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2010 White Sox Season Preview

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Article by Mike Klotz

If you put any stock in the PECOTA projects, Sox fans are in for a tough battle in the AL Central.  They project 2 wins separating the top 4 teams in this order: 1 White Sox (84 wins), 2 Twins (84 wins), 3 Cleveland (83 wins), and 4 Detroit (82wins).  They expect that the Royals will be in their familiar basement dwelling with 78 wins.  They have the whole division separated by 6 wins.

In other words, they don't have a clue on who's going to win this division.  I have a clue and it isn't the pale hose.

There are just too many ifs and questions with the White Sox for me this season to back up John Dank's claim that they are the team to beat in the American League.  Like my grandma used to say, if my Aunt had balls, she'd be my Uncle.  In other words, ifs don't do a whole lot for you.

If Carlos Quentin stays healthy we are solid."

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Ouchy Ouchy Carlos

The problem is that Quentin has had one somewhat healthy season in 2008 where he had 596 plate appearances.  He has never surpassed 400 plate appearances in any other of his 4 MLB seasons.  Remember the Diamondbacks gave up on his tremendous upside because he couldn't stay on the field.  There is no doubt that if he stays on the field he will be very productive.  Will he, is a big if for me.

"If Andruw Jones returns to form we are right there."
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The past few seasons Jones has been fat and really bad at baseball.  This is quite the switch from the kid that took on the mighty Yanks when he was barely old enough to vote.  For the past 3 seasons Jones has been striking out too much and his OPS has been declining year after year.  In 2005, he hit 51 HRs and had an OPS of .922.  For the past 3 seasons his OPS was the highest at .782 last season in part time duty, hitting in the best ballpark in baseball in Arlington.  He seems to be in shape this year, let's see if that correlates with production from a guy who hasn't produced in 3 years.

A big question is can this Ozzie-ball/small ball work in a band box like The Cell?  US Cellular field saw 2.37 HRs per game in 2009 for the 5th most in the AL.  Doesn't seem like too much but in 2008 there were 2.79 HRs hit at the Cell for the most in the AL, by far.    The 2nd closest was Camden Yards at 2.55.  Could less smashing and clogging up the bases substituted with bunting and slapping from the likes of Pierre be a successful combination?  Personally, I think that the Sox will get out slugged in their home ball park an awful lot.  When you play in that park, you need to pitch well and mash the ball.  I am not convinced they will do either well enough.

"If the Sox SP show up to the ball park they will dominate"

Everyone seems to be high on the Sox's rotation.  I for one am not too giddy about it.  My main pessimism derives from Jake Peavy.  His career ERA away from PetCo Park is almost a full point higher, he also gives up a lot more HRs away from PetCo Park (which is expected away from the cavernous PetCo).  I wasn't overwhelmed by his good numbers against September call ups for a few starts at the end of 2009.
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The Godfather of Sabermetrics, Bill James isn't too high on the White Sox pitching staff either.  He was eerily close with his projections for White Sox pitching for last season.  Buehrle (prediction 12-12 4.00 ERA 34 games started 128 strikeouts) ended up 13-10 33 games started 105 strikeouts.  The rest are really close too, have a look for yourself; projections for 2009 and compare them to the 2009 numbers:
 
2009 Bill James Projections/actual numbers

 

Proj/actual ERA

Proj/actual GS

Proj/actual Ks

Proj/actual W/L

Proj/actual IP

Proj/actual HR

Buehrle,Mark

4.0/3.84

34/33

128/105

12-12/13-10

221/213.1

26/27

Danks, John

4.0/3.77

33/32

173/149

12-11/13-11

201/200.1

24/28

Floyd, Gavin

4.0/4.06

33/30

157/163

12-12/11-11

217/193

34/21

 

If his projections are as close as they were for 2009, expect a long season on the South Side. 

2010 Bill James predictions

 

Projected ERA

Projected GS

Projected Ks

Projected W/L

Projected IP

Projected HR

Buehrle,Mark

3.96

33

122

12-12

216

25

Danks, John

4.33

33

168

11-12

206

29

Floyd, Gavin

4.59

30

144

9-12

190

27

Peavy, Jake

3.18

33

217

16-8

215

19

Garcia, Freddy

4.18

17

81

6-6

112

15

The Sox should also worry about the shrinking fastball velocity from their growing closer, the Tub of Goo himself, Bobby Jenks. The fatter he gets, the slower he throws. Hey, don't ask me--ask Ozzie:

"The first time I told him he was overweight, I told him to his face. When you have that size, you don't perform, all of a sudden you have weight problems. He can't deny that his weight is a concern. Come on, he's a big man."

The weight that his calf has to endure seems to finally be taking its toll as Jenks is slated for an MRI on said calf.
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Tubby isn't the only problem out the pen for the Sox.  Linebrink has been bad the entire time that he has been in a Sox uniform (4.22 ERA) I don't expect anything but bad to follow.  Look for another solid year from Thornton but I don't think that will offset the bad years I expect from Carrasco (4.90 projected ERA) or Pena.

Sox fans could have been excited when they picked up JJ Putz and his closer experience.  Not so fast.  Since his ridiculous last two seasons in Seattle (2006, 36 SV & .919WHIP, 2007 40 SV & .698 WHIP, yes .698 WHIP) he hasn't looked nearly as good.  The 33 year old righty put up a 1.597 WHIP and a 1.636 WHIP in the following two seasons.   Since his two dominate seasons he's had elbow issues that caused him to miss significant time.  I wouldn't look for a return to his Seattle numbers.

I expect big problems from the bullpen, starting pitching, and lack of power in the lineup.  Also I wouldn't look for further charity from San Diego by picking up slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  He's going to the Bo Sox, whose farm system isn't ranked dead last in MLB like the White Sox.  He has been longed rumored to be going to Boston and they will be able to pay him the mega deal that he is seeking after escaping that deplorable franchise out west. 

For me all these ifs and questions add up to a disappointing 2010 for the Sox.  I think that the Ozzie/Kenny personality clash will finally come to fruition when the Sox fall to 3rd place in a tightly contested division where they won't score enough runs, hold leads late, or pitch well enough.  Look for the Sox to finish in the middle of the pack with 82 wins. 

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