Come on, be honest, you don't have any idea who half of these White Sox players are. Oh sure, you've heard their names and have probably even seen many of them play, but the following will hopefully give you a better idea of how the 2005 White Sox have become one of the most unlikely teams to make a World Series.
Ever since the 1970's, the White Sox have been a team known for its power hitting lineups. From the south-side hitmen to the good guys wear black lineups, they have been a team focused on the longball. Bill Melton, Dick Allen, Ron Kittle, Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, and Paul Konerko are the type of hitters you think of when the White Sox are brought up. Sure this was the franchise that brought us the Go-Go Sox of 1959, a team made up of great starting pitching and a lot of slap hitters, but since then the White Sox have been more about long flyballs than any other style of play.
Much has been written by the major media outlets, describing the 2005 Sox as playing a lot of small-ball, while many in the sabermetrical community have argued this assumption, pointing to how they've been a homerun hitting team. Ozzie Guillen deemed his style as "smartball", which he claimed was a mix of both strategies. For the first half of the season, it all seemed to work, as the White Sox shattered the MLB record for most consecutive games where a team took the initial lead during the game. By getting first inning leads, they were able to take a little pressure off of their starting pitchers. The way the White Sox were able to accomplish this was because of the on-base success of two of their off-season acquisitions, Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi. Let's start with them and work our way through the White Sox lineup.
Scott Podsednik- When Podsednik and relief pitcher Luis Vizcaino were obtained during the winter for Carlos Lee, the trade was slammed, especially by sabermetrical writers as a horrible deal. Instead of going into detail on my thoughts at the time of the trade, I would point you to this piece I wrote in April. Podsednik's stats were so divergent from each other during his 2 seasons with the Brewers that it was hard to know what he would offer the White Sox, but with a .351 OBP, he set the tables well. Before his groin injury, Scott stole 52 bases in 67 attempts, but after this injury, the team stopped playing great baseball, as he had been the catalyst of the offense. Podsednik has had somewhat of a stolen base resurgence during the playoffs, but I wonder how much that has to do with facing pitchers who have trouble with the running game. Either way, the biggest reason you should give Pods your respect is that his fiancee is Lisa Dergan. The first time I saw Dergan hosting a sports show on Fox Sports Net, I thought to myself, well there goes Fox hiring another sports bimbo and damn if I can't take my eyes off this gorgeous creature, with spectacular dimples.
Tadahito Iguchi- A player that the White Sox signed, without ever seeing in person, just from video footage. It can be argued that Iguchi has been the team's MVP. Reminds you of a poor man's version of Roberto Alomar during his prime, which makes him the second best overall second baseman in the AL, behind Brian Roberts. The first half of the season, it seemed he never failed in doing the smallball things that were asked of him. Guillen's continued to use this strategy in the second half, when Podsednik was not a 100%, which is hard to justify, as the bat was taken out of arguably the team's best hitter (Iguchi).
Juan Uribe- Iguchi's double play partner, Uribe has a very unorthodox defensive style, but with his gun, it's hard to argue that he isn't the best defensive shortstop in the AL. The White Sox infield defense was the best in the AL, as Uribe, Iguchi, and Joe Crede were all sensational, a must for a team with a starting pitching staff that focuses on throwing strikes and keeping the ball in play. Stolen from the Rockies for Aaron Miles, Uribe is a free swinger, but the power he offers from his position makes up a lot, for his low OBP.
Joe Crede- There have been a lot of expectations put upon Crede, since he came up with a lot of hype from his minor league days. To most White Sox fans, he's been an offensive disappointment, until the last month of the year. His defense, which has always been top-notch, has gone up another level in 2005, putting him at the top of the game in this category. Crede has played with disc problems in his back this year, but his confidence has risen during the latter part of the season and he has been the White Sox best hitter, since September, which is a great bonus to have, considering he bats 9th in the lineup.
One stat that has went under the radar is how the White Sox outpaced most in the slugging department at the second base (.438), third base(.454), shortstop (.412), and catcher (.420).
Paul Konerko- Look at the numbers the last 3 seasons and it would appear like Paulie is one of the most consistent players in baseball. Well, the final totals might say that, but in truth, Konerko is one of the streakiest hitters in the game. He's one of those guys who carries a team for a month and then can follow it up with the worst average on the team, the next month. The unofficial captain of the clubhouse, Konerko is a fan and press favorite. This year's playoffs have added a couple million per year to his free agency bundle and has probably made him too expensive for the White Sox bottom line. Other teams should realize that his OBP is 116 points better at US Cellular than on the road. The only way I can see him staying in Chicago is to take a less money, instead counting on making it back and more on the Chicago TV commercial circuit. Konerko is the most popular player with the Sox fans and if he's part of a World Series championship, he will be doing ads like he is 1986 Jim McMahon.
A.J. Pierzynski- During this year's playoffs, Pierzynski has been the breakout celebrity, becoming a household name which very few can spell. Like Iguchi, Dye, and Hermanson, A.J. has been a great off-season signing by Kenny Williams, as he has been the best catcher the White Sox have had since Carlton Fisk. After 2004's nightmare season with the Giants, Pierzynski found few takers and had to actually talk the White Sox into signing him. The pitchers have claimed he has done a great job of calling the game. It's little wonder in a city with such a large Polish community that a guy named Pierzynski would become the newest fan favorite.
Jermaine Dye- One of the 4 new starting position players for the 2005 White Sox, Dye played a solid right field and turned out to be a bargain in what was an off-season filled with over-spending by most teams who participated in free agency. I was pretty lukewarm on his signing, but Dye after a dismal April (.517 OPS), ended up with an overall OBP of .846.
Aaron Rowand- While taking a major step down on the offensive front (2004 OBP: 904 vs 2005 OBP: 736 ) Rowand made up for some of this by playing the best defensive centerfield in the AL. He combined with the speedy Podsednik and underrated Dye to form the best outfield defense that I've ever seen from a White Sox team.
Carl Everett- GM Kenny Williams must have a soft spot for Carl Everett or he also doesn't believe in homosexual Dinosaurs and wants someone else around who shares his beliefs, because Williams has traded for baseball freakiest space cadet two different times. Up until August 27, Everett still had a respectable OPS of .795, but since this period, he has been a weak link in the lineup. During the playoffs he has been awful. If Frank Thomas would have stayed healthy, he would have been the missing ingredient that could have made this team great. Even without the Big Hurt, the White Sox have a good chance of becoming the first World Series champs Chicago has had since 1917.
White Sox Bench
As I wrote before the playoffs, the Sox have one of the worst benches ever to participate in the playoffs. Much has been made of Guillen not using anyone, but his starters to swing the bat versus Anaheim. Well, when you have the choices of Timo Perez or Geoff Blum, it's best to stick to your regulars. The best statistical bat they have on the bench is Chris Widger, so do I need to say anymore. Unfortunately, the White Sox didn't give outfielder Brian Anderson enough at bats during the last month of the season to let him earn a spot on the playoff roster. He has the kind of hitting skills and defensive ability to make him a valuable bench member.
(Look for the Part 2 of my breakdown of the White Sox, which will be focused on the pitching staff.)