Friday, December 23, 2005


One last time, we lifelong White Sox fans pause to remember that the 2005 Chicago White Sox are now immortal, like Da Bears and Jordan's six teams. Barring another miracle, Mark, Freddy, Jon, Jose, Orlando, Bobby, Dustin, Cliff, Neil, Damaso, Luis, AJ, Chris, Paul, Tadahito, Juan, Joe, Pablo, Willie, Scott, Aaron, Jermaine, Carl, Frank, Timo, Geoff, and Ross, you'll all be remembered as long as there is baseball in Bridgeport.

Goodbye, Orlando, Damaso, Luis, Aaron, and Geoff, you're gone now, on to new teams as part of the annual retooling. Adios also to Timo and Willie, victims of the windshield of salary escalation and their own performance. Farewell (probably) to Frank Thomas, the brightest star in a century-plus of ChiSox baseball.

Hellos to Javier, Rob, and Jim, and also to Brandon and Brian (although we've met quite a bit before), the reinforcements brought in.

Here's hoping you, too, can become part of the new panorama.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Javier Self a Merry Little Christmas

Item: White Sox reportedly trade El Duque, Luis Vizcaino, and Chris Young for Javier Vazquez and a lot of cash. This deal is still unannounced last I checked due to physical exams and, possibly, MLB needing to approve the cash part. (When is the last time the commissioner didn't?)

Javier Vazquez displaces El Duque and Brandon McCarthy as the supposed fifth starter in the rotation, at least for now. The deal placed a lot of pressure on Jose Contreras and Jon Garland to come to terms on an extension, keeping the pitching staff together. At last report, Contreras is the most likely to cave first. When the music stops, whoever doesn't sit in Chair Number Five gets traded, and not necessarily to a favorable ballpark (How about Tampa Bay, Jon? Or Texas more your style?)

Vazquez, obviously, is the ex-Expo phenom who suffered an epic collapse in 2004 in the second half of the season as a Yankee and then turned in a pedestrian effort in 2005 for the D-Backs. The question for Vazquez is how much of his performance suffered from the combination of substandard defensive teams and uninspired coaching. Those won't be problems with the White Sox. His propensity for giving up fly balls in worrisome in the Cell, of course. But he is certainly an upgrade over El Duque in what's-left ability and in health status, and while overpaid, as a back of the rotation starter he's a very good pitcher.

Vizcaino and El Duque were roster filler at this point in their careers for the White Sox. Vizcaino's role was essentially mop-up relief, and El Duque's healthy history means he can't be projected to put up 200 innings ever again. Certainly El Duque served an important role in the 2005 team, but you can't get all sentimental and assume he'd do it again.

Giving up Chris Young may turn out to be prohibitively expensive. "May". Young turned in a monster power season as a youngster at Birmingham, a park which kills home run hitters. His 26 homers probably repesent about 25% fewer than he'd have hit if the Barons played in a neutral ballpark. One problem for Young was contact -- he strikes out a lot -- and maybe the White Sox have become a little gunshy since the Borchard experiment, but still, a five-tool outfielder with that kind of pop could turn out to be a real find. If Young shows he can hit for average and play center field, the White Sox may regret the trade. If he ends up a .260-hitting corner outfielder with power and 60 walks a year (Carlos Lee), they won't, really. You can't compare Young to Jeremy Reed statistically because they are so different, but I remember the gnashing of teeth over Reed's being traded for Garcia, which resembled the gnashing over Young last week. I doubt any White Sox fans regret that deal now after Garcia's duel with Backe in the championship clincher; if they do, well, I suggest they should re-examine what they think is important in a baseball season.

Further, if the White Sox use the little auction they're having to lock in Contreras and if he can maintain his improvment, and if they can flip Garland's incredible season into a star position player like Blalock or Tejada or a handful of high-level prospects, the White Sox may never miss Young.

If they don't, another possibility is this gives the White Sox more than an excuse to put McCarthy in the Charlotte pantry long enough to set his career money clock back one more year and a five-deep rotation that could be among the most feared in baseball history. That alone may be the key to the deal, in the long run.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Crystal Ball

The White Sox 2006 roster should be capable of defending the division title, although the division will be tougher than its was. The long term prognosis is really ugly, I think. Because of idiotic teams like the Mets and Blue Jays raising the going rate for pitching mediocrity to almost ten million dollars and, by inference, skyrocketing the price of quality pitching, the White Sox' rotation will simply be too expensive to keep together beyond 2006-7.
Kenny's core strategy, assembling dominant starting pitchers at relative bargain prices, is not sustainable.

Black Betsy will want to point out that trading pitching prospects by the basket doesn't help this situation, and he's partially right; the problem (and you can ask any Texas Ranger fan to confirm this) is that from 10 Gios and Haigwoods, you have an even chance of getting one Freddy Garcia, and you need a handful to play the 2005 White Sox' game.

As for the rest of the division, the Indians' offseason depends on Millwood, I think, as they've struck out badly in everything since the Byrd signing. I don't see that they've gotten either better or worse. In any case, the Indians are basically as good as the White Sox, although if they'd just fix their corner positions they'd dominate. The problem is, as smart as Shapiro is, he has a blind spot, and doesn't get that Aaron Boone is a terrible ballplayer.

When I first saw that the Twins got Castillo, I shuddered. Castillo is a massive upgrade over everybody the Twinks have played at second for years, probably since Knoblauch. They are working on their third base hole, and probably plan to replace Jones with the gimpy guy (Kubel?), and allegedly are looking for one of the old broken down guys (Thomas, Piazza) to replace Matt LeCroy at DH. (How did HE get through waivers?) There is, though, a case for believing that Castillo will decline sharply in Minnesota, that being that he's basically an infield singles hitter, and that the FieldTurf may turn a lot of his slow rollers into outs. I'm not holding my breath.

The Tigers continue their steady march toward mediocrity, and have reached the point they can be a real pain in the neck to the contending teams, but not the point they can contend. Polanco and Shelton and Bonderman are good players, but the team is weighed down by several ridiculous has-beens with gigantic contracts. They continued to add to their collection of misfit toys with Kenny "Assault and Battery" Rogers.

I revel in the Royals' badness, their continuing penance (in my book) for their decade dominating the old A.L. West partly through the cheap trick of an unplayable ballfield that confused and disoriented visiting teams and gave them dozens of cheap victories over visitors that would have crushed them on grass. (Don't believe me? Check out the Royal record in the first games of home series from 1975-1990..)

Kings of the Mountain

A quick roster analysis for the 2006 defending World Series champions... A few NRIs to be named later could upset the applecart a bit, especially at the back end of the bullpen.


  • Locks (11): Paul Konerko, Tadahito Iguchi, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, A. J. Pierzynski, Chris Widger, Rob Mackowiak, Pablo Ozuna
  • Likely (1): Brian Anderson
  • Questionable (4): Timo Perez, Willie Harris, Joe Borchard, Ross Gload
  • Possible (3): Chris Young, Jerry Owens, Chris Stewart
  • Long Shots (2): Casey Rogowski, Pedro Lopez

As everybody points out, we don't know how many pitchers they'll carry, probably 12 as a baseline, which squeezes out Willie Harris and, probably, Timo Perez. The "questionable" list doesn't include anybody with minor-league options left. One advantage to carrying a Jerry Owens on the roster is he can be optioned regularly as part of the pitching load balancing act.

On paper, the offense has returned to the level it was at in 2004.


  • Locks (8): Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Neal Cotts, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Dustin Hermanson, Bobby Jenks, Cliff Politte,
  • Likely (3): Orlando Hernandez, Brandon McCarthy, Luis Vizcaino
  • Possible (3): Jon Adkins, Jeff Bajenaru, Arnie Munoz
  • Long Shots (4): Felix Diaz, Charlie Haeger, Paulino Reynoso, Sean Tracey

The likelies here are all pending possible trades.


Near the end of the winter meetings, the White Sox traded Damaso Marte back to the Pirates for lefthanded-hitting supersub Rob Mackowiak. A good deal, as long as the White Sox aren't forced to over-use Mackowiak.

Marte had worn out his welcome over the last two years, both with marginal pitching (all those walks) and, reportedly, off-the-field hissy fits. As a second lefthanded reliever (I hesistate to use the words "setup man" with the White Sox, whose bullpen use is more creative than that), Marte was likely to see 40-60 innings again, making him a brutally expensive player. Trading him back to the organization the White Sox obtained him from brought an interesting, unique player.

Mackowiak is nominally a third baseman, but has seen 232 games in right, 167 at third, 110 in center, 59 at second, 46 in left, and even 5 at first base. His defensive statistics look below-average but acceptable in center and at second, and average at the other positions. This makes him acceptably versatile (being suitable for six positions in the lineup), and therefore one heck of a bench player.

As a hitter, he's also one heck of a bench player, and could fill in as an interim regular without crippling the team, but he's basically a lefthanded Joe Crede. This makes him an upgrade in terms of both versatility and effectiveness over the past Sox bench players, and provides effective insurance that the White Sox lacked in 2005.

One comment often made about the 2005 Series champs was how lucky they'd been, but the real luck was that the serious injuries they did suffer to key players (Frank Thomas, El Duque) were covered adequately in places the team had some depth. Injuries to Podsednik and Crede, neither offensive dynamos, weren't adequately covered, contributing to the late-August, early-September doldrums, because the 2005 bench simply wasn't all that hot. The 2006 bench is already looking better, as Mackowiak is a better ballplayer than any of the 2005 crew.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tomorrow Never Knows

Frank Thomas was refused arbitration yesterday, almost certaining ending his long White Sox career. Predicatably, as it always happens with older athletes who refuse to quit, Frank is angry, bitter, and resentful. Always optimistic, Frank expects to be healthy next year and contribute significantly -- like he did ten years ago, when he wasn't 38 years old.

I think the truth is Frank thinks he needs 500 homers to lock in his Hall Of Fame credentials. Because of the twin negatives of DH-ness and an injury-riddled last half of his career, many observers feel that Frank falls just short of a Hall of Fame career. I suspect Frank believes that and is still looking for some more counting numbers.

The problem is, if he puts up some mediocre numbers, he'll damage people's memories, and be remembered by the HOF voters as an old, slow slugger. I think he'd do better to hang them up, and spend the next five years quietly reminding the world how he wasn't chemically assisted during his tenure, and should be judged that way, being the elder statesman he has earned the right to be.

It's always disappointing when a premier athlete overstays his time, like a great actor taking a bit part on a TV show. Or think of the train wreck that was Life With Lucy (Lucille Ball) trying to recapture that magic from the 1950s. That's what I think of a 38-year-old Frank Thomas bouncing around the hotel selling himself as healthy and ready to contribute. Sure, it's possible he'll put up some nice numbers and be healthy for a full year. It's also possible he'll get elected the next Nevada senator. Just don't bet on either.

If Frank doesn't want to become part of the Minnie Minoso post-retirement PR machine for the White Sox quite yet, and somebody wants to pay him several million bucks not to, I'm fine with that. But let's be realistic, the odds are, he'll break something else and that will be that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thome, can you hear me?

The White Sox today traded Aaron Rowand and two minor leaguers to the Phillies for Jim Thome and enough money to re-stock Fort Knox. The two minor leaguers are apparently Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood, who are lefthanded pitchers and top-ten prospects. What this means for the Konerko re-signing effort, I don't know; rumor has it the Orioles have entered the bidding with a really stupid gesture.

Internet analysts have mostly gone ballistic on the Thome trade. They quite properly focus on Thome's health history, and also on the insanity of parting with two highly regarded prospects.

On the last one, well, give me a break.

In acquiring Freddy Garcia, Carl Everett, Royce Clayton, Bartolo Colon, and Roberto Alomar, the White Sox parted with:
  • Jeremy Reed, who started in center for the Mariners last year and played poorly,
  • Miguel Olivo, who played his way off the Mariners and is now in San Diego,
  • Michael Morse, who was busted for steroids and is a marginal player with Seattle,
  • Frank Francisco, who threw a chair at a fan in Oakland, narrowly avoided prosecution, and is currently rehabbing an injury that cost him a season
  • Josh Rupe, who is a borderline middle relief prospect with the Rangers,
  • Anthony Webster, who can't get out of A ball
  • Gary Majewski, a decent setup pitcher with Washington
  • Jon Rauch, who can't stay healthy with Washington
  • Edwin Almonte, who spilled his cup of coffee and is back in AA ball
  • Royce Ring, who is a marginal reliever with the Mets,
  • Andrew Salvo, who is in the independent leagues now,
  • Brad Murray, who is out of baseball,
  • Rocky Biddle, who didn't pitch last year, and
  • Jeff Liefer, who got stuck in a bathroom in AAA ball.
Is it just me, or was this outflux of "talent" considered a disaster for each and every trade?

Why is it that we should believe that Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood will come back to haunt Kenny?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sounds of Silence

While there has been some player movement in the past week, very little of it has been all that interesting. The big questions for the White Sox are no more answered than they were at the start of the month.

Comings (and stayings):
  • Chris Widge has been resigned, and so has Pablo Ozuna, to modest contracts, to reprise their bit player roles.
  • Chris Stewart effectively replaces Raul Casanova and Jamie Burke (now with the Rangers system) as the third string catcher option. Stewart was added to the 40-man roster.
  • OF Chris Young was added to the roster. Young is fresh off a good AA campaign. He seems to be fast, have prodigious power,walks a lot, but does strike out a lot and "only" hit .277.
  • Charles Haeger was added to the roster. Young pitcher with a knuckleball. Don't hold your breath waiting for him.
  • Daniel Haigwood was added to the roster. Young power pitcher with Brandon McCarthy like number so far.
  • Jerry Owens was added to the roster. Owens is a speed-oriented project player. Get on base, no power, gets caught stealing a lot.
  • Geoff Blum has taken a modest contract offer from the Padres to go home to southern California. Blum obviously will be remembered by White Sox fans for his miraculous Tito-F-Landrum-esque solo homer in the 14th inning of Game Three, but, beyond that, he did little last year except provide insurance against Joe Crede's finger injury becoming a crisis.
  • Carl Everett was bought out and is definitely gone.
  • Kevin Walker is mercifully gone.
Wait and sees:
  • Paul Konerko hasn't signed anywhere. The news is pretty dead, which makes me think his agent isn't seeing the offers he expected. The White Sox have left one spot on the 40-man roster open, which is presumably a slot for Paulie if he resigns before the Rule 5 draft.
  • Frank Thomas the free agent is rehabbing. There is no telling what happens with him.
  • The White Sox avoided a trap when the Cubs inexplicable overpaid Scott Eyre to be their LOOGY. Three years, $11MM? What?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Elvis are you out there somewhere, looking like a happy man?

The key offseason questions for the White Sox seem to be:

  1. Obviously, what happens to Paul Konerko. Right now it seems to me (and I could be wrong) that the market for Konerko isn't what it was cracked up to be.
  2. Where will the payroll end up? Ticket price increases and better buzz would have seemed to pre-figure a rise, and Reinsdorf said payroll would go up... but rumors say a starting pitcher is on the block.
  3. Who will be the DH? Carl didn't really get it done, and there are plenty of possibilities... but what will happen? I think I might be able to predict what the White Sox will do, but the rest of baseball is populated by people with strange ideas.
  4. Can Bobby Jenks stay healthy for an entire season? What do they have there?

Obviously, the key question is who will be in the 3-4 spots in the order, and will getting him (them) involve breaking up the Big Four?

The wind is whistling... the wind is whistling through the house.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

At the One Lane Bridge...

So today the papers say that Paul Konerko's agent didn't actually get an offer from the White Sox during their "exclusive negotiating window", and that they prefer to let him collect offers from other teams first. The 4/54 offer much bandied about was fiction. Konerko's agent says that's just the way the White Sox prefer to do it.

Yesterday the Orange County newspaper said that the Angels would offer Konerko "at least four seasons and something more than $40 million", but that the Angels tend "not to deviate much from [the] initial offer". Konerko's agent said publicly that it would be in the Angels' "best interest to make a serious offer right away".

What this looks like is that the market is starting to wake up and back away from Paul Konerko. While Paulie was undeniably a great contributor to the 2005 White Sox, his career numbers and reputation do not say "superstar":
  • He hits a lot of home runs, yes, but his lifetime road numbers (.266/.333/.448) suggest strongly that he is in great part a creature of The Cell. His 774 OPS in Anaheim has to be a real burr for Stoneman's saddle.
  • While he is an adequate defender, he's just that -- an adequate first baseman. Those aren't really in short supply.
  • He's only two seasons removed from a disastrous, multi-month slump.
  • Baseball is suffering from a huge epidemic of hangovers from ill-advised contracts to, well, first baseman/DH types.
Perhaps Kenny Williams is being more shrewd than any of us suspect. Let Konerko test the market. He may find it more tepid than he thinks -- or his agent or the press think, for that matter. He may find out that the White Sox at 4/45 are the class of the field. It be better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, but in Chicago, Paul Konerko will be a hero. If the White Sox are the high bidders, he will be a happy, but wiser, one.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Angels, you don't want to go, down to Konerko

Speculation seems to have settled on Angels, Red Sox, D-Backs, and Mets as possible suitors for Paul Konerko.

For the Angels, all I can ask is, "Why?"

I somehow don't think the Angels' interest is genuine. I wonder if they are asking pro forma because they would like to drive up the White Sox' price out of pure spite over recent events.

Look at it this way... The Angels have lots of talent available to play 1B/DH over the next four of five years and not all of it has to succeed for them to be overstaffed. (That, and California's personal income tax is, what, seven percent higher than Illinois? That's worth three million there.) Casey Kotchman comes to mind, a good-to-great young lefthanded hitter. Baseball Prospectus forecasted Kotchman before the year with a WARP from 3.9 to 5.3 over the next few years, solidly better than Konerko.

Over the last few years, the Angels spent money on Guerrero, Colon, and Cabrera to fill holes in their roster they couldn't fill from within. When they felt that third baseman Dallas McPherson was ready, they let Glaus walk. By any reasonable estimation, 1B/DH isn't really a hole for them, not in the long term.

The Angels have the money to do almost anything, no matter how stupid, but they don't strike me as inclined to pay Paul Konerko as much or more than they are paying Vladimir Guerrero.

Mike Piazza is out there looking for a DH job, remember, and the Angels still have that Dodger inferiority complex to service, and Piazza's ability to be an emergency catcher (and his SoCal connection to that blue team) would be a plus for the Angels.

I think their interest isn't sincere. It doesn't make a lot of sense -- unless the idea is to keep Kenny busy, that is.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Champions: Sympathy for the Beancounters

Why the statheads (and I) got it wrong comes down to two mistakes:

1) I misread the Go-Go PR as grand strategy, and missed the real point, like almost everybody else;

2) There is a difference between players like (say) AJ Pierzynski and players like Ben Davis, not just in their own performances, but in what they expect from and coax out of others

The Strategy

Conventional stathead analyses of baseball start with the assumption that wins and losses are directly a result of runs scored and allowed, following several formulas, the best known of which is Bill James’ Pythagorean formula.

My pet theory is that the obsession with grand totals and consequent averages (whether they be Equivalent or On Base) loses the key concept of standard deviation.

I believe the White Sox quite intentionally built a team with a relatively lower game-to-game deviation of runs scored and an intentionally wider deviation of runs allowed. Kenny was very public about this. I don't know that anybody ever really set out to do this (although the Twins stumbled into it for a couple of years), but I am pretty sure Kenny Williams is very aware of what he did, and I think it may be a surefire way to beat “Pythagoreas” because it invalidates the precept that runs are randomly distributed along the normal curve. The risk is you won’t score enough runs to win any games, a risk the White Sox flirted with in September but only then.

To understand my hypothesis, you have to realize that most pitchers with a 4.50 ERA don't allow 3 runs every 6 innings. They usually allow 1 or 2, punctuated by a 4 here and a 7 there, but not nearly as often. We see this happen all the time with rookie soft tossers for the other team and wonder why Joe Blow from Cuba Mo can shut the White Sox down. It's because that is in fact a pretty normal pattern. My hypothesis is you actually WANT pitchers who blow up once a month (we’ll call him Freddy Mercury) but otherwise dominate instead of one who is consistent (we’ll call him Steady Eddie Average), because the first class of pitcher will actually win more often despite having identical total and average statistics. Guys who blow up once a month are easier to find than guys who consistently put up mediocre numbers because most baseball teams are actually LOOKING for the pitcher who is consistently average and get frustrated with the Mercury types.

This grand strategy won't work if you bring in five relief pitchers a game, because you increase the probability than one of the middle guys will end up blowing the game, but it does work if your starters usually go 7. It only works for STARTING pitchers, who control the outcome of any given game more often than not.

Here's the thing -- this strategy works by leveraging guys who are undervalued by the market, a la Moneyball. It won't ever show up in computerized simulations because they all use a Monte Carlo model for pitching performance -- random numbers -- which assumes that a player is some permutation of his stat-generating-robot counterpart in cyberspace. He's not; he's a human being operating more or less at the edge of an infinitely sheer precipice of failure.

Baseball as viewed by Baseball Prospectus and the East Coast, is a war of attrition, like World War I, fought by artillery duels between huge sluggers driving in baserunners who often walked. The White Sox played a game more akin to precision air strikes and infiltration ground tactics. (Their latest book, Mind Game, does include a paragraph pointing out that Pythagoreas may be an oversimplification.)

We statheads missed because we didn’t understand that Kenny was looking to exploit one of the quirks of the game – that runs don’t carry over, that losing by a lot is no different than losing by a little. We confused what he was advocating with true, 1960s small ball, and because sabermetric orthodoxy tells us that this is a poor decision, we bought it. He couched it in go-go smallball terms as a PR move. Most White Sox fans believe in the holy trinity of pitching, speed, and defense. They let us project that onto what they were doing.

The Players

Last November 10th, I wrote an email to the WHITESOX mailing list bewailing the White Sox offseason strategy. What they were doing, it seemed to me, was insane. As it turned out, what they were ended up doing was the opposite of what I feared, while they hit the nail on the head for every single one of my “imaginings”.

First, to be fair, Kenny didn’t do all of it intentionally. He was saved from himself by the Giants adding a third season to Omar Vizquel’s offer. He was saved from himself by the Red Sox and other teams bidding up mediocre pitchers and ignoring the brittle but still cagey El Duque. He benefited from the Angels’ giving up on Bobby Jenks. He benefited from the Giants’ second mistake, releasing A. J. Pierzynski without a really good reason.

In early November, the White Sox had Ben Davis catching, no right fielder except perhaps Alex Escobar, no second baseman, no fifth starter, questionable 3 and 4 starters, and a bullpen with several very iffy characters. So what happened?

They dumped Carlos Lee for bullpen depth and official stathead dart board Scott Podsednik. I really thought at the time this was about freeing up money (which it was) and ridding the team of a problem personality (it was). It also gave the White Sox dual centerfielders, at the expense of some big-bang offense, and improved what I can only call the presence-of-mind on the field. Carlos was widely believed to be a stathound, the biggest one on the team.

After the Giants’ aforementioned brain freeze, they signed Jermaine Dye to fill the right field hole and Dustin Hermanson as an insurance policy for two spots. Dye was a risk given his injury history but not a terrific one. Hermanson was a career mediocrity, but one with the big-inning quirk I mentioned before. Then came Pierzynski, El Duque, and most shockingly, Tadahito Iguchi. What happened was a methodical upgrade of every major hole in the roster to at least an adequate player and, in almost every case, a good one.

They had clearly improved the defense without crippling the offense.

But it wasn't just that. It was also the fact that, with no exceptions, they added red asses. Of the additions, Dye was the closest thing to laid back. The rest of them wanted, more than anything else, to win. The image of 2005 is A. J. Pierzynski, by hook or by crook, getting 100% out of every situation. And, while character can't cover up a lack of talent, it can definitely get the most out of talent.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WS +3: The Best Of Times...

I admit I didn't stay up to see it, and I also admit saying an Aaron-Rowand-like "no way! No Way! NO WAY!" when checking the score this morning...

No way!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

WS +1: The Miseducation of Joe Sheehan

Instead of over-analyzing last night's game, instead I want to ask the question: How did the analysts, specifically Baseball Prospectus (BP), get the White Sox so wrong this year? Now, they have an answer, "luck", but that just doesn't wash given the incredible gap between what they said in their book this year and what actually happened. I think I have the answer, but explaining it takes some background.

First, you have to understand the history of sabermetrics a little bit. Sabermetrics is a term coined by Bill James to encompass the whole idea of studying questions about baseball using statistics. James didn't invent the concept, it's as old as baseball and Henry Chadwick keeping score in the 19th century. Many systems have been proposed over the years, from Earnshaw Cook's DX to Tom Boswell's Total Average to Pete Palmer's Linear Weights (LWTS) to Bill James' many metrics to BP's collection of formulas.

With that said, here's why BP screwed up:

Attitude. Bill James wrote books that were essentially academic papers. He would pose the question, describe the framework used to address the question in full (including formulas), attempt to answer the question, and then open the floor (conceptually) to objections and review. BP doesn't do this, really; their formulas are largely proprietary (because they make money selling information to many sources), and they don't really brook review of their methods or conclusions. BP's attitude is more Papal than academic, an attitude which leads to error through the age-old idea of hubris. The White Sox don't fit BP's concept of how to run a baseball team, so they must be bad. When their own formulas showed a better outcome than their guts, they went with their guts. When their formulas emitted transparently bizarre predictions, they stuck by their formulas, as long as they fit their assumptions.

Appearance of Conflict of Interest. Further, because the White Sox don't fit their concept (and presumably don't buy their private analysis products), they trashed them in public, which is analogous to the brokerage scandals of a few years back (but, admittedly, however, not harmful to the public in any way). The teams BP singles out for praise are, predictably, the teams that employ their authors and friends. As BP is largely a Chicago-born institution and the Chicago teams ignore them could be a cause for simple spite. Further, obviously success by any organization that doesn't follow the basic BP program could be perceived by the public as undermining the credibility of their otherwise entertaining and shrewd product.

Methodology. Plainly put, much of BP's work derives from Pete Palmer's work, and Palmer's methodology was, I believe, flawed by the basic, mistaken assumption that baseball is close enough to a linear process to be analyzed as such. James noticed early that baseball isn't linear, his formulas aren't linear, and his results were better. BP drank the Total Baseball Kool-Aid -- or we think they did; we'll never know because they don't really let us see their process. One example is the focus on replacement players, who are essentially strawmen; the goal is not to collect players better that AAA players, the goal is to win as often as possible.

Observability. Baseball has dozens of individual statistics that are collected at every level, and analyzed and over-analyzed. It also has dozens of events that happen on the field every game that go unrecorded because there's no statistic to cover them. It has no realistic way to distinguish intent. When a batter grounds to second to advance a runner to third base, no statistic is really kept, and if one were, no framework exists to evaluate it. BP's approach to this problem is age-ol, assuming that if we can't measure it, it must all even out in the end.

So, because they couldn't understand the Carlos Lee trade in their analytical framework, and couldn't account for the possibility that Jose Contreras' failures in Yankee Stadium not being correctable, and so on and so forth, BP allocated 82-odd wins to the White Sox, and Joe Sheehan predicted a 90-loss season for a team that has now won 107 games and counting and has a tenuous one-game lead in the World Series. When confronted time and time again with the fact that something went wrong in the system to make that grade of mistake, the responses amount to: (1) they were lucky, (2) they were lucky, (3) their luck will run out, and (4) they are really lucky. That excuse made the grade in May, BP, but now we're in late October and you need better ones.

The real answer is you can't predict run prevention because your defensive/fielding analysis is just as bad as everyone else's. For a business that makes money based on the promise that they can predict the future, that is what you call a severe downward indicator.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

World Series break: Pinch me!

We still don't know which team will face the White Sox in the Series, but we do know one thing: writers and analysts will mess up the comparison because they constantly forget that ERAs aren't comparable between the two leagues. An ERA in St. Louis of 3.60 is about the same as an ERA of 4.00 for an American League starter, and a Houston ERA of 3.50 is about the same as a 4.00 for a Chicago starter. The principal reasons for this all relate to the use of the DH, both in weakening the opposition starter and getting NL pitchers out of the game before they are completely gassed. The Astro and Cardinal pitching staffs are good, but their real numbers are significantly below the White Sox numbers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

ALCS 3-1: In the a[la]rms of the Angels...

How many Angels can dance around like pinheads?

The Angels and some of their fans, as well as the Fox rally monkeys, would like you to believe that the only reason the Angels are the ones down 3-1 is blown calls by the umpires.

The fact is, though, that there's an element of old-fashion boneheadedness at work.

Consider the Finley double play last night. Here are the facts: the Angels had runners on first and third with one out. Steve Finley's bat hit A. J. Pierzynski's mitt during his swing, which the umpires did not notice, and Finley hit a grounder to Iguchi. Finley spent part of the time he was running to first half-turned to the home plate umpire pleading his case.

From the time that Finley hit the ball, there were three reasonable outcomes possible:
  • The umpire could have called catcher interference, sending the runner on third back and loading the bases with out for Adam Kennedy in a 3-1 game. The expected number of runs from this scenario is 1.52, with 0 being possible.
  • Finley could have run full-speed to first base, certainly beating Uribe's relay, while a run scored from third base, leaving a runner on first with two out and a run scored to make it 3-2. The expected number of runs from this scenario is 1.24, with the 1 being certain.
  • Finley could do what he did, inning over, no runs scored.
Finley arguing the call before the play completed was plain-and-simple stupid. His beating out the throw to first base was only somewhat less advantageous to the Angels in the big ball sense than the catcher interference call, and in the small ball sense (which is how the Angels play) it was probably dead even. Angel paranoia about the umpiring cost them one sure run. The call itself may have cost them more runs, but maybe not, given that Garcia struck out both Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins in their next at bats.

Then there were the two calls on the bases on Podsednik, which were both close and amounted to one insurance run.

The Fox-fueled controversy in Game Two has an equally simple three-plausible-outcomes scenario:
  • Pierzynski could have been called out on a clean catch. Despite Tim McCarver's incessant repetition, the "fact" that Jose Paul caught the strike on the fly was not conclusively established by the replay.
  • Paul could have tagged Pierzynski, who stood there for an instant, ending the inning.
  • Pierzynski gets first on the error.
Once Pierzynski was on first and the pinch runner Pablo Ozuna was in place, there was no law of physics guaranteeing that Ozuna would steal second; that happened because Escobar did a poor job of holding the runner and Josh Paul didn't try a throw. There was no guarantee that Crede would hit a two-strike double to left field off a hanging breaking ball. There certainly was no guarantee that the Angels would score in the tenth or any other inning, given that they are scoring two runs a game in the series. The was no guarantee that the back end of the Angel bullpen would stop Chicago from scoring in the bottom of the tenth inning. Game Two boiled down to Scioscia's decision to use his regular catcher as a DH to stack the lineup with righthanded batters causing him to play his third-string catcher.

The Angels and Fox want you to believe that they haven't gotten a call in the series, which is not true, and I don't just mean the Iguchi neighborhood play last night. In Game One, the Angels got a huge break when the second-base umpire failed to call Orlando Cabrera out for interference on his rolling block on a DP. This caused Iguchi to throw the relay over Konerko's head and allowed the third run in a 3-2 game to score. The got a break in Game Two when much-vilified plate umpire Doug Eddings over-eagerly punched out Paul Konerko on a checked swing in the sixth with nobody out against Scot Sheilds and a 3-2 pitch without asking the first base umpire for help; replays showed (much more conclusively than in the Paul pitch) that he did not go around. The next batter, Carl Everett, was called out on a very low pitch. A runner on first with nobody out is a much more dangerous situation than with two out, and other than pointing out that the call was blown, Fox didn't play that up.

Personally, I hope the Angels keep it up. It means they think they've lost.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

ALCS entrants: Wildest Dreams

It's been a long time since I rock 'n' rolled... writer's block.

All I can say now is, it's just gravy.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

74-45: Cut the kids in half

A lot of people don’t understand it, but I think Thomas breaking his foot again was a terrible blow to the team, you know they haven’t been the same since. The GM and manager don’t get it, but if you read the quotes from the players, they definitely were playing April and May with abandon and the feeling that Frank would be back and help finish the job, and since his re-injury, the team has played a lot like the demoralized way they did last year after Magglio and Frank got hurt. Now with him gone and the inevitable nagging injuries, the ridiculous bench consisting of Pablo Ozuna, T.I.M.O., Geoff Blum, and Chris Widger is exposed, unable to contribute any meaningful offense, and the team sinks under the collective bilge they’ve accumulated.

The good news is books will be written about this season. The bad news is they will be gothic horror novels.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

67-35: Let me introduce you to the end

Between vacation, business travel, and a general lack of belief that anyone will ever read this, the Razor has lacked any motivation to blog... until now, with the end game in sight.
  • Frank Thomas is done for the year and probably for his White Sox career after suffering yet another fracture of a bone in his left foot. This time, allegedly, it's the navicular, the same little bone that nags as Alex Escobar's career. It's too early to write the eulogy for his career, but let me say he was the best righthanded hitter of the 1990s, a clear Hall of Fame ballplayer, but he will probably have to sweat out his induction because of his lackluster defense at first and the permanent damage done to his career and reputation by his injuries, the relationship with former Sox manager Jerry Manuel, and the interplay between the two.
  • The White Sox have taken the first two from the Orioles after that shocking news about Frank Thomas. El Duque pitched well, and the bullpen's been great, but the White Sox are definitely a Big Ball team right now, having put up 7 and 9 runs on the slumping Oriole pitching staff.
  • The long slog 'til October has begun. I have to admit it is enormously entertaining to listen to the Minnesota Twins radio broadcasts as they fall further behind. Tonight, though, on ESPN, one writer commented that the Twins still believe they can catch the White Sox if they can just land Alfonso Soriano. Sure. They just lost again and are now 13 1/2 games back with 59 to play. The rumored trade is Bret Boone, J. C. Romero, and Kyle Lohse to the Rangers for Soriano. I hope it goes through, because it would sink the Twins and help Texas, a doubly good thing for a North Texas resident who is a White Sox fan.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

53-24: Everybody Have Fun Tonight

Johnny Mostil is headed for a much needed vacation beside a quiet lake in the middle of nowhere, but he goes on the vacation with his beloved Sox 29 games over .500 at 53-24 after 77 games after Freddy Garcia dominated the Detroit Tigers 6-1 on Thursday afternoon. The Sox head to Oakland with what Jim Baker in Baseball Prospectus called an 'unscre[w]able pooch'. And unscrewable it is -- no team has blown a 10-game lead in, well, forever. Even Torii Hunter conceded the race a few games ago.

So now comes the question: is the Jason Schmidt rumor the Chicago Tribune is promoting actually true? Now, Jason's having some trouble this year, but man, he is one hell of a pitcher and acquiring him would be the end of worrying about the Cubans.

The White Sox were 18-7 in June.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

51-24: In the Humdrum

The White Sox, with a 9 1/2 game lead, are making the season, well, pleasantly humdrum...

Mark Buerhle has been a good pitcher for several years, but so far he's having the best season of his career. Last night was no exception to his recent record as he shut down the Tigers, letting in just one run, and notched his 10th win against only one loss. (His only loss, of course, was the ESPN Sunday Night game against Santana early in April.) He needed some help with the White Sox flailing a little against Nate Robertson (I blame hangovers from Maddux and Prior), but Dustin Hermanson stranded a leadoff I-Rod triple in the ninth to hold on to a 2-1 win.

Tonight the Sox run Brandon McCarthy to the hill. McCarthy has had a decent start against the Cubs and two awful starts against the Rangers and Royals. It seems it doesn't matter which AAA starter the Sox bring up these last two years, he's going to post a 9.00 ERA. Perhaps that says something about the White Sox upper-level pitching coaching in the minors?

The Twins lost already today, in part because their confounded stadium bit them and Shannon Stewart lost a fly ball. McCarthy doesn't need to put in a brilliant start. Let's see what happens now.

Monday, June 27, 2005

50-24: Not about us

I have read a few -- not many, but a few -- comments about how inept the White Sox were on Sunday. It's not about the White Sox. Mark Prior was unbelievably good, and this is not something new, he's done it before a few times. I read complaints about how the Sox tried to hit everything out of the park, and how they should have gone the other way. Let me say this: contrary to what every baseball broadcaster tells you, opposite field hitting is not a guarantee of success. When the other team plays you to hit the other way, you're going to make outs. Prior took away the pull hitting by his approach and the Cubs played defense to take away the other way. Game over.

Other quick remarks:
  • Cheat, who complains only mildly about the ineptness of the offense, also sensibly points out that "SmartBall" is a PR ploy.
  • Prior was brilliant, but you have to wonder if he'll make it through the season with a manager who treats him so cavalierly; that and his abominable luck seems to always get to him.
  • Yet another slightly bizarre effort to analyze the White Sox offense manages to get in the bizarre digs about the White Sox pitching being "non-normative". The Sox defense is better, which is reflected in their DER, but that can't explain a 1.3-run drop is runs scored against. So, it must be luck. Hello! Hello! You can't really predict pitching. Pitchers learn new pitches. Pitchers adjust to situations. Batters hit differently in close games than in blowouts. You can predict hitting reasonably well, but pitching may simply never be predictable. What will Garland's ERA be in 2006? I have no idea -- and neither do you, and neither, I suspect, does anybody -- not close enough to be truly useful. You won't read that a lot of places because a lot of people are trying to make money convincing you that they can indeed predict pitcher performance.
  • Why, exactly, doesn't A. J. Pierzynski get as much credit as I think is due? Maybe that 1.3 runs has something to do with getting two new catchers in the game? Is it a possibility at least?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

50-23: How I wish it would rain down, down on me...

Greg Maddux stymied the White Sox on a Saturday afternoon and Jose Contreras struggled early to put the team in a big hole in a 6-2 loss to end the eight-game streak. In the top of the first, a bunt single, a couple of walks and a bomb pegged the Cubs to a 4-0 lead. Back to back homers in the second drew the Sox to 4-2, and Joe Crede just missed a two-run shot later in the inning, but that was all for the White Sox, whose offense crawled into a shell the rest of the game. So the eight-game streak is gone and the Sox, last I heard, had Prior to contend with tomorrow.

The Twins must have been watching, they posted a quick three on Milwaukee in the first. If they win, they'll be -- gasp -- only 9 1/2 games behind! Take cover!

50-22: Here comes the feeling...

After completing two 5-1 Regicides and a 12-2 laugher over the Cubs, the Sox find themselves with a 10 1/2 game lead after 72 games. The Twins aren't quite done yet, but they have wandered aimlessly, shell-shocked, for the last couple of weeks. Certainly nobody except the drunkest Pale Hose crank would have predicted a Secretariat-like lead at this point in the season.

Just some thoughts:
  • Sox send Contreras and Garland against Maddux and, a head-scratcher, Prior for the last two Close Encounters. Prior is one of the great pitching talents of the decade, and I don't get asking him to pitch again four weeks after suffering a slight bone fracture.
  • One presumes that once Frank's leg is 100% he'll stop trying to hit everything into Lake Michigan, but it's been fun, hasn't it?
  • I think we all know how the Everett/Thomas thing is working out, and I think most of us Soxfans like it.
  • The latest negativity buzz from the well of endless South Side paranoia is that Podsednik's getting picked off too much. One thing about White Sox fans -- if there's a speck of a possible problem, they'll be all over it and ignore everything good. I call it the Mike Squires Effect: let's overreact to some marginalia and wound the whole team.
  • Latest rumor is Ted Lilly might be coming over to serve as the swingman. But for whom? Keep your eyes peeled for Kenny's Wild Bazaar, something always happens about this time of year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

47-22: Breathe

Two more slightly improbable wins later...
  • I was worried sick about Brandon McCarthy earlier than most people, I suspect, because I was "watching" through GameCast. McCarthy wasn't getting any "Swinging Strikes", and that is just not a good sign because it meant he wasn't fooling anybody. Because the Sox pounded out 11 runs it didn't matter so much, but he's just got to dominate at least a few hitters...
  • You know right now the consensus preseason predictions would be dead on -- if the White Sox were cooperating. The Twins fan base seems to think their team is underperforming, but 38-29 (.567) is probably above what they should have expected, hardly out of line. The Indians at 37-31 are doing a little better than expected, the Tigers are at .500, and the Royals are 14 games back of the Twins. The White Sox are the only team not cooperating, having won about a dozen more games than most people expected. Shucks.
  • So far the Hunter Wendlestedt Effect hasn't popped up... let's hope it doesn't.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

45-22: Wake me up before you Go-Go

Last night's game was astonishing. Dominated for eight innings by Elmer Dessens and underappreciated Dodgers 2B Jeff Kent, the White Sox destroyed Yancy Brozhoban in stunning fashion to pull out a 5-3 miracle. With the White Sox trailing 3-1 and playing classic "Corpseball", Tad Iguchi walked, took second on a groundout, and scored on an Everett single. Willie Harris pinch-ran for Everett and stole second base and scored on a Rowand bouncing single up the middle. A. J. Pierzysnki worked the count full, fouled off several pitches, then -- improbably -- homered over the left center field fence to stun the Dodgers and win the game.

  • The end of this game was the classic mix of Go-Go (steals and hit- and-runs and singles) with 21st century White Sox 8th Air Force bombing.
  • Give Freddy Garcia credit. He had nothing and he held the Dodgers to three runs in 8 innings. They may have been depleted but all those walks should have cooked Garcia and they didn't.
  • Is AJP the heart and soul of this team?
  • The White Sox are just not fading. If they had built their 45-22 record by racing out to a flukey record and then hanging on, I'd be less confident. They're 7-3 over their last 10, 12-8 over their last 20, 18-12 over their last 30, and 25-15 over their last 40 games. This consistency suggests they aren't going to suddenly start playing .500 ball, and in fact, they aren't showing any signs of regression yet.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Not Make Believe

Chris Widger is not a surprise.

Chris Widger has ALWAYS played well -- over his whole career -- in certain situations. He has always hit lefthanders far more than adequately (.277/.333/.502 career in 224 games and counting).

But, like Miguel Olivo, he's never been particularly good (or even "non-craptastic") against RHP-- he's a .231/.288/.368 lifetime hitter in that situation. He can't play regularly because of this. Tony LaRussa two years ago basically used him as backup, but usually only against RHP and he sucked, further hurting his rep with GMs who don't look deeper than the backs of the Topps cards on their bulletin boards.

Ozzie, who is NOT Jerry Manuel or Tony LaRussa, has cleverly used The Widge mostly against LHPs. Chris has responded, hitting .313/.353/.594 against them, basically in line with his career numbers. It is to be EXPECTED that he'll hit like that against LHPs -- because he always has!

Against RHPs he's at .296 this year but with almost all singles, and there I'll grant you the sample-size argument -- but he isn't hitting well even with that empty average, so his career expectations are still being fulfilled.

Considering that the White Sox' primary catcher is a lefthanded batter, and that Widge can hit LHP solidly, he's a pretty good guy to have around.

He has trouble keeping a job because he can't hit RHP well enough to keep a regular job, and many major league teams try to platoon their catchers based on the starting pitcher ("caddies"), which plays hell with the hitting for a guy with certain limited skills. Just because other managers, for a semi-idiotic reason, and despite a massive 180-point platoon split, made sure Widger has gotten almost 3/4 of his plate appearances when he's at a disadvantage doesn't mean he can't play.

The secret to being a good baseball manager is to find ways to use your players in situations where they are best. Ozzie's done that with Widger.

44-22: All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun

Last night's 6-0 blanking of the depleted Dodgers featured Mark Buerhle scattering 8 hits in a complete-game shutout, Frank Thomas hitting a two-run insurance homer, and, most importantly, that rarest of events in the 2005 White Sox slate, a comfortable victory. Actually, they've been a lot more frequent since about the 30th of May.
  • The shutout was the third, combination or otherwise, for Mark Buehrle this year, who now sports a 2.67 ERA. The beginning of the 2004 season marks a key dividing line in Buehrle's career; he started striking more batters out, and since then, his ERA has been in the mid 3's. While Garland has had a marvelous first 40% of the year, there's little question Buehrle's the stopper on this team.
  • Frank Thomas now has five home runs in 28 at bats and could have a few more; he's just missed at least three more bombs. Not bad at all for somebody who hadn't played baseball in almost a year. When Thomas announced he was ready despite hitting under .200 in his rehab assignment, it scared the daylights out of me. I was wrong, he was ready.
  • Joe Crede looked like the player he was supposed to be all through April; he scuffled through May, and has hit OK so far through June (.275/.370/.625) but he's obviously slipped into another funk that will end, well, nobody knows when. His defense is keeping him in the lineup -- that, and a lack of suitable replacement. The only really readily "available" replacement is Red Joe Randa, who would be a bit of n offensive upgrade but probably not one worth the cost he would command. But, since when has that stopped Ken Williams?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

43-22: Dance On A Volcano

After a classic crawl-from-behind win at San Diego came two listless blowouts at the hands of the once-lowly (but now average) Arizona Diamondbacks. Wednesday night looked like another one when a couple of defensive slips and a bad home run game the Snakes a 6-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. Russ Ortiz, of all pitchers, was dominant, and the Sox looked doomed to their fourth loss in five games. You better start doing it right. The Twins are lurking...

Then the Diamonbacks fielders crated and so did Ortiz, and the Sox blew up all over the Arizonans. The Sox sneaked in a run on an error, then Frank homered... then the fun came. Royce Clayton botched two plays and Uribe and Konerko hit three-run homers in a ten-run outburst that turned a 6-2 game into a 12-6 game. Jon Garland, taken off the hook by the biggest Sox inning in several years, escaped with his 11th win.

Meanwhile, the invincible Twins bullpen let in three insurance runs in an 8-4 loss, and the White Sox found themselves staked back to a five-game lead. The magic continues...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

41-20: Dustin The Wind [groan]

Dustin Hermanson detonated spectacularly in San Diego, blowing his first save of the season, and spoiling a Buehrle masterpiece in a 2-1 loss. After a horrendous, gut-wrenching blown play and the plate call where Paul Konerko was incorrectly called out to end the top of the ninth with the Sox leading 1-0, with one out Ramon Hernandez homered to left, the Padres dinked in weak hit, a double, an intentional walk, and a single through the infield gave them a 2-1 win.

The White Sox struggled all night against a terrific-looking rookie pitcher with a nasty, Wilson-Alvarez-grade hook. It was one of those games where you just knew something bad was going to happen, and when Konerko was called out and Hernandez hit the home run, I thought I'd burst a blood vessel. Fortunately (he writes sarcastically), Hermanson royally blew up, and saved Johnny Mostil from his own bile.

Ozzie got caught in a tactical bind in the top of the 8th when Uribe walked and Crede singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Buehrle was due to hit, and Ozzie let him hit; he failed to get a bunt down in a situation normally crying for a pinch hitter. This bit of nastiness I blame on the perversity of making AL teams play by the NL's anachronistic rules more than any "mistake" by Ozzie -- pinch hitting would have been second-guessable as well -- and with Marte not available and Giles lurking third in the bottom of the inning, I guess I can see why he left Buehrle in. Podsednik took a questionable called third strike and Iguchi struck out too to snuff the rally.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Quick One

Ozzie Guillen's Sox have come to first place to stay.

To whip the Tribe and Royals good, and brush Detroit away.

To shoo the Yankees from the field and dust the Coors field team,

And make the bunts and hit 'n run and make the Angels scream.

While all us loyal Sox fans, when the evening game is done,

We surf around the Internet and have the most of fun,

Reading all the witch tales that those weblogs tell about

How the Twins are gonna get us if we don't watch out!

41-19: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

While I was in China (really), the White Sox swept Colorado, pounding out 27 runs in three games at Coors field. When I returned from my oriental odyssey, they followed that up with a 4-2 series opener over San Diego. Still they get virtually no respect from some quarters.

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus finally [$$$] 'fessed up that he'd blown his start-of-the-season prediction (20 games under .500). Of course he had to get in a slam that the team's actually a below .500 team, that they'll stagger in behind the Twins at around 85-90 wins, and that this may or may not be good enough for a wild card berth. The White Sox, who apparently don't spent the $34.95 a year to partake of Joe Sheehan's for-sale wisdom, promptly won their next three games in a row, including a merciless 15-run pounding, to get 22 games over .500 at the 60 game mark.

The Twins, of course, simultaneously lost two or four to fall 5 1/2 games back. The White Sox need more predictions like Joe Sheehan's. Go ahead, Joe. Write me a column about exactly why it is the White Sox can't ever reach the World Series. Save it for August or September, please. Then write me one about how the Yankees will never, ever, go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Over the last 20 games the White Sox are 13-7, following up a 16-4 first 20 games and 12-8 second 20 games. Where, exactly, is the slowdown, the regression to mediocrity that some people keep predicting? They regressed - to .600 baseball.

Two more in San Diego... then home.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

36-18: Distant Early Warning...

The White Sox survived a wild night by El Duque in front of a disappointing crowd to beat the Indians 6-4. The Sox put together a four-run first fueled in part by weird Cleveland defensive positioning and some outright crazy lucky, but the Indians topped that when Coco Crisp rang the foul pole with two on to tie the game. The Sox plated two in the bottom of the fifth with three singles, a wild pitch, and a sac fly. The Pale Hose played long-sequence ball with lots of singles and efficiently pushed across most of their baserunners. Neil Cotts and Hermanson sailed through the final three innings to nail down the win.

The stories recently, though, are off the field:
  • Frank Thomas didn't play again, despite publicly saying his hip flexor was healed, because of Everett's history against Cleveland pitcher Jake Westbrook. Naturally, this fuels all sorts of media discussion about there not being room for Frank, Frank being traded, Ozzie hating Frank, and (although I haven't read it) presumably about Frank's devotion to Darth Sidious or something equally silly. The Tribune, especially, seems fixated on how Frank doesn't fit in and how the White Sox would dearly love to dump him on some unsuspecting team. Sure. You know why this doesn't make sense? Because Frank not playing does nothing for his trade value, and because the only teams who would be interested are the White Sox' competitors. Still, where there's smoke there's often fire, and despite the fast start, there isn't a lot of evidence that the White Sox understand what wins baseball games. The 2005 Frank Thomas isn't the 1993 model Frank Thomas -- the horsepower is way down and the fuel economy also -- and Frank has to be thinking he needs to go out on top somehow to ensure Cooperstown. It's hard to disagree, seeing as how Trammell and Whitaker, who clearly belong there, aren't deemed worthy.
  • Joe Crede didn't hit again, stretching his slump to 6-for-61 according to the AP, and fueling some rumors about Eric Chavez being traded for Crede, McCarthy, and presumably Brian Anderson. Billy Beane denies it, Chavez denies it -- everybody denies it -- but it fits the Moneyball paradigm so look out. Chavez is signed for $11M a year for a long time, but he's hitting only .230 with 5 home runs 1/3 of the way through the season, and the A's rebuilding plan may need some architectural changes. I can't see how Beane would be the slightest bit interested in Crede, who doesn't play ball the way they like, but McCarthy would definitely get his engine jumpstarted, and so would Brian Anderson -- and Frank Thomas, old as he is, is a poster boy for their philosophy. So, the rumor makes some baseball sense, fits the MOs of the two GMs... and smacks around the future, a White Sox trademark in the Kenny Williams era. The fly in the ointment is steroids. I don't have any evidence that Chavez was juiced, but when any player suffers a substantial falloff in production this season, you have to worry that he was an abuser.

Friday, June 03, 2005

35-18: Losing [Jeff Brantley's] Religion

Jeff Brantley spent the Monday and Wednesday games trashing Ozzie Guillen for using Dustin Hermanson like a righthanded relief pitcher instead of treating him as the Archbishop of Closerbury. Without digging into the obvious statements of fact that (1) the White Sox won that game anyway, and (2) the Angels lucked into their two runs mostly because Iguchi mishanded a DP grounder, we can say that Brantley seemed to forget that Dustin Hermanson was not signed to be the closer and he is filling that role -- admirably -- by default!

Far more open to criticism was Mike Scioscia's mysteriously by-the-book handling of K-Rod coming back from the DL, who obviously had very little command and who came within a thumb's width of giving up five runs and losing the game when Uribe walloped one of his pitches deep into the seats just outside the left field foul pole with the bases loaded in a 10-7 games. Jeff Brantley had nothing to say at all about that decision, which was far more questionable than Guillen's treatment of Hermanson, because much more important than winning a game is using the pitcher in such a way that he fits the closer dogma.

Other notes:
  • The White Sox now exit their late May death march (Orioles, Texas , Cubs, Angels, Texas, Angels) having managed to tread water at 10-9 over that stretch. Consider that the Cubs are the only team that wasn't at least sniffing first place during that stretch, and consider that the pitching the White Sox faced night after night was good.
  • OK, good, Kevin Walker hit the minors, and the team's back to a six-man bullpen.
  • The staff ERA took a serious hit over the last five games, but it was mostly the bullpen that took the hit, and I think we can now get over the "White Sox have been lucky" myth. The Angels and Rangers hit a month's worth of seeing-eye grounders and bloop singles.
  • I hear where there's discussion of instant replay and baseball. Let me go on record with "no". Not because it's a bad idea, but because they always want to exclude the very plays that need the be reviewable, like in football, where the things they hairsplit on (possession) are no less important than the things they are forbidden to examine (holding, illegal block, and motion penalties). Nobody wants to replace ball-strike calls, but those are the most often blown. I want machine vision calling strikes first.
Now, the Offensive Racist Cartoon Team is in for three games.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

33-17: Casey Jones you'd better watch your speed

They are going to break our hearts, we know. They've done this before.

The 1982 team broke out to a 28-14 start and then faded, weighed down by pitching problems and poor expectations. The key offseason acquisition, the new left fielder, was acquired in a controversial trade for an established star with a bad reputation, and he was a disappointment, as the core of the offense didn't hit for power. The pitching was good -- but not good enough. The bullpen was OK -- but not good enough. Ultimately the team had to replace multiple regulars who were crushingly disappointing: Bill Almon, who had experienced a fluke year but resumed his normal career; Ron LeFlore, who let a fly ball bounce off his head; and Jim Morrison at third base, who resumed his interrupted career with the Doors -- I mean, was traded to Pittsburgh.

Like that 1982 team, the 2005 team needs a jumpstart again after a flying start.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

33-16: Like China[, Frankly]

May 28th was a wet day in North Texas for weather. Those of us who live here were certainly glad to see all the rain (or, more accurately, our lawns were). Today looks a little better, I think we can assume the game will get in.

The difficulty of the opposition over the last two and a half weeks will distort your opinion of the team, but the little cracks in the porcelean are starting to show and starting to cost the White Sox games. They weren't going to win Friday night's home run derby with Chris Young pitching the was he was (and Brandon McCarthy learning a difficult lesson), but they might easily have snatched a couple of games over the last couple of weeks if there were any real offensive options on the bench for the struggling starters. Changes are in order, and changes are obviously coming, and soon.

Frank Thomas returns Monday, after missing 150 or so games with a serious broken bone in his foot. He's unlikely to just step in and start hitting .310 again, but Carl Everett has been basically awful much of the year (.232/.291/.394, 3.60 RC/G) and the team can't stand much more of Dino's Decline on a daily basis. Thomas takes McCarthy's place on the roster, meaning the White Sox are back to 11 pitchers.

For some reason, Ross Gload has been rotting on rehab despite reports that he's fine. I think the White Sox are dithering, deferring a difficult decision on their roster with Timo Perez (.185/.241/.296, 2.12 RC/G); perhaps Kenny's looking for a place to dump him, or maybe the White Sox are being too sentimental.

El Duque will return in a few days; the Texas rainout may mean they can delay that a couple of days if they wish and skip his turn, but at that point one of the relievers has to go, probably Walker.

This probably isn't enough. The front office will need to make more changes, and soon, or the lead could be squandered. You can't forget that the team as currently constructed has won 2/3 or its games, but you also have to be mindful of the heavy footsteps of Dracula coming from Minneapolis.

31-13: You can't always get what you want

Brandon McCarthy's major league debut was solid but ultimately the White Sox couldn't quite whip Mark Prior and Luis Vizcaino gave up an opposite-field 3-run shot to Jason Dubois in a 4-3 loss.
  • The loss drops the White Sox to 31-13, 5 games ahead of the Twins, who just won "ugly" when Junior Spivey blows a DP grounder with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th. Losing 5-2 in the ninth, the Twins rallied under the SwastikaDome to tie the game on another blasted Shannon Stewart home run -- has that guy hit too many already or what? The Brewers should have whipped Johan but they let the Twins back in. Why again do the Twins get six games again them and the White Sox have six games against the Cub pitching staff? Who the hell thought that was fair?
  • McCarthy's debut was pretty solid. He gave up a solo shot to Henry Blanco and hit a batter who scored on Vizcaino's mistake, but other than that he looked pretty good.
  • Now the Sox start a West Coast trip, which in the past has always been a death march.
Oh, well, the Cubs started Prior and the Twins Santana, and it came out as the oddsmakers would have expected. Shoot.

Friday, May 20, 2005

30-12: Let the good times roll...

The White Sox took the first of three from the Cubs as Freddy Garcia continued his mastery of the day and Joe Crede took Greg Maddux deep.
  • The shallow analysts love to dig at the offense but it's pretty consistently putting up five runs a game over the last 10 and 20 games. They haven't clobbered out the double-digit smashings but they've never been shut out.
  • Pale Hose pitching has held the opposition to 3 or fewer runs in 60% of the games so far. That is amazing.
  • The Undead from the Land of Yubetcha refuse to quietly lie in their graves, sitting like hungry jackals lying in wait five games back. I'm still worried about them.
30 of the first 42. I thought they'd be OK but this is nuts.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

27-11: Say It's Alright, Joe...

After taking the first two from Baltimore, the White Sox drop the last two to split the series when Garcia and then Contreras have disappointing starts. The sad thing is, in both games the White Sox were beaten not by Baltimore's headliners but by Sal Fasano and Jeffrey Fiorentino and the very bottom of their order.

Now in come the Rangers, they of potent bats, fresh off taking 2 of 3 from the Twins.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

No Cheap Thrill[s]

Random notes for a Saturday afternoon:

  • Through 1/5 of the home schedule the White Sox and their opponents are actually scoring about 22% fewer runs in USCF than on the road. The only columns up significantly in USCF are homers and triples. This would suggest that something about the venue -- weather? -- is at least partially responsible for the team's low-run-environment start. On the road, the Sox OBP is .337, which is decent. The opposition, which I collectively and objectively call "Evil", is sub-.310. (Evil is, of course, 9-27 so far.)
  • The Royals, after 36 games in 2003, were 23-13. A few more games will bury that tiring comparison.
  • The Twins draw Rogers tonight. Rogers has been excellent of late, easily the Rangers' best pitcher. This is good news for two reasons, first, he has a decent chance of whipping the Twins, and second, it means the Sox will miss him and Chris Young, and get Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, and Ryan Drese instead. That's lucky... for the Sox.
  • The White Sox are now 10-2 in May after going 17-7 in April. They are 19-4 over the last 23 games.
  • Have the Twins ever been 6 back in the last 3 years? I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look. But let me tell you this: had the situations been reversed last night, with the Twins overcoming a 3-run deficit and the Sox blowing a 4-run lead, and the Sox 5 back, Sox fans would be on suicide watch today. The high profile blogosphere Twins fans who were so cocksure about their team catching the White Sox a week ago have fallen strangely silent for a while. Bat-Girl, where are you when we need you? Where's the LegoVision telling us how Morneau's going to start hitting .450 so your beloved Twins can stop sliding down the well?
  • Now I am getting worried about the bullpen not getting enough work. They are carrying way one too many pitchers with this rotation. The 12-man staff is a stupid idea unless your pitching is godawful and the starters can't be counted on to get past five regularly.
Cabrera tonight, pure wickedness. He's been unhittable in May at home, but both Tampa and Toronto whupped up on him in his two road starts. The only Sox hitter who has ever gotten a hit in his career off Cabrera is Gload, who is on the DL.

27-9: Oooo, What A Lucky Man He Was

Mark Buehrle and Dustin Hermanson shut down the Orioles except for one brief 3-run outburst, and the underappreciated offense scratched back to within two, then Paul Konerko flipped a cheapie into center field to plate two runs to take the lead on the way to a 5-3 win in front of a decent crowd at The Cell.
  • According to the Chicago Tribune, Sox Luck Conquers All. Right. The Orioles scored 3 runs on squat for production; because Gomez happened to hit his double just right with two on, they scored 3 runs in the game on offensive numbers than normally yield one run. The White Sox' component stats add up to 6 runs. If anything, Baltimore was lucky to stay in a game where they were out-hit 12-5, out-total-based 15-6, and out on-based 15-6. Baltimore has one man left on base and the White Sox, 9. (Average LOB in an AL game is between 7 and 8). When the White Sox fudge three runs from air by bunching some hits, they are lucky. When the White Sox finally get one to fall in with RISP, they are lucky. Give me a break.
  • White Sox pitching held the Orioles to five runs in two games: that's the story. Yeah, Sosa is hurt, but they still have Tejada, Lopez, Mora, Roberts, Palmeiro... those guys can mash.
  • When I finished mowing the lawn and spraying Weed-B-Gone on those pesky broadleaves in my lazy bermudagrass, the White Sox were losing 3-0 and the Twins beating the Rangers 6-2. The Sox fighting back and the Twins tanking, both on the same night, while the Indiana Pacers escaped Detroit... priceless.

Friday, May 13, 2005

26-9: Judy in Disguise

Jon Garland whipped the Orioles 3-2 on Thursday on WGN. Pierzynski and Uribe hit solo shots and Aaron Rowand doubled in Iguchi as the Sox built a 3-0 lead, then Garland hung on for eight innings, letting the Orioles have two back but slamming the door with a clutch strikeout of Miggy Tejada in the eighth. Hermandson worked a clean ninth for the save.

A couple of other notes:
  • Podsednik was "caught stealing" twice by Bruce Chen, courtesy of ump Sam Holbrook ignoring his not-close balk move. Balk Boy pitched a nice game, but you have to account for his escaping two innings cheaply as a result.
  • Crede is really hitting the ball well, last night he smacked one that B. J. Surhoff made a circus catch on.
  • Garland made one of the most interesting defensive plays I've ever seen. With runners at the corners, one out, a chopper he spears. Seeing the runner nearing second and he couldn't made a DP. Garland flips the ball to AJP to tag out a flabbergasted Fiorentino coming down the line from third. So much for Garland being stupid, that was just SmartBall.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

25-9: Don't be sad, 'cause 1 out of 3 ain't bad...

OK, so yes it is bad, when it's to the Devil Rays. From the three game set, there's some good news and some bad news.
  • The good news is the team continues to be competitive in every game. By this I mean they had chances to win both of the losses, with the tying run up with 2 out in the top of the ninth on Monday and the walk-off loss on Tuesday. Never getting blown out is a recipe for winning a lot of times.
  • The bad news is Shingo Takatsu and Luis Vizcaino are basically terrible right now and Marte is shaky enough to get worrisome. The bullpen stability depends on Dustin Hermanson continuing to be lights out and Cotts and Politte keeping stable. Shingo's got to straighten it out.
Yes, the Twins swept the Rays just before, but the Twins are used to playing in a bizarre "ballpark" like the 'Can.

The Sox are done with Tropicana for the year, and done with the SkyDome, which leaves only a few games in the Hump to play on that accursed "surface".

Sunday, May 08, 2005

24-7: If You Hang On Long Enough

The White Sox complete a sweep, 5-4, in Toronto as Mark Buehrle picks up his fifth win, Jermaine Dye hits his fifth homer, and Damaso Marte holds on for a terrifying save.
  • Toronto scored all their runs in one inning, in large part due to two fielding miscues by Juan Uribe. Buehrle scattered nine hits. Right now, he has been the least effective of the five Chicago starting pitchers. Think about that. He's 5-1 and he's been the worst. Amazing.
Other notes:
  • The way Ozzie handles the pitching staff is, I think, both revolutionary and reactionary. He doesn't seem to believe in thrashing the bullpen or LOOGYs or any of the other 1990s fads that plague baseball games. He doesn't pull his starters early, letting Buehrle pitch at least one inning further than I expected. And, finally, and most importantly, Ozzie doesn't worship at the Cult of the Closer, the baseball religion that you must have one pitcher who mystically can only be used when the specific Aristotlean criteria exist for The Save Opportunity. Virtually every other manager in baseball would have pulled Marte for Takatsu in the ninth today after the double. But by letting Marte wriggle off the hook, Ozzie showed Damaso he believes in him, a move that will almost certainly pay dividends down the road. He handles his pitchers the way they did in the 1970s and 1980s, which is, I think, more productive and more intelligent.
  • I don't think the SmartBall tagline is going to stick, and Winning Ugly doesn't really fit this team any more than it fits anybody else. Go-Go isn't really right for a team that bashes home runs. So what is the tagline?
  • Speaking of Smart, the 2005 White Sox seem to be full of reasonably intelligent ballplayers. Podsednik, Iguchi, and the two catchers are not stupid ballplayers. The two Cuban pitchers are shrewd. Takatsu makes up for lack of overpowering stuff with wicked finesse. Timo isn't a stupid player. They do make a few dunderheaded-looking baserunning mistakes from time to time, but all in all, I see calculated risks being taken.
  • The Twins are like the Terminator, they won't kill easy.
On to Tampa.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

23-7, Doctor [Longball], Doctor

The missing offense arrived today, smashed down the clubhouse door, and sacked Toronto's ballpark en route to a 10-7 win. Konerko hit two- and three-run shots, Iguchi and Uribe added two-run homers, and Aaron Rowand added a solo shot. Scott Podsednik stole four bases.
  • Jon Garland ran his record to 6-0 despite easily his least effective outing so far. The Jays hit him sort of hard, although I can't help think about three of the six runs he allowed were turf-aided. You have to pitch to the conditions, of course, but other than Russ Adams, nobody really hit him all that hard.
  • The Blue Jays can be one stupid baseball team. Losing by a half dozen, they were taking extra bases on fly balls and risking legging out doubles in situations where they were close plays and they were toying with the end of the inning. Losing by a ton, third base is not worth the risk, dudes.

22-7, the air of unreality, and the bodyguard of lies

Nobody wants to believe this is happening.

Twenty-nine games into the season, the White Sox have won more than three-fourths of their games. Of their seven losses, the White Sox could conceivably have won most of them. The pitching has been dominant beyond anybody's wildest dreams, and the offense, while slumping, has been effective enough to consistently generate enough runs to (as everybody now knows) seize a lead in every single game this year.

Everybody -- White Sox fans included -- is looking for the catch.

Of course there's a catch. No team is this good. No team plays .759 ball for an entire season. Sooner or later the White Sox will come down to Earth.

But where is Earth? Before the season started, it would have been assumed to be below .500. Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus, basing his prediction on either a hunch or an irrational hatred of Ozzie Guillen (or both), projected a 90 loss season. Most "analysts", ignoring Bill James' Plexiglas Principle, treated the Indians' shocking improvement last year as only the beginning and picked the Indians to challenge the Twins, relegating the White Sox to third or fourth. Some even suggested the White Sox were as bad as the Royals.

They were all smoking baseball crack. Nobody in their right mind would have forecast the White Sox where they are now, but the team's structure really wasn't worse that the 2004 team that won 83 games and there was a clear upside to the starting pitching and the bullpen. There was no objective reason to believe the White Sox -- barring a string of horrible bad luck, of course -- would fall 20 games of more below .500. There was every reason to believe that 83 to 86 wins would be the reasonable expectation.

The principal reason, I believe, that these analysts made their predictions was they liked what Mark Shapiro said and disliked what Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen said. The possibility that what they were saying was PR and not an exposition of strategy didn't seem to occur to anybody. They didn't like the Carlos Lee trade, but then again, they didn't watch Carlos play every day, and they failed to understand the idea of "buy low, sell high". If Scott Podsednik flops (which could still happen), the Sox replace him with Brian Anderson and are out a few bucks. If Carlos flops (which is happening), the Brewers are out eight megabucks and can't realistically do anything at all.

I don't know where 'Earth' is. I don't know what record the White Sox will end up with. I do know that bad teams don't win 22 of 29 even against mediocre competition.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Why Johnny Mostil's Razor?

It's a pun, on Occam's Razor, the principle of logic that (essentially) the simplest explanation that fits is the best one; and on Johnny Mostil, the 1920's White Sox outfielder who, coincidentally, happened to cut himself up (non-fatally) with a straight razor. The title symbolizes the psychotic break that is White Sox fandom.