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Jay Mariotti vs. Scott Long
2005-11-06 22:40
by Scott Long

I've been meaning to post this for awhile, but with Will's top-notch pieces on DePodesta and Epstein situations, I decided to hold off. On October 28th, I stumbled across Eric Zorn's blog, at the Chicago Tribune website. Zorn, who is the Trib's Metro Editor has a delicious breakdown of Windy City Woodie Page's (AKA Jay Mariotti) comments about the White Sox over the past year. This guy is so full of shit that any credibility he used to be able to cling to is now gone for sure. I decided to collect all my comments on the White Sox since the beginning of the year, as a way to show my work. While not anywhere close to the length that The Cheat, would have if he posted all of his writings on the subject from his excellent Sox blog, South Side Sox, I do think it gives a good representation of the 2005 season.

Despite underrating Jermaine Dye and overrating El Duque, I think the rest of my words hold up pretty well. While I don't expect most readers will want to go through all my White Sox posts, I wanted to have a single place that capsulated my thoughts on the World Champs for 2005. Oh and by the way, I want to state that my belief that there wasn't one great team in 2005, well, I stand corrected. An 11-1 overall record in the playoffs is the mark of a dominant team.
Now I would like to present my 2005 White Sox Compilation.

Baseball Free Agent Signings: A Confederacy of Dunces? (Jan. 4) Let me finish by mentioning that in a world where Jason Varitek makes 10 mil yearly and Damian Miller 8.5 mil for 3 seasons, A.J. Pierzynski sitting out there with a scarlet letter around his neck makes me think he might be baseball's best buy.

Maybe the Twins Don't Have the Central Locked Up (Jan.9) For the past 4 years, the White Sox have finished behind the Twins, despite being a pre-season favorite by a majority of prognosticators each season. My guess is that the Twins will be the biggest pre-season favorite to win their division of any team in MLB. Can't argue with that logic, but under the radar the White Sox have remade their team over the past year and it will be interesting, if nothing else, how it all comes together.

The latest signing of A.J. Pierzynski was a great move by Kenny Williams. (try to find those words used together in a Google search) Pierzynski was signed for one year at 2.25 million, not too bad for a catcher with a career OPS of .773. Considering that Jason Varitek is making 10 million annually for a career .798 OPS and is 3 and a half years older than AJ, this looks even better. Sure Pierzynski left San Fran with a reputation of being an irritant on the level of Simon Cowell, but bringing a solid left-handed bat behind the plate for this price is something the White Sox are willing to risk. Plus, the guy knows the Twins hitter's better than anyone else they could sign, so maybe his poor study habits won't be such an issue.
If Santana and Radke don't have similar stats to 2004, I think the White Sox will be neck and neck with the Twins, as the depth of pitching on the South Side is the best in the AL, outside of the Yankees. Trotting out a staff of Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreas, and Jon Garland is the best starting staff the Sox have had since the days of Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, Jason Bere, Wilson Alvarez. The bullpen depth is the best I can ever remember the White Sox having.

(Jan. 28) Moneyball (the sequel): Starring......Kenny Williams? After many years of being focused on high slugging percentage baseball, the Chicago White Sox will definitely have a different look. It could be argued that no team over the off-season has changed the makeup of their team more than on the South Side of Chicago. Many in the SABR community slammed Kenny Williams for his trade of Carlos Lee, but it was about money redistribution. I've been discussing this for some time here and the Chicago Tribune picked up on the topic, recently.

As someone who was reading Baseball Abstracts as far back as 1982, I'm a strong believer in the sabremetrical approach to the game, but one place I feel many of my breathren fail is in combining this approach with team salary caps.
There is little doubt that Billy Beane has been far superior as a general manager to Ken Williams, but their past has shaped public opinion on their recent moves too strongly.

What would the response of the SABR community been, if Williams would have signed Jason Kendall? Oh I can hear the uproar over 34 million dollars going out over the next 3 years, with the trickle down causing the Sox to trade Mark Beurhle (see Hudson and Mulder) to cut some salary. Instead, Williams smartly signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski at 2.2 million for 2005. I realize this is a bit of a simplification, but not enough credit has been dished out to Ken Williams.

Besides the re-signing of (I don't want on my) Timo Perez, the rest of the signings look pretty good. I would argue that Pierzynski, Orlando Hernandez, and Tadahito Iguchi are 3 of the best of the off-season. It's time for KWilliams-haters to take a deep breath (I'm doing it as I write) and admit that there does seem to be a plan in place for 2005.

One other note: The Pecota for the Sox starting staff, which has all 5 starters posting ERA's between 4.35 and 5.05 is a load. Yeah, US Cellular is unkind to pitchers, but these numbers would be career worst for almost each pitcher in the rotation. Pecota is generally a beautiful thing, but occasionally it misses the mark and I just don't see the staff putting up those huge ERA's.

Scott's MLB Rankings: 1-30 (March 31) 8. Chicago White Sox- The last 3 acquisitions in the off-season gives them a chance.

White Sox, A's, AL Central, and my baseball blasphemy (April 10) When you are someone who believes in the sabermetrical approach to baseball, but are a White Sox fan, you are put in a difficult position. You see, most of my favorite writers in the SABR world have a negative view of the Sox. GM Kenny Williams has been portrayed as one of the 2 or 3 dumbest people in his job, which the book "Moneyball" highlighted. In the past, I've discussed my thoughts on Williams, which I would describe as mixed. Just having a mixed view on him is something most who check in here feel is pure stupidity, as Williams is Public Enemy No. 1 on their list.

I've been a big fan of how Billy Beane has run the Oakland A's, but I feel there has been a lack of critical analysis in looking at this year's team, while the biases these same experts share about the White Sox have created poor expectations for their season. Now I know this statement is something the baseball blogging community sees akin to blasphemy, so let me demonstrate why like Peter Frampton, I feel like I do.

To begin with, both teams have much in common on the surface, as they play second fiddle to more popular teams in the same market (Giants and Cubs). The cause and effect of this situation being they have salary restraints that are more akin to smaller markets. There is no doubt that the A's have done a spectacular job in being one of the top 5 teams in baseball over the past few years, despite these financial issues. My focus though, is on 2005.

The biggest move that has been slammed by critics of Williams is his decision to trade Carlos Lee for Scott Posednik and Luis Vizcaino. On the surface, this looks like a bad trade, but Williams made the trade to give him some money to play with in the free agent market. With this money, he was able to sign a starting pitcher, Orlando Hernandez and a starting catcher, A.J. Pierzynski. If you throw these 2 players in the deal, it's a great trade for the White Sox.

I would argue that Hernandez might have been the best signing of any pitcher, this off-season, as only injury kept him from being a 8 million a year guy. Pierzynski is the best catcher the White Sox have had since Carlton Fisk and he should be a fan favorite to all the masses of Chicagoans with skis at the end of their name. Throw in the pick-up of Tadahito Iguchi, who was priced at a discount because of the failure of Kazuo Matsui in 2004, and the White Sox seriously upgraded their team at three key spots.

On the subject of the White Sox, let's clear up a few things. They have been trying to trade Carlos Lee for the past couple of seasons and there just hasn't been much of a market for him. Lee puts up nice numbers, but is very streaky and is one of the reasons the team rarely meets its Pythagorean winning percentage. Sure the team would be better having him in left versus Posednik, but as mentioned above, the team is better without him, if you add what they purchased with his salary.

Another thing to discuss is this idea that Kenny Williams could have traded Joe Borchard instead of Jeremy Reed in the Freddy Garcia deal. The Mariners had targeted Reed, so I don't know where this notion came from. As I mentioned in a past post, I believe Reed will be a solid player, but not a superstar and is better suited for the dimensions of Safeco, instead of US Cellular Field. The Sox also have an excellent OF prospect, Brian Anderson, who I suspect will be starting for them in 2006, so Reed's value to them was somewhat muted.

I know it appears like there is some "homerism" going on, considering my passion for the White Sox, but I've been very critical of Kenny Williams in the past, so my opinion of his off-season is something new. In the past 18 months, besides the good moves I have outlined already, he has signed closer Takatsu for little money, traded for a solid shortstop in Uribe, and has made good decisions in not giving big money contracts to Bartolo Colon and Ordonez, when other organizations have.

A starting staff of Beuhrle, Garica, Hernandez, Contreas, and Garland is as good as any team in the AL outside of New York and Boston. When you add in if one of the 5 falters from injury or production, the Sox can go to the Triple A and bring up quite possibly the best starter in the minors in Brandon McCarthy, well things look rosy. A bullpen with 5 guys who have saved at least 7 career games (Takatsu, Marte, Hermanson, Politte, and Vizcaino) further demonstrate the depth of pitching the White Sox have.

So this is why I think the White Sox will finish second in the AL Central. If Frank Thomas comes back at his 2004 numbers, this team will battle the Twins right down to the wire. Without him, I still think they are a second place club in the AL Central. In regards to the A's, I just think there is too many questions with its pitching to win more than 85 games and I see them as more of a .500 ballclub in 2005.

99 Minute Games: Mark Buehrle and White Sox Pitching (April 16) Just finished watching Mark Buehrle take a shutout into the 9th and despite one of the three hits by Ichiro (the only 3 Buehrle gave up) the White Sox won 2-1. And no that wasn't a misprint, the game between Buerhle and Ryan Franklin took all of 1:39. The White Sox are 8-3 to start the season and have gotten quality starts 10 of these 11 games. Garcia 1.93, Buehrle 2.22, Garland 3.46, Contreas 3.55, and Hernandez 3.76 are the ERA's for the starting 5. Sure it's early and there is no way these ERA's aren't going up, but what in the name of PECOTA were people thinking when analyzing this staff, prior to the season.

White Sox breakdown- Dye to Widger to No Chance? April 27
OK, I've tried to stay quiet on the subject of the White Sox for a couple of weeks, realizing that the season is early, but here are a few things you should know if you haven't been paying attention.

As I mentioned in my pre-season preview, the White Sox have great pitching. I rated their staff only behind Boston and New York in the AL and that might have been slighting them. Jon Garland is pitching way better than I suspected, but considering he was the team's 5th starter, I still don't see what the experts who said Cleveland and Detroit had a better staff were thinking. The bullpen is really good, as the depth of having 4 former closers on staff makes up for not having one shutdown hurler.

This kind of pitching is the reason the White Sox have had a lead in every game they have played in 2005. Yes, the ridiculous record of winning 9 of the 11 one-run games will balance out, but when you start 16-4, it's hard not to be a factor in the playoff race right down to the end.

The defense is the best the White Sox have ever had, since I've been watching them, as Uribe is a bit unorthodox, but makes all the plays, while Iguchi is very solid. Kenny Williams made two great moves in picking up this double play combination, over the past two off-seasons. Crede has always been good, while Konerko doesn't hurt you, so the infield defense is above average. Add that the outfield is slightly better with Podsednik covering more ground in the outfield than Carlos Lee and Pierzynski calling a better game than Olivo or any of the other catchers the Sox have had in the past and this is just a different squad on the field.

Now to the offense. The naysayers who questioned the team's ability to get on base have been proven right. The offense in the infield is better than average, but Posednik and Dye are just not good enough as everyday outfielder's. (Williams made a bad move in signing Dye for the money he did.) As I mentioned prior to the season, if Frank Thomas can bounce back to his 2004 first half numbers, the team can overtake the Twins, but that is a big if. Baseball Prosectus Prospect #32, Brian Anderson should be playing now, instead of the wasted at bats that Timo Perez is given. The missing outfield production is there with a rotation on the corners of Everett, Podsednik, Anderson, and Dye, with Rowand playing everyday in center.

Buehrle has been consistently good since he started with the Sox when he was 21. Over the past 4 seasons the left-hander has put up ERA's between 3.29 and 4.14, in a hitters park. He has been between 221 and 244 innings each of the last four years. Is it any wonder he has been compared to Tom Glavine? So at the age of 26, without any past history of arm trouble, PECOTA had his 2005 ERA at 4.47. As I wrote before the season, PECOTA just didn't seem to make any sense when it came to the White Sox's starting pitching.

Further PECOTA analysis had 29 year-old Freddy Garcia at 4.55 and 25 year-old Jon Garland at 5.05, which also seemed way too high, considering they had have consistently pitched around 200 innings annually without serious injury issues and had never had an ERA that high in the past. With these 3 pitchers having demonstrated they can consistently pitch around 200 innings annually, plus being between 25 and 29 of age, it didn't take much of a leap of faith to expect at least a slight improvement statistically, but instead PECOTA and many of the experts looked at this staff as average at best.

Add off-season pick-up Orlando Hernandez, who has a career ERA of 3.96 and you have four quality starters. The wild card is Jose Contreas, who can give you 200 innings plus, albeit inconsistent results and this starting staff was the best in the AL, outside of the Yanks and Red Sox. Even if Hernandez has another injury plagued season or Contreas starts giving too many starts away, the Sox have the most ready for primetime minor league starter, Brandon McCarthy just waiting to bring his phenomenal strikeout to walk rate up to the Majors.

The White Sox offense, which has serious OBP issues, will determine if this team is a playoff contender or not, but the starting pitching and bullpen depth are so superior to the Indians and Tigers that White Sox still look to be the Twins best competition. I don't go as far as thinking the White Sox will be the AL's Wild Card representative, like's Ryne Sandberg and Playboy magazine's Tracy Ringolsby did, but the 70 win season some predicted is between 10 to 18 games off.

How are the White Sox Winning? (May 4) Tuesday afternoon, I was listening to one of my favorite baseball experts on a radio talk show, when he was asked what is the deal with the White Sox? This author of one of baseball's best new books of 2005, answered that he has no idea how they are doing it. At least he acknowledged the team, as most of the baseball experts seem to be ignoring the White Sox, my guess hoping this horrible nightmare would go away for them. Well, past history would show that teams which start 20-7, almost always have a winning record at the end of the year. Here is a briefing on why the White Sox have the best record in baseball and are 4.5, 8.0, and 8.5 games up on division rivals Minnesota, Detroit, and Cleveland, respectively.

There has been a lot of talk about small ball being played in Chicago, but it's not this style that is why the Sox have been so outstanding. It's been the pitching. The team has gotten 20 quality starts out of 27, which is how they had the lead at one point in every game they've played this season. (new all-time record, surpassing the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers 25 game consecutive streak.)

You would think with such an amazing streak continuing, taking place in the third biggest market in the country, it would be a front-line story across the country. Turn on Baseball Tonight and you hear little, Sportscenter doesn't even get to their highlights until 40 minutes in, and outside of the Chicago media, there has been little analysis of the team. Hard to even find much discussion of them at baseball internet sites or top bloggers that don't solely follow the White Sox. When you have vital stories about the Yankees early season flopping and the continued health issues of Cubs pitchers, I guess it makes it difficult to fit in the story of the team with the best record, who is on a historic streak.
Is it any wonder that White Sox fans have such a chip on their shoulder?

The only in-depth look at the White Sox I did find, was written by Aaron Gleeman. Not surprisingly, Gleeman spends almost the whole piece discussing how their start is basically a facade, with his conclusion being the team is in for some trouble, "assuming Chicago's entire starting rotation didn't make the same deal with the devil that Esteban Loaiza negotiated when he was with the White Sox in 2003." Sure, this staff isn't going to pitch as well as they have so far, but it was underrated at the start of the year and now, with the injuries to the Red Sox and Yankees starting staffs, I would argue it's the best in the AL. Add in that they have the top strikeout pitcher in the Minors (Brandon McCarthy) and the White Sox will continue to be a factor in the playoff race all year long. Sorry to wake so many out of their slumber, you can all go back to sleep.

The Rarified Air the Chicago White Sox Inhabit (June 23) It's been a couple of weeks since I've written about the White Sox, but since most of the sports world ignores them, except for the Chicago media and a few White Sox bloggers, I thought it was time for another update. In case you missed it, the Sox sport a .690 winning percentage. Only the Cardinals have a percentage over .600 and they are still 4 games behind the White Sox pace. The second best record in the AL is currently held by the Orioles, who are 7.5 games behind the Sox. Presently, the AL wild card squad would be the Red Sox, who are 8 games behind. In the AL Central, the Twins trail by 9.5 games, with the Indians 11.5 and the Tigers 13 games off the pace. Not too shabby and oh by the way, the main focus of the media, the Yankees are 12.5 games worse.

So it's time for me to make my apology to the White Sox organization, as I predicted they would only finish a close second to the Twins and placed them as only the 8th best team in my MLB power rankings. I was a big fan of Kenny Williams' off-season moves, but lukewarm to his decision to bring in Jermaine Dye, who has a very solid OPS of .822. I underrated their starting pitching staff, rating it only the 3rd best in the AL, when it has been the best. I spoke to the great starting pitching depth, with Jon Garland being the best 5th starter around, when I should have mentioned he might be the best starter in the league.

Ok, so I've done it. I've made my mea culpa's. Now there is a LONG line of other's who need to get behind me in line. You know who you are, so let's get to it, because the days of expecting a major collapse are over as the White Sox are 27 GAMES over .500 and unless there is an injury juggernaut which hits them with such a force that it fills Under the Knife, the south side of Chicago is in the playoffs. Just thought you ought to be made aware. Now back to your New York Yankee coverage. 24-7, 365, unless it's a leap year.

Prospects at Trade Time (July 18) OK, I've been reticent as a White Sox fan to recommend any trade, as the magical season continues to be in full swing, but...........
when it was announced that Joe Crede has 2 herniated discs in his back and that you just don't know what you're getting with Contreas and El Duque, Lowell and Burnett might be the difference between the playoffs and world championship. The White Sox have some prospects and have some financial room, so maybe it makes some sense. Let's be honest, when you haven't won a World Series since 1917 and haven't even played in one since 1959, it's something you have to be aggressive about.

The most worrisome element to the deal would be trading a top prospect to do this. Considering that last year, Jeremy Reed was seen by some as a future hall of famer and that these same experts graded the Freddy Garcia deal as a bust for Chicago, maybe prospects need to have some of the shimmer taken off of them. The White Sox have traded a lot of minor leaguers over the past 5 years and not one of them would be starting for the current Sox team. Too many of us treat minor-leaguers we've never seen as all-stars. Could you imagine how a player of AJ Burnett's talent would be perceived, if he was in Triple A? Star prospects are like new cars; as soon as they are off the lot, their worth seems to quickly devalue.

I think we should all keep this in mind when the trade deadline is happening. You see, when your last World Championship was 1917, you might have to roll the dice in looking for the starting pitcher who can make like Doyle Alexander or Rick Sutcliffe, even if it means giving up a future star. I'm just happy the White Sox aren't in the market for a relief pitcher, because there is nothing redeeming to say for Larry Andersen or Heathcliff Slocumb.

Parity Stinks (August 20) Okay, it's time someone says it. We need to put an asterisk behind whoever wins the 2005 World Series, because there is not a team worthy of being hailed the champ. Sure there have been second-rate champs like the 2003 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 1990 Reds, and any year the Twins won it all, but at least these teams had to beat a high quality opponent to be the ultimate victor. In 2005, all the playoff contenders have major flaws.

The St. Louis Cardinals have followed up 2004's best regular season record with the top mark of 2005, but this is an inferior team to last year's NL champs. The Card's offense is nowhere as good, as their OPS has dropped by 30 points. Considering the age of many of their top players, it's amazing that they have been this good. The combination of their bullpen and Chris Carpenter having career years has kept the St. Louis far ahead of the pack, but considering the pack is the rest of the National League, another asterisk should be considered for that accomplishment.

Despite the miracle performance of the Atlanta Braves, the league just isn't good. The amazingly close NL Wild Card race should be tempered by the fact that these teams shouldn't even be in a playoff race. I mean, when the Dodgers are 10 games below .500, but only 5 games out of 1st place in the NL West, this is the subject the Senate should be conducting a hearing on. I mean does anyone believe that besides possibly the Cardinals, any other NL franchise could beat the AL Champ in 2005? I know some of you would point to the Astros, but I don't even see them making the playoffs, as I have a hunch their Big 3 starters will be lucky to be the Big 2 by the end of the year.

While the AL is superior to the NL, the league also lacks a great team. The White Sox posted a record during the first half of the year that would have given one the impression they might have the skills, but they were somewhat lucky, early on and the injury problems of Frank Thomas have really exposed their lack of a consistent stud hitter in their lineup. The White Sox starting staff is the best 1 through 5 in baseball, but their starters don't have the kind of stuff that makes them a team to fear in the post-season.

Last year, the real World Championship was between the Red Sox and Yankees. Both of them were great teams in 2004, but this year, a mix of injuries (Red Sox) and poor roster decisions (Yankees), have left both as extremely flawed teams. At this late point of the season, the two are struggling to qualify for the playoffs, despite enormous salary disparity advantages versus their competition.

Current AL Wild Card leader, the Oakland A's, lack enough power-hitting to make a run at a World Championship this year, but they could be the best team in baseball by 2006. The addition this month of Casey Kotchman to the Angels lineup has really helped the offense, but their starting pitching is very flawed. The Indians are similar to the Angels, as their starting pitching is questionable, but their offense will keep them in the hunt. The Twins have the pitching, but the season ending injury to Torii Hunter I think will be too much for them to overcome. I would argue that all 4 of these teams were better in 2004, but the mediocrity of 2005 has kept them in the playoff chase.

So put this season under the category of "be careful of what you wish for", because I've always hoped that MLB could have more parity, being tired of knowing the Yankees had an advantage over the rest of the league. Well, unless Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke start pitching like they did last year, 2005's post-season will be one of a lot of mediocre teams fighting it out to be the top dog. (A better description would be, top of the dogs.)

POSTNOTE: Continuing in my process of putting my neck on the chopping block, here are the teams I see in this year's playoffs. AL: White Sox, Red Sox, Angels, and Yankees. NL: Cardinals, Braves, Padres, Marlins.

Scott Thoughts (Sept. 6) While there is a great wildcard pennant race going on in both leagues, most of the division titles (AL West excepted) seem pretty well in hand, so these future playoff teams are now focused on getting their pitching set up for the post-season. While the call-up of teen phenom Felix Hernandez has been taking the headlines, under the radar, the White Sox Brandon McCarthy has pitched nearly 15 shutout innings in his 2 first two starts, after being brought up from Triple A. What makes McCarthy's recent performances most special is they occured versus the American League's best offenses, Boston and Texas. His strikeout/walk ratio was 9/2, which is in large part because he's throwing a nasty changeup for strikes.

The White Sox are in a situation, where they had a doubleheader and no off-days, so they were able to go to a 6-man rotation, but now they need to figure out what to do with McCarthy and if he will be on their 25 man playoff roster. Considering that Buerhle, Garland, and Garcia are locks as the first 3 starters, the decision is basically, who out of Contreas, El Duque, and McCarthy should be the 4th starter. I would lean towards one of the first 2, as Contreas has pitched great over the past month, while Hernandez is the one Sox pitcher with a sterling playoff record. For the rest of the year, I would test McCarthy in some high stress relief situations, as he has great stuff and is the best strikeout pitcher on the team. With Hermanson's nagging back injury, this is the only potential pitching weakness for Chicago. If the rumors were true that the Reds turned down the offer of McCarthy and one of the top Sox minor league outfielders for Griffey Jr., it's just another case of Ken Williams getting lucky when a trade is voided by a dumbass owner. (see 2003 Jon Garland for Darin Erstad near debacle)

The AL Pennant Races and Who Should be Gripping (Sept. 16) Down the stretch they come, White Sox ahead, but fading fast, Indians coming on strong, Red Sox just a nose ahead of the Yankees, while the Angels and A's are currently a photo finish bringing up the AL Playoff chase.
Let's take a look at history to help us handicap the race.

The Chicago White Sox are arguably the most dismal post-season franchise of the last 85 years, as they have been in just one World Series (1959), only two League Championship Series (1983 and 1993), and just one Divisional Series. All of these playoff series have one major thing in common, the Sox lost all of them. It's this background that needs to be mentioned first to explain why so many White Sox fans are jumping off the bandwagon, despite a 4.5 game division lead. Here is why I think the Sox fans should calm down. It's not like they are competing with the Yankees, it's the Indians. Sure they are a better team than the White Sox at this point, but the Tribe are 4.5 games behind, their current roster has no more pennant race experience than Chicago, plus, they are the Indians, another historically cursed franchise who hasn't won a World Series since 1948.

Speaking of cursed franchises, just because the Red Sox won last year, doesn't mean that they shouldn't feel the stress, as any Red Sox fan I'm sure would tell you. Much like the White Sox, the Red Sox are playing their worst baseball of the year and look to be physically and mentally tired. The difference between the 2 teams is that the Pale Hose have a 4.5 game divisional lead.

While the Indians have been the hottest team down the stretch, I would say the Yankees are the best bet for success in the playoffs. Here's why. 1) Reemergence of Randy Johnson 2) Most dangerous offense in MLB 3) Greatest closer in baseball history 4) Manager with more big game success than anyone since Casey Stengel. Of course, the Yankees also are the team in the worst shape of the top 4 AL teams in the standings, so despite all the above factors leave them in a precarious position.

At this point, the AL West teams should concentrate on winning their division, as the AL Wild Card would appear out of reach. One of my two favorite A's bloggers (see also Catfish Stew), Elephants in Oakland's Zachary Manprin described the AL West best, a couple of days ago in writing: "The AL West lead is fast becoming the garter thrown at a wedding to all the single men; nobody wants to touch it or go near it, fearing of the consequences and implications." My guess is the absences of Rich Harden in 2005, will cost the A's a playoff birth. Neither team looks to be a serious playoff contender this season, unless they meet the White Sox, who traditionally have problems with both squads.

Gripping Conclusion

White Sox- 8 finger grip
Indians- Hanging on by one hand
Red Sox- Hanging on by one hand
Yankees- 6 finger grip
Angels- 3 finger grip
A's- 2 finger grip

Jesus H. Crede (Sept. 20) Over the past week, the number 1 parlor game among baseball experts has been, "the White Sox are falling apart in every way." Let's start with ESPN Sportscenter, which last weekend chose Curly Mullet (Jeff Brantley) and Windy City Woody Paige (Jay Mariotti) to breakdown the White Sox playoff chances. Considering that both Brantley and Mariotti have had feuds just this season with the White Sox organization, it didn't seem like a balanced point of view was an issue for ESPN. While Brantley rarely offers up anything worthwhile, it's Mariotti's comment that Kenny Williams failed at the trade deadline that I take the greatest exception to. Who was he supposed to get? Williams tried hard to get Billy Wagner and A. J. Burnett, but both of their teams smartly decided to hold on to them, as today, they still are in the NL Wild Card chase. In regards to Ken Griffey Jr., who Mariotti said the Sox should have obtained, he would have blown up future payrolls, was a large injury risk and most importantly, there is no actual confirmation that Junior would have accepted a trade to Chicago. No other playoff team made a substantial move before the trade deadline, so this notion that Williams failed just doesn't measure up.

Unlike Curly Mullet and Windy City Woody, who I generally pay little attention to, 2 of my 5 favorite baseball writers have been slamming the Sox lately, as well. I would say I get more emails than any other with the subject of "what is the deal with Joe Sheehan and his hatred of the White Sox?" I'm guessing since I discuss the White Sox on a regular basis, plus I appear on a site with Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll, it's assumed that I have a pipeline to BP. I don't. I've never met Joe Sheehan or anyone else, besides Will and a brief conversation with Nate Silver, who works for BP. OK, now that I've got the Grand Jury testimony out of the way, I will say that I think there has been a negative tone towards the White Sox this year at my favorite baseball site. Here are a couple of quotes from pieces Sheehan wrote last week.

"87-55 is 87-55, and there's no way I can spin the White Sox except to say that I was wrong about their run prevention capabilities.
With that said, the White Sox have benefited from an insanely easy schedule. Their dominance of the AL Central--40-14--has been noted, and included in there is a 24-6 mark against the Tigers and Royals. But don't ignore their interleague slate: 18 games, none of which came against a team currently above .500. They went 12-6 in those contests.
It's quite possible the the 2005 White Sox are playing the weakest schedule in three-division history, and one of the weakest in the game's history. You have to consider that in evaluating what they've done this year."

The first line of Sheehan's statement "87-55 is 87-55" and "I was wrong" are true, but the next 2 paragraphs sound like a guy desperate to explain why he was off by more than 20 games in his pre-season predicted win total. This easiest schedule argument is questionable considering the Sox played basically the same schedule as the Indians, who Sheehan seems to be struggling to find a loophole to give the AL Central to. "The weakest schedule in 3-division history" statement makes little sense to me, as the Sox play divisional rivals, the Indians, Twins, and a decent Tigers club, besides matching up with the rest of its AL opponents, which make up the far superior league. The NL West teams get the huge bonus of facing its fellow losers, in addition to a National League that outside of St. Louis, looks to be one of the worst collective groups in it's 129 year history.

Last Wednesday, Sheehan added this Sox shot.

"For those of you annoyed that I would list (6 teams fighting it out for 4 spots) the White Sox…I don't care. The only thing saving them right now is regular doses of the Royals and Tigers. Since August 1, they're 7-1 against those two teams, 12-19 against everyone else. The Indians--probably the best team in the league right now--get six games against them starting with a three-game series at Jacobs Field next Monday. The White Sox haven't locked up anything yet."

This sounds like a writer who's received lots of angry White Sox fan's emails. I have received quite a few myself, but mine are the venting kind, asking what's the story with the Baseball Prospectus bias against the White Sox? Well, I'm no longer going to respond by saying that there's nothing to these fan's claims, as while I know enough about Baseball Prospectus that the staff doesn't sit as one collective group putting needles in Ozzie Guillen voodoo dolls (though that might explain some of his bizarre behavior), it would appear from the articles on the site that a majority of its writers are strongly rooting for the Sox to fail.

Besides the dislike of Kenny Williams and the manufacturing of runs-style propagated by skipper Guillen, I'm guessing many at BP would point to the White Sox exceeding their Pythagenpat, as a major cause for their negative view of the Sox. Sure the White Sox have been a lucky team, but considering all the years they have underachieved their Pythagorean formula, while the Twins consistently overachieved using the same scale, it's unfair to punish the Sox for this statistical fluke. LET ME STRONGLY STATE THAT I'M NOT CLAIMING I'm anywhere close to being the baseball writer that Joe Sheehan is. I do think, though, Sheehan's latest offerings have been somewhat unfair to the White Sox.

The final writer I want to discuss is Will Carroll. Now, there is no way I can take on Will without coming off as someone who is biting the hand that feeds, as Will was the one gracious enough to allow me to join him on the forums we have collaborated at. Man am I a dickhead. Listening yesterday to Will on a local sports radio station, he came out strongly against White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen, stating that he's failed as a skipper down the stretch, worn out his pitching staff, and worst of all, Guillen's personal behavior should have gotten him fired long ago. And oh yeah, put Will on the list of people predicting the White Sox will be left out of the playoffs.

Considering that Under the Knife is my favorite baseball column to read and that my knowledge of pitching has been greatly supplemented by Will, not to mention that Will is my good friend and writing partner at this site, well, I have some anxiety in disagreeing with his points. While I was not a fan of the White Sox hiring Guillen and think his behavior can be inappropriate, I think his use of the pitching staff has been great this year. The White Sox current starting pitchers have an excellent past record of avoiding injury (El Duque is the exception) and Guillen has kept them from racking up Pitcher Abuse Points, by not exceeding 120 pitches, so I don't agree with the idea that he's worn out the staff. Considering he is now having to rely on a rookie with a shaky past, Bobby Jenks, to close games, Guillen's options in the bullpen are pretty challenging.

I know this diatribe against the above mentioned reads like the words of a frustrated fan, but the fact at this point is the White Sox have at least a 3.5 game lead on it's fellow division rivals and wild card challengers. The Baseball Prospectus playoff odds are right on the money. It's time to embrace the idea that the White Sox will be in the playoffs, as flawed as they are. There are 3 other spots up for grabs, so it's time to focus on those AL teams.

FOOTNOTE: I wrote the top of this piece last week and added the part about Will last night. I mention this because today, Joe Sheehan has a great piece in BP about the Sox and Indians and I can't argue with any of it. I recommend you check it out.

The AL Races and Who Should Be Gripping Pt. 2 (Sept. 29) On August 16, I wrote on how I saw AL races breaking down, so I thought was time to do an update on the subject.

Here is why I think the Sox fans should calm down. It's not like they are competing with the Yankees, it's the Indians. Sure they are a better team than the White Sox at this point, but the Tribe are 4.5 games behind, their current roster has no more pennant race experience than Chicago, plus, they are the Indians, another historically cursed franchise who hasn't won a World Series since 1948.

If you have forgotten, all the way back last week, most of the experts were predicting the doom of the White Sox. Considering the combination of the Sox playing teams like the Twins and Tigers, who outside of the Santana game, are below average at this point and having a 4.5 GAME lead on their competition, it was a pretty easy calculation. Actually, I never understood how so many of my sabermetrically-inclined friends, with their Rain Man-esque brains, could get so far off on their analysis. I will get into specifics of all the teams, in my playoff breakdown this upcoming Monday, but one thing should be mentioned about the White Sox, which is quite interesting: Since April 14th, the White Sox have had the best record in the American League.

In this piece I wrote that the Yankees have one more finger on the bar, than the Indians and Red Sox, despite being a game and a half down, as their experience and improved pitching made them the best team down the stretch. Now a game up in the East and Wild Card races, who would have guessed at the beginning of 2005 that the Yankees most important pitcher wouldn't be the Big Unit, but instead Small,Wang. With the White Sox clinching so early, it seems like the Indians have a large advantage, so the Red Sox have their backs to the wall, but hey, it's not like they're down 3 nothing in the AL Championship.

My guess is the absences of Rich Harden in 2005, will cost the A's a playoff berth. Neither team looks to be a serious playoff contender this season, unless they meet the White Sox, who traditionally have problems with both squads.

Once again, right on the money. (Pausing while I reach over and pat myself on the back.) The Angels should consider, now that they have clinched a playoff berth that they should lose a few games, as they match-up best against the White Sox. So the Angels and White Sox have clinched, but it shouldn't take too much away from a great weekend of baseball, as the two powerhouses, Yankees and Red Sox meet up again.

Clinching Protocol- You Weigh In (Sept. 30) After clinching the playoffs on Thursday, the White Sox were put in a new dilemma. Do you rest some of your starters, which would be beneficial for your team's playoff chances, despite how this would effect the AL wild card race? While this rarely happens in baseball, this circumstance happens a lot in the NFL and NBA and while these league's claim they need to uphold the integrity of the whole season, the clinched teams generally rest the starters who they think it will benefit.

It's my belief that you earn the opportunity to rest your players if you clinch early, as the manager's main responsibility is to his team's future, be it giving veterans a rest to keep them fresh and also looking at his September call-ups for next season. I would argue that a call-up is going to play harder than a veteran that has clinched, anyway. I'm guessing, your opinion will vary, depending on if you're a Yankees/Red Sox or Indians fan.

The biggest issue for the White Sox at this point is do you start Brandon McCarthy, on the last game of the season? While McCarthy has been arguably the Sox best pitcher the past month, I would not put him in my rotation for the first round of the playoffs. It's hard to question using Buehrle, Contreas, Garland, and Garcia as I would say they are the best starting 4 of all playoff teams. Considering that McCarthy has the freshest arm, plus has the best strikeout/walk ratio, I would think he would be an effective tool to use out of the bullpen, so I would use the last couple regular season games to see how he fairs pitching in relief.

2005 Playoff Preview (Oct. 3) White Sox vs. Red Sox- The best first round match-up, as these 2 teams have extremely different strengths. The Red Sox seem really worn out, at this point and their pitching is a huge question mark. I would have chosen the White Sox to win in 4, as their starting pitching is superior, but the FUCKING moronic decision to not put arguably the best pitcher they've had the past month, Brandon McCarthy, on their post-season roster I think will come back to haunt them. Add to this the most pathetic hitting bench in the history of playoff baseball and the White Sox are going to need lights out pitching. Over the last month, the White Sox should have been playing Brian Anderson 4 times a week, as his overall game is superior to Perez, Everett, Posednik (post-July), and Blum. These 2 young players should have been on the playoff team, with Perez, Blum, or Vizcaino beginning their search for a major league roster for 2006. Outside of Homer Harrelson, it would be hard to find a big supporter of Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen's decisions from the off-season up than myself. Well take me off the bandwagon. I'm guessing these 2 felt some kind of loyalty to their more veteran players, but McCarthy is a difference maker, as he's the best strikeout pitcher on the roster. Oh yeah, he's not on the playoff roster and I can just see this be Chicago's undoing. Bullshit reasoning by Williams and Guillen costs the White Sox the series? As a fan, I hope not. As an impartial observer. Take the Red Sox in 5.

Playoff Comments and Red-Hot Football Picks (Oct. 7) I'm really happy that the rest of America is getting a chance to see how the White Sox were able to win 99 games. Sure they have seemed to have had an inordinate amount of luck in 2005, but they also play some of the smartest, most entertaining baseball I've ever watched. I wrote at the beginning of the year that the acquisitions of Pierzynski, Iguchi, and El Duque were great moves, even though to clear up the salary they needed for these players, they would have to trade Carlos Lee. Well, for the regular season, Hernandez was a bust, but the reason the White Sox management picked up Orlando was for his big game pitching ability. His appearance in the 6th inning, inheriting the bases loaded and shutting down the Red Sox, without a run, will go down as one of the great pitching moments in playoff history. (On a related note, it seems to be the time to cut loose Marte from the playoff roster. Please insert McCarthy. He could mean the difference coming out of the bullpen in a long series.)

There has been discussion about how Ozzie Guillen learned to manage most from Bobby Cox. Guillen has also credited Marlins managers Jeff Torborg and Jack McKeon, as skippers who have had influence on him. Ozzie has seemed to developed the magic touch with a pitching staff that Cox has, but as a person, he seems to have little in common with his mentors. I would say the manager his style reminds me most of is Billy Martin. Fiery, unconvential, and always a great quote, both Guillen and Martin have that small, middle infielder chip on the shoulder is a great motivator. I would guess that like Martin, Guillen will wear out his welcome after 3 or 4 years, but the charismatic personality he possesses, much like Billy had, will drive teams to overachieving in the short-term.

Everytime Paul Konerko has a spectacular fielding play or hits a big fly, I have mixed feelings. Most of me is happy, as he's the most important weapon in the White Sox lineup, but I also realizes it makes him more and more money in the free agency market. Considering the shallow free agent talent pool that is available this off-season, I would guess Konerko is already too expensive for the White Sox, but now he has really ridden up the salary ladder, as some team with deep pockets, who needs to make an off-season splash will have to consider making him a Thome-like deal. In a city like Chicago, especially with the blue-collar fan base the White Sox have, Konerko is the biggest fan favorite I've seen since I've been following the team. Much like the last Sox player to fit this description, Robin Ventura, I would not sign him to anything more than 9 million a year, which I suspect will be about 3-5 million less per season than will be needed. You're an excellent power hitter and great team leader, Paulie, but slow-footed first-baseman, who will be turning 30 over the off-season is not a good financial bet.

Meet Your AL Pennant Champs (Oct. 19) 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.)

Meet Your AL Pennant Champs: Pitching and Coaching Staff (Oct. 22) If you've been reading my stuff at The Juice, the one baseball subject I've been consistent on in 2005 has been that the White Sox pitching staff is underrated.
While I'm not going to claim I even thought they would be as good as they turned out, the 2005 analysis from PECOTA was so dismal for White Sox starters that many usually sane prognosticators I'm guessing were skewed by its data. While US Cellular was still an excellent homerun park in 2005, it wasn't the offensive stadium of past years. Now how much this had to do with the great strides they made on defense, it's difficult to compute, but there was no team with better pitching depth than the White Sox. Let's take a look in more detail at this staff.

Mark Buehrle
Despite this being his 6th major league season, Buehrle is only 26 years of age. Arguably the most consistent pitcher over this time, he has an 85-53 record, with a great history of pitching 6 innings or more, nearly every start. Very similar in style to Tom Glavine, I felt that he might struggle in post-season, his lack of a power pitch might cause him to struggle, but so far in this year's playoff, he has been dynamite. On a personal level, Buehrle is the player on the team that keeps his teammates loose, as he's the biggest practical joker of the Sox players. Grew up and still is a huge Cardinals fan, so it's probably good for his sake that he's facing the Astros. Strange stat is that in 2004 his home/away ERA splits were 5.02/2.63, while in 2005 they were 2.48/3.86.

Jose Contreras
Did you ever date a woman who became prettier after you stop seeing her? You being the one who recognized her potential, but the chemistry just wasn't right, so you dumped her, only to realize that she was just what you needed. Well, that must be how the Yankees feel right now, as Contreras has been the best pitcher in the AL since the beginning of August. To think that Kenny Williams was able to get the Yankees to trade Jose to them and pick up part of his contract, while only giving up a second-rate version of Esteban Loaiza.

Jon Garland
Another 26 year-old pitcher, with a lot of major league experience, Garland finally was able to throw enough strikes to complement his Kevin Brown-like sinker. With this out-pitch; Garland is well suited to take the mound in a homer happy park like the Cell. It will be interesting to see over the next couple of years, what the White Sox decide to do in re-signing their current starting staff, as it will be difficult economically to keep both Buehrle and Garland, as they will be hot commodities on the free agency market. Kudos should be given to the pitching coaches and especially the training staff, led by Herm Schneider, as the Sox have had little problem with arm issues with their pitchers, despite these young pitchers throwing more than 200 innings almost every year of their careers.
Was famously obtained from the Cubs for Matt Karchner. Almost makes up for the Sox giving up Sammy Sosa to the Cubs for George Bell. Almost.

Freddy Garcia
Remember when the experts were slamming the Freddy Garcia deal, as the White Sox giving up Jeremy Reed and Miguel Olivo was too much? Do you think Seattle would like to have a guy who is an innings horse, who is a solid Number 2 starter? Garcia is the pitcher who's hurt most by pitching in US Cellular, as his road ERA is a run better than at home. Guillen, whose niece is married to Garcia is well-aware of this, so he tries to juggle the staff to make sure Freddy pitches on the road, whenever the opportunity arises. Considering that his ERA was the highest of the starters and it still was half a run below the league average, just speaks to how great the Sox staff was in 2005. Garcia's biggest weakness is that he gives up most of his runs early in the game, but he's tough to hit after the second inning.

Orlando Hernandez/Brandon McCarthy- El Duque was a disappointment, but his performance in Game 3 of the ALDS versus Boston gave him a lot of absolution. Hernandez is still a decent pitcher, though he might be best coming out of the bullpen at this point of his career. McCarthy finally replaced El Duque as the fifth starter in August and during the last 2 months of the year; McCarthy had an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00. Amazingly, the White Sox had enough depth to keep the pitcher with the best strikeout ratio on the team off their playoff roster. SI's Tom Verducci, just to give you an idea of his talent, mentions McCarthy in the same breath as Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano. In my preview of the Red Sox/White Sox series, I chose the Red Sox to win, as I felt the decision to keep McCarthy off the roster and Vizcaino on it, was going to come back and haunt them. So far, it would seem like my furor over this decision was misguided.

White Sox Bullpen

While the White Sox lack a great closer like Rivera or Lidge, their depth in the bullpen makes this a small issue. The top 4 relievers on staff have batting averages against all below .230. (Cotts .179, Politte .181, Hermanson .222, Jenks .225)
Bobby Jenks has been a revelation, as the mix of his upper 90's fastball and filthy curve is as dangerous a combo as there is in the Majors. In the same Verducci piece linked above, he discusses how the Angels must really be sick about not protecting this unique talent. Prior to Jenks closing games, Dustin Hermanson, another savvy free-agent pick-up by Williams, stepped in for the former closer, Shingo Takatsu and was perfect in save situations, until his back started flaring up. While these two relievers received the most focus because of the saves they registered, Neil Cotts and Cliff Politte were just as valuable to the Sox success. Politte was another on the cheap transaction by the White Sox upper management, while Cotts might have been the best left-handed reliever in the league. Politte is nearly unhittable, as long as you don't use him in a save situation, as he seems to meltdown when that is the case. Cotts is the only player leftover for either team, from the infamous Foulke/Koch deal. While it was during the short-term great for the A's, add a couple more years like 2005 and it could make the trade swing back on the Sox side, Moneyball be damned.

2005-11-06 23:35:02
1.   Scott Long
The only thing I didn't have room for was my breakdown of the coaching staff, which I will list below in the comments section. Scott

Coaching Staff

When Ozzie Guillen was originally signed to manage the White Sox, I thought it was the beginning of the end, as Ozzie the player, was one of the worst hitters in team history, doing everything a good sabermetrical disciple would abhor. While he sacrifice bunts too often, his work with the pitching staff is so good, it has genreally made up for his giving away runs strategy. An interesting thing about Guillen's coaches is that Harold Baines, Joey Cora, Greg Walker and Tim Raines all played with him while he was with the White Sox. Jerry Reinsdorf has focused on a family loyalty, as all these coaches, plus GM Williams all spent time with the club. This has fostered a good atmosphere in the clubhouse. The new star from the staff is pitching coach Don Cooper, who can talk almost as much as Ozzie.

It will be interesting to see what role the managers have in what promises to be a tight battle between similar teams. One interesting sidelight on this subject is that Phil Garner, while the skipper of the Brewers, had a running feud with the White Sox, especially with broadcaster Hawk Harrelson. So Hawk-haters, here is another reason for you to root for the Astros. The last thing I want to mention is that it's sad that the year the White Sox make it the World Series, the greatest hitter in club history since Shoeless Joe is unable to join them because of injury. The whole thing with Frank Thomas not being part of the White Sox's ultimate success in 2005, reminds me of how the Yankees finally went to another World Series the year after Don Mattingly retired.

Sweeping Through the Competition (Oct. 26)
White Sox expert Scott Long said that they had the worst bench in the history of the World Series. Willie Harris gets a pinch-hit single and then scores the winning run to clinch the Championship. Geoff Blum, who I thought should have been left off the playoff roster, ends up hitting a homerun in the 14th inning, which gave the White Sox the lead they would never relinquish in game 3. God it has never felt better to be wrong.

On the discussion of people who were wrong, no one has a bigger, fluffier, steaming omelet on their face than Windy City Woody Paige. (Jay Mariotti) I can remember when he was a good columnist, but the Around the Horning of him has made most of his recent work a pale imitation. WCWP has for so long ripped the White Sox, including his predictions of their demise at the end of the 2005 that the World Series crown becomes even sweeter.

You know, Aaron Miles is a decent utility type player, but to think that he was all it took to obtain Juan Uribe. Can you imagine the attention that would have been heaped on Derek Jeter, if he had done the same things that Uribe did defensively during this series? The left side defense of the White Sox in 2005 was as good as I've seen since the days of Ozzie Smith and Terry Pendleton. In a Series that didn't have one standout offensive player, I would have given the MVP trophy to Uribe over Jermaine Dye, but batting .438 in the Series, it's hard to argue against Dye's selection.

It has been bandied around that the White Sox were a team of players having career years. Wrong. Not one position player had a career year. With the starting staff they have coming back, plus their extremely deep bullpen, it's hard to see how the White Sox won't be a playoff contender for the next couple of seasons. Outside of Paul Konerko, there is not one major player that the White Sox don't have an option on for 2006. It will be interesting to see what happens with the most popular Chicago White Sox during the off-season.

2005-11-07 00:33:43
2.   Eric L
Scott.. enjoyed the article..

One little quibble.. at least Paige doesn't take himself too seriously..

I would say that Mary Otti is the Chicago version of Bill Plaschke.

Paige can be a bit of a p**ck at times (re: his articles about Brian Griese) but he doesn't seem to have the venom of a Plaschke or Mariotti.

2005-11-07 08:15:37
3.   Scott Long

I agree with you overall, but Windy City Woody just flows better and I'm guessing it would piss off Mariotti more to be referred to as being like Paige more than being like Plaschke.

2005-11-07 19:41:37
4.   Endymion
Great article Scott!

I find myself struggling lots being a "Stat geek" and watching what the Sox have done. Is BP going to have a sequel to Mind Game? What the Sox have done, at the urging of Ozzie, with focusing on defense and pitching has been amazing. Even more impressive than Theo and group, though probably not as prepared for long term sucess. All season long I have wondered about bunts, but DAMN, it was magical in the first half watching Pods get on in the first, have the pitcher stress about him, have Iguchi get him over to second with a bunt and then somehow having that lead off hitter score. Watching the speed of Pods changed the way I think of the stolen base. Bill James may say you need a 72% steal rate, but I don't know if you do. The effect it has on the pitcher when someone with speed is on base changes the game.

And then you say there is no clutch in baseball and I think about Joe Crede. That boy can hit in the clutch, I don't care what the number say.

All I know, I NEVER thought I would see the White Sox win the series.

I always thought having your team in the World Series would be awesome. It actually sucks! You are stressed out for days. You go up 1-0, you still have 6 more games to go. Walk off homer puts you up 2-0, you have a travel day and all your team did was hold serve for home field anyway. Then you stay up until 1:45 in the morning for the longest WS game ever and go to your job at some damn early hour the next day. Later that night, your team is World Champions and you think about all the guys you rooted for as a kid; Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble, Guillen, pot smoking Lamary Hoyt, 280Z Datsun, Fisk, Baines, Baines 2.0, Baines 3.0, Andy Hawkins throwing a no hitter and losing and the Big Hurt. You call you Dad, you both shake your heads over the phone. You call your uncles and you just keep saying can you believe it. And at the end of the day, you still can't believe it. It is AWESOME and you will have it forever.

2005-11-07 20:48:14
5.   bjoak
Definitely agree on the PECOTA numbers for not just the Sox but all pitchers. It seems to consistently undervalue guys and it's hard to tell if it really takes peripherals and defense into account or whether it is more based on past RA and comparables, albeit park and league adjusted. Any thoughts?
2005-11-08 07:10:19
6.   thewebb
Endymion, and everyone else, I agree with the clutch thing. I just got done reading Moneyball (fantastic book by the way), and they mention in passing a couple of times that hitting in the clutch is basically luck in baseball. Unless I missed it, I didn't see any true evidence or research on this that proves the theory. If someone has a link or a book with this proof, could you forward it on? I'm not 100% discounting it, but it seems proposterous. Anyone that has ever played at any level played with a guy that wore out regular season pitching, or mediocre pitching, and then their sphinkter tightened up in the big spots. To me, saying there is not clutch, just luck, in baseball is like saying any golfer is going to hit an 8 foot putt at the same rate regardless of if it is at your local country club or to win the masters.
2005-11-08 08:48:45
7.   onetimer
Why not call Mariotti his Hawk-given name. He's known as the Heinie bird. That one got him all riled up.

The flip-flopping on clutch hitting is funny (not by Scott, but by the true stat geeks). It seemed for a few years, it was taken as fact that there was no clutch hitting. Bill James know says he believes in it and Neyer seems to have joined him. It's possible it's just not measurable.

2005-11-08 10:06:20
8.   chris in illinois
Clutch hitting. Hmmmmm.....

Discussing clutch hitting is like trying to prove a negative. Once a player is annointed a 'clutch' player, it's a label that's hard to shed----witness the 'greatest closer ever',
Mariano Rivera, didn't he lose a World Series in 2001? Did he stop being clutch that game?? Or perhaps, Luis Gonzalez's 'clutchness' trumped Rivera that one night.
As anyone who has ever examined the issue will attest, it all comes down to sample size. Look at Neifi Perez's April in 2005---anyone can be good over a short period, or a small sample size.

I don't doubt that some guys tighten up at this level more than others---it's human nature---but, I think the differences between the bulk of the players in MLB are very slight. If you'd rank all players on a 100 point 'clutch scale', I'd be surprised if there'd be more than a 10 point difference between the best and the worst of the bunch. It's just a hunch, but if you can even play at that level, I doubt if there's a lot of knee-shaking at he plate.

Just my opinion.

2005-11-08 11:18:27
9.   thewebb
Valid opinion, couldn't disagree more. Some people get there on pure talent/tools. The Billy Beane example in the book of his personal playing career would be a good example of that. No one is 100% clutch, or 100% nonclutch. Arod and Ortiz have pretty similar offensive numbers, who would you rather have your team face in a big situation? Obviously that's just one example and does not prove anything by itself. One timer, do you have any articles where Bill James or Neyer talk about this and that they believe in it? I'd love to read it. Thanks.
2005-11-08 21:06:46
10.   Todd S
BP's thinking on clutch hitting in general is that no one has been able to detect a statistical correlation from year-to-year. In other words, they can't measure a guy who seems to be "clutch" consistently. However, someone at BP (Nate Silver?) has recently alluded to new research on clutchness. As far as I know, nothing has been published yet.

Scott, this was a nice article, but what do you think the Cubs should do about their shortstop situation in the offseason?

(Sorry...couldn't resist.)

2005-11-08 21:22:27
11.   chris in illinois
Todd S.,

Precisely my point. Dave Ortiz wasn't particularly clutch in '05 now was he??

ARod in 103 post-season AB's through 2004 has a sweet line of 330/395/583 (Baseball Reference doesn't have the '05 playoff stats up yet).

Dave Ortiz in 131 AB's (Again through '04) 298/387/534.

Ortiz does have a lot more RBI, but I don't have numbers on how many opportunities each guy had.

Bottom line, both are fine hitters and both players have certainly played well in the post-season.

FYI, Willie Mays had a line of 247/323/337 in 89 career post-season AB's. Which is more indictive of his abilities?? Those 89 AB's or his career 302/384/557 over 10881 AB's??

2005-11-09 07:20:31
12.   thewebb
Ortiz wasn't clutch this year? Was I watching a different 2005 season? Here's an exerpt from Larry Mahnken of the Hardball Times where he's actually arguing that Arod (because of how much better he is than replacement player and defense) should be MVP over Ortiz, but still admits the clutch differences. Full link is below too for those of you that want to read it.

"Ortiz has, in fact, been one of the most clutch players in baseball this season, posting a 1.051 OPS with runners in scoring position and a 1.161 OPS in close and late situations. Rodriguez's RISP numbers are much worse—just a .842 OPS, but his close and late numbers, while not as good as Ortiz's, are still excellent: 1.006.

All this is well and good, and Ortiz's clutch numbers do change the value of his raw stats—they came in higher leverage spots and were thus worth more. But they are not the entire value of Ortiz's stats. A run scored in the first inning counts just as much on the scoreboard as one scored in the ninth, and the more you score early, the less often you need to score in the ninth. These non-clutch situations are not as sexy as the clutch ones, but they still count, and they encompass two-thirds of a player's plate appearances.

In rate stats, A-Rod has a massive advantage over Ortiz in non-clutch situations: 1.102 OPS to .994 without RISP, 1.024 to .972 in non-C&L situations. These situations include games that are tied or close early, home runs and doubles with runners on first base, and of course "tack-on" runs that end up deciding a game. If these numbers were close, Ortiz's clutch numbers would give him an offensive advantage large enough to overcome his disadvantages of park and position (as well as A-Rod's defensive advantage). They're not close, and A-Rod still has the edge."

2005-11-09 15:05:09
13.   chris in illinois

To clarify, I meant that Ortiz wasn't very clutch in the playoffs. Clearly he was one of the very best players---in any situation---in either league in the regular season. I was just trying to make the point that even a player with a 'clutch' reputation can suck over the span of three games.

Clutch, I just don't buy it.

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