understand how you guys keep putting Soler in the conversation hes done nothing to prove himself.
    I think he winds up being B Jackson / Vitters.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    Eaton and not Avisail?

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    Can we please sign Samardzija, like tonight?!

  • 126 pitches tonight. Is there any arm left to sign? Apparently, Renteria is Spanish for "Dusty." Who knew?

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    In reply to Deacon:

    Through 9 innings, that's like 14/inning. You don't pull your ace in that situation.

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    To me what ChiSox are doing is not a "re-build." For me the definition of "re-build" is tear down and build up. The health of the minor league system is paramount. It isn't just the "core-four" (soon to be Fab-five with this years draft pick?) but the depth after that. The cubs can keep throwing guys at teams until they are willing to give up top of the rotation status without substantially degrading the farm system. Meanwhile, the Sox #1 prospect on mlb.com (not the best source, but it is indicative) is #77 in the top 100. They also have only 1 in the top 100. In contrast, the Cubs have 7 in the top 100 with the Cubs #6 prospect coming in at #83 (not far behind the Sox #1). While "prospects will break your heart" the fact is that A LOT would have to go wrong for the Cubs not to be in a good position in the next couple of years.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    but the white sox are exciting!! OMG

    :D

  • They may have found their closer in Grimm....

  • the WTW struck again!

    well at least Abreu did not homer...silver lining... but man, did the offense revert back to sucking big time...

    last night it was Hammel who drove in the runs, now Shark was the one scoring... i mean...ah. nevermind. rant over

  • John A., Carlos Quintana, really? Dude was like 6th in AL pitching WAR last year. Of course, the rebuilds are in different places - the Cubs' started in Oct 11, the Sox' started in July 13. Pointed out Davidson stats, but no mention of the great Baez, Almora, Vogelbach, Mendy or the fragile Soler. All tearing it up, no doubt.

  • Carlos Quintana, really? Dude was like 6th in AL pitching WAR last year.

  • Another incredible gem from Gordon Wittenmeyer today about Abreu exposing the Cubs front office fallacy. The White Sox are 5 games out of 1st place! Their record really isn't much better than the Cubs. But they are rebuilding the right way?

  • Are you thinking about retracting this blog post? You have an argument about long term success between both teams, but to suggest that the Cubs are better than the Sox in the short term is just Cubs Kool-aid. You forgot to add Javier Baez's stats this year along with Soler's season (or lack there of). It's easy to win a debate with yourself when you use completely biased stats.

  • In reply to bwhit:

    Nope. The Sox winning 3 games this year doesn't sway me anymore than the Cubs taking 6 from the Sox last year. And I never said Cubs were better short term, just that it's closer than the media narrative makes it out to be.

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