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Steel Cage Match: White Sox vs Baseball Prospectus
2007-03-20 22:08
by Scott Long

In my continuing series of potentially alienating people that I like and respect (Baseball Prospectus and most others in the sabermetrical world), I have put together 10 reasons why the White Sox and Baseball Prospectus have been at odds over the past few years. I'm trying to be chronological on these reasons.

1. Kenny Williams was slammed for his trades of Wells/Fogg for Ritchie and Foulke for Koch/Cotts. (Not good deals, but not as bad as originally considered.)

2. Traded Chad Bradford for Miguel Olivo. In Moneyball, Williams was seen as an idiot for making this deal, which wasn't so bad, considering Miguel Olivo had a decent OPS for his position and was outstanding in certain elements behind the plate, while with the Sox.

3. BP poster boy Jeremy Reed (and Olivo) traded for Freddy Garcia, which is almost universally seen as a horrible deal for Sox, by the sabermetrical community.

4. Traded Carlos Lee for Podsednik/Vizcaino. (Trashed for this move, even though it was done to free up money to sign Pierzynski, Hermanson, and Iguchi.)

5. One of my favorite writers, Joe Sheehan, says the team will be lucky to win more than 71 games in 2005. Most of the other BP writers pick them either 3rd or 4th.

Time for a Brief Intermission: At this point, the White Sox front office are seen as idiots by most in the sabermetrical world. After only managing 1 year, Ozzie Guillen doesn't help this by saying they need to play more small-ball to win games.

6. White Sox end up winning 99 games and having a starting pitching performance in the playoffs that was like something from the '65 Dodgers.

7. Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams, who both wear a chip on their shoulders the size of an anvil, are brash in giving it back to their detractors.

8. Baseball Prospectus' 2006 chapter on the White Sox is focused on the subject of LUCK, discussing how the team overachieved their Pythagorean record by 8 games. At the end, it gives them credit for trying to load up for the 2006 season by trading for Jim Thome and Javier Vasquez. The praise is faint, though, as they take the front office to task for not trading Podsednik or Brian Anderson, instead of Aaron Rowand and Chris Young.
I call this talk radio, brain-dead analysis, because the teams they were trading with would not have made these deals, unless Rowand and Young were given in return. BP said the same thing when Jeremy Reed was traded, asking why they didn't give up Joe Borchard, instead? BECAUSE THE MARINERS DIDN'T WANT BORCHARD. Oh and finally when the Mariners did take Borchard, the White Sox got in return one of the best set-up men of 2006, Matt Thornton. (By the way, I didn't like the Vasquez/Young trade, but I think for the first 3 years of the deal, the White Sox will be pretty even on it.)

9. BP's staff picks have the White Sox as a close second to the Indians. (This does nothing to prove my point, but to be fair I have to bring it up. Thanks a lot, Ali Nagib.)

10. PECOTA spits out a record of 72 wins for the 2007 White Sox, despite the team winning an average of 94.5 games the past 2 years and not having a losing season this century, so far.

I can't demonstrate the inner turmoil that both sides might have for each other, but I can say I'm petty enough that if I worked for BP I would root against the White Sox this season and if I worked for the White Sox I would want to rub it in BP's face, if PECOTA ends up being wrong once again. For those of you that think I didn't do enough to prove my point don't push me or I will bring out my trump card to show a bias by the sabermetrical world against the White Sox. Please allow me to introduce a man by the name of HAWK HARRELSON.

2007-03-20 23:34:32
1.   Greg Brock
The White Sox pitching was "off the charts, never to be duplicated" good in '05. They fell off in '06. They will probably fall off even more in '07.

Ozzie Guillen is a disaster area as a manager. Non-stop talk, ridiculously inappropriate comments, general douchebagitude. Celebrating how much giving up outs is fantastic. Starting completely nonsensical rivalries with his players.

How could anybody outside the South Side possibly root for the White Sox?

2007-03-20 23:44:01
2.   Greg Brock
Oh, and AJ Pierzynski
2007-03-20 23:50:26
3.   stevegoz
I grew up a White Sox fan thanks to the free tix I scored every year for perfect attendance in grammar school during the '70s and early '80s. That's how, dammit.

Plus, they're not the Cubs.

2007-03-20 23:59:29
4.   joejoejoe
Statistical analysis is one factor in making predictions but like mutual fund managers say 'Past performance does not guarantee future results.'

Carlton Fisk was 15th in MVP voting at age 42 with a 134 OPS+ in 500+ plate appearances. No model predicts that kind of performance you are not going to do well betting on 42 year old catchers. The same Fisk had an OPS+ of 60 with an OB% of .263 at age 38 in 470+ PAs. I'm pretty sure everyone thought he was done at that point. He wasn't.

If a prediction model has an 85% accuracy that still leaves 15% of players who fall outside the prediction. Even if you stipulate that 2/3 of the players who are far outside their predicted value is random noise that still leaves 5% of the players who have some other factor not evident in their stats explaining their performance. That's 37 major league players (and a lot more talent including the minors) that LIKELY will have some weird quirk about them that if you can idenitfy - you can mine for value.

Or Ken Williams could just say 'I can't hear you, I have my World Series ring in my ear'.

2007-03-21 00:37:51
5.   Greg Brock
That's the Perfect Attendance awards and the Punctuality Award. I got those at Rushmore. I thought you could choose which one you like more, and you could wear that one and I could wear the other.

Of course, I wrote a hit play. And directed it. So I'm not sweating it, either.

2007-03-21 01:05:49
6.   joejoejoe
5 You're like one of those clipper ship captains. You're married to the sea.
2007-03-21 07:00:44
7.   Shaun P
It seems that PECOTA isn't the only projection system that is very down on the White Sox.

SG over at RLYW ran 4000 Diamond Mind Baseball simulations using 4 different projection systems (1000 for PECOTA, 1000 for CHONE, 1000 for ZiPS, 1000 from Diamond Mind's own system) to project the results of the 2007 season. The overall results for each projection system had the White Sox finishing 4th, with a win total usually in the 70s, and a high of 83 wins. When SG combined everything together, the White Sox won the division 1% of the time (so 40 times out of 4000 I guess?).

The whole post is here, and SG himself thinks the projections are very low for the White Sox because of the pitching (along with other caveats he gives at the start for everyone):

2007-03-21 08:16:14
8.   ToyCannon
I'm a fan of Ozzie and White Sox but I think this is the year that BP gets it right. The team looks primed for a major regression.
If BP is right I hope BP doesn't brag about it because they were so far off in 2005 that being right once out of three years is nothing to hang your hat on. As an Angel fan they also thought the Angels would blow the year we won the WS.
2007-03-21 09:05:00
9.   D4P
if I worked for BP I would root against the White Sox this season

I don't work for BP, but I'll be rooting against the White Sox this season. And I'll be hoping they trade Bobby Jenks for David Eckstein.

2007-03-21 09:07:46
10.   D4P
Oh: and in the interest of fairness, I'll be hoping they trade Paul Konerko to the Dodgers for Mark Hendrickson.
2007-03-21 10:39:14
11.   JL25and3
5 I'll take Punctuality.
2007-03-21 11:34:40
12.   Xeifrank
4. Player projection models are not advertised to be 100% or even 85% accurate. TangoTiger has shown that there is a ceiling on accuracy of around 65% (on hitting), a little lower on pitching. Many of the "good" models mentioned briefly in this thread measure very close to this ceiling. A projection model is just a tool to help make decisions/predictions. Nobody has ever claimed it to be the baseball bible. But wouldn't you rather wear a pair of foggy glasses than a bag over your head?
vr, Xei
2007-03-21 13:13:53
13.   sanchez101
I think you should write a follow up piece on the Cleveland Indians. To BP and PECOTA they're the opposite of the White Sox - it seems like every year since '03 or so BP has been high on the Indians only to see them fail to make the playoffs. It's interesting how in both cases BP makes the 'luck' excuse. The Indians were unlucky in 04, and again in 05 ... and again in 06. Im not saying they're wrong - Cleveland has underperformed to their pythag. records. But, is it a mere coincidence that BP's eternally optomistic about an organization run by a 'new-age, statistical-oriented' GM and eternally pesemistic about an organization run by a 'old-school, scouting-oriented' GM?

I should note that I'm a big fan of BP and Pecota. It's just that good analysis should judge the moves on their own merits, not the motivation/philosophy/reputation of the executives involved.

2007-03-21 14:32:46
14.   Mark T.R. Donohue
1 BP has crunched the numbers and has conceded that Ozzie is one of the best managers of pitchers in baseball. I believe that to be true both from personal observation and looking at the stats. So he's got that going for him, at the very least.
2007-03-21 15:47:56
15.   Voxter
14 - The real problem is that he's a bad person.
2007-03-21 15:56:43
16.   Greg Brock
14 Yeah, I don't criticize how he handles his staff. I don't know how much of that belongs with his pitching coach, but I readily concede he does a good job with his pitchers. But his offensive philosophy is crazy and his conduct is petty and childish.
2007-03-21 16:27:53
17.   Scott Long
As someone who watches the team on a regular basis, Guillen offensive philosphy is split into 2 camps. What he claims he wants to do and what he actually does. The White Sox are mainly a slugging team, as outside of the left field and center field spots, being made up of slugging types. (Iguchi being the only one in between.)

As I've written here before, the White Sox claim one thing, but behave a different way.
As to Guillen's personal behavior, he just says out loud what a lot of ballplayers and managers say in private. Do you think Tommy Lasorda was/is PC? I'm not defending some of his language, but the guy reminds me of a lot of morning DJ's. What is refreshing is that he doesn't just put out the same boring quotes that so many of the other robotic managers do.

Shaun, thanks for the interesting link.

Oh and Steve, I know this is belated, but congrats on the perfect grammar scores. I've been meaning over the past 30 years to give you your props, but it kept slipping my mind.

2007-03-21 17:17:20
18.   TFD
"How could anybody outside the South Side possibly root for the White Sox?"

In the middle of all the clutter, that sentence - - in one fell swoop - - states the clear, unadulterated truth of the ages. How indeed.


2007-03-21 21:36:59
19.   joejoejoe
12 Ken Williams says he uses all of the statistical tools - he just doesn't rely on them exclusively. It's more like should a GM look through binoculars exclusively or take a glance around using peripheral vision as well. It's a false choice to talk about foggy glasses or a bag over your head.
2007-03-21 22:07:55
20.   stevegoz
Greg, shup because I saved Latin -- what did you ever do? Interlake made me a White Sox fan, and not even a chinless catcher can take that away.

And Scott, I'm gonna be stuck wondering just how it can possibly be that Ozzie says things out loud that others only say in private.

Ozzie say winning is fung.

2007-03-24 15:24:25
21.   das411
So if all of the statistical models in the world are right 80% of the time or 65% of the time, and the White Sox are one of the teams they are wrong about, what exactly is the problem? Sure, if you play 4,000 imaginary seasons the Sox may not win all of them, or most of them, or more than 1% of them. That is why they play the games on the field, not in a computer.

/throws grenade, runs away.

2007-03-24 18:23:14
22.   Scott Long
My point is that PECOTA has been off all 3 years Guillen has managed the White sox and this year it is predicting 72 wins. BP has picked the White Sox to finish lower than what the major media has, in general. This is more than just a statistical anomaly, from my seat. I'm guessing you feel differently.

/watch out, I just pulled the pin.

2007-03-25 12:37:41
23.   das411
Well then it's just bias, Pecota played for the Royals for how long Scott?

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