Two quotes stuck out to me this week in the wake of my overindulgence of Baseball Prospectus content. The first was Jim Callis of Baseball America saying on a podcast “you win with stars”, and the second was Steve Goldman and Ben Lindbergh asking in their preview of the White Sox, “Is this the worst offense in baseball?”
The answer was no, but the question itself was shocking. How could the White Sox ever have the worst offense in baseball? Maybe it’s selection bias because their hometown announcer has a way of making memories of home runs stick out, but it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to stock up on fly ball hitters to pop it out of the bandbox they play 81 games of the year in. That should be enough to stave off total futility
Perhaps the answer is not enough stars. Sure, the Sox have had their share of monster offensive seasons, but usually at non-premium positions. Even then–like in the cases Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin–the players supplying the wood needed to hit a lot to compensate for what they took off the table defensively.
In other words, the White Sox got big-time offense from the positions everyone got big-time offense from.
White Sox position players finishing in the top 50 in baseball in Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference & FanGraphs)
- 2011 – Alexei Ramirez (t-30th FG, Outside the top 50 BRef)
- 2010 – Paul Konerko (t-49th FG, 21st BRef), Alexei Ramirez (41st FG, Outside 50 BRef)
- 2009 – None
- 2008 – Carlos Quentin (30th FG, 26th BRef)
- 2007 – None
- 2006 – Jim Thome (t-29th FG, 29th BRef), Joe Crede (t-40th FG, Outside 50 BRef), Jermaine Dye (Outside 50 FG, 23rd BRef)
- 2005 – Aaron Rowand (t-44th FG, Outside 50 BRef), Paul Konerko (t-44th FG, Outside 50 BRef)
- 2004 – Aaron Rowand (t-17th FG, 14th BRef), Carlos Lee (t-21st FG, 27th BRef)
- 2003 – Magglio Ordonez (t-29th FG, Outside 50 BRef), Frank Thomas (43rd FG, 39th BRef), Jose Valentin (Outside 50 FG, 35th BRef)
- 2002 – Magglio Ordonez (t-33th FG, 27th BRef)
- 2001 – None
Huh, so Aaron Rowand’s monster 2nd half in 2004 propelled him to arguably the greatest all-around season of the Kenny Williams era? Fancy that.
Also, Joe Crede was the last position player graduate of the White Sox minor league system to make this list, and he–like all of the of the other fellow graduates on this list–wasn’t acquired by Williams.
That’s to be expected. Director of Baseball Operations Dan Fabian readily admitted that the White Sox lean toward loading up on pitching (where they have a fine history of development and would look great on a list of this nature), and build from flipping those assets, as well as through free agency using the money saved on the pitching staff. That approach certainly can work, but the recent results show it’s hard to pull in elite position players that way.
In the best cases, impact free agents become available while there’s still a bit of prime hitting left in their careers, and organizations are willing to let some of their higher upside position prospects go. But in general, if you want a superstar, it makes it a lot easier to be in the superstar-growing business.
The White Sox aren’t; which isn’t unforgivable, it just makes it harder to overcome holes in the lineup. Last year, for example.
It would help if their draft and international scouting allocation put them in more of the ace-growing business to balance that, but they actually have been trying that recently. The ace-growing business is hard, and “the pitching needs to be better” is not a valid critique of the Kenny Williams era.
That’s all a bit negative, and this is Springtime. It’s Springtime, for Ventura, in Glendale. So here are some more positive links, in bullet-form, because everyone likes guns.
– Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally and FanGraphs assessed Keenyn Walker, and while he was extremely impressed by his athleticism, he also warned that he was essentially high-school level in his development.
– Spring Training ticket sales at Camelback Ranch are up 15% from last season. Wait, what? Now, of all times there’s a renewed interest in the Dodgers and White Sox?
“The biggest differences are the lowering of ticket prices and a more fan-friendly schedule for both teams as well as Valley residents.”
– They really tried to get Ventura to say that Nestor Molina had a shot to make the Opening Day bullpen. He resisted. That’s good of him.
– Adam Dunn is talking confident and determined about winning AL Comeback Player of the Year. It’s good to hear bravado from him again, but Dunn setting his sights on that specific award pretty much means Justin Morneau is now his mortal enemy. Dunn also apparently had a pretty awesome hitting-the-ball-off-the-tee session with Jeff Manto. Since everyone will make the “Oh, Dunn can only hit off the tee” joke, I’ll make the “That’d be fine if Brian Bannister was still in the division.”
– The first pitching schedule for Spring Training was released. Philip Humber will start the first Spring Training game, and the order looks set up to allow John Danks to start Opening Day. That nod for Opening Day signals that Danks is now viewed as the ace of the staff, while Humber being tabbed for the first Spring Training start indicates that Spring Training is simply a random series of events.
– A young Paul Konerko was apparently at the Ventura-Nolan Ryan brawl game, which is cool and all. But Brian Bruney was in Kindergarten Cop and that’s pretty much still the best.
Tags: Aaron Rowand, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, baseball america, baseball prospectus, baseball reference, ben lindbergh, Brian Bannister, carlos lee, Carlos Quentin, dan fabian, fangraphs, Frank Thomas, jermaine dye, jim callis, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, John Danks, jose valentin, keenyn walker, Kenny Williams, magglio ordonez, nestor molina, nolan ryan, Opening Day, Paul Konerko, philip humber, Robin Ventura, steve goldman, White Sox