So last week the revered PECOTA deigned to release their preseason projections and put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. Obviously there’s a flaw in the machinery and I’m not going to delve into a rant about believing in my team when no one else does. Instead, over the next six posts I’ll compare the Sox, in order, to: The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, The Minnesota Twins, The New York Yankees, The Tampa Bay Rays, The Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. I did a similar comparison to The Toronto/Buffalo Blue Jays last week. I don’t know that the revamped Royals, or the Mariners, Angels, Red Sox, Rangers are going to contend for wild card, and the Tigers and Orioles…further we sayeth naught. I’ll tackle the NL contenders at playoff time if Chris hasn’t fired me. So without further ado, PECOTA grab an egg and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Indians. Yeah, I’ll call the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage “Indians” for this exercise.
I am also assuming that there will not be any impact additions to the teams after the date of publication. Right now there are starting pitchers that the Sox could use (Taijuan Walker, Brett Anderson, a few more) and only a couple bats (Mitch Moreland. Now.) that would change the demeanor of the White Sox.
Ranking the teams by position:
Rotation: Indians over White Sox. It isn’t that great a divide, but the Indians are only choosing a fifth starter between former Padre Cal Quantrill, who pitched well after the Clevinger trade, and the likes of LHP Logan Allen who was at one point a decent prospect (a la Reynaldo Lopez). Otherwise, they have Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and solid a 2-3 of Zac Plesac and Aaron Civale, with the potentially outstanding Triston McKenzie fourth (he showed way more than Cease last year). The Sox match up well with the top three in Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn, but have issues at both 4 and 5. If, and maybe that oughta be IF, Dylan Cease fixes his command and Michael Kopech returns and both deliver on their high-end prospect status, the gap is closed. If they don’t, it could widen.
Bullpen: White Sox over Indians. Liam Hendriks is the best closer in the game, with “old man” Evan Marshall (31) and the young and trending up Bummer, Foster, Fry, Heuer, and Crochet. The Indians will try James Karinchak at closer (think Codi Heuer) and fill in decently around him with youth, but they just aren’t as good.
Outfield: White Sox over Indians. Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez are top end talents and should continue to produce as such. Eddie Rosario is a wash or at best a touch better than Adam Eaton, with Rosario having more power but Eaton the better all-around game. Each has a career WAR that averages around 2 wins above per season. The Indians will run Oscar Mercado out in center, who was serviceable in 2019 and a disaster last year, and at best nowhere near Luis Robert. The Indians RF is yet to be decided but unless guys like Jordan Luplow and/or Jake Bauers and/or Daniel Johnson have naked pictures of you, no one has much positive to say about them.
Shortstop: White Sox over Indians. Tim Anderson won the batting title in 2019, came close in 2020 and the Indians have Andrés Giménez. He might win in diacritical marks in his name, but he won’t touch Anderson in production as Giménez has a minors career .278 average and .761 OPS. They could go with Amed Rosario, he of the career .268 avg. and .705 OPS. If they had kept Smiley Lindor, this might be tipped the tribe’s way but they didn’t, so the gap is massively in favor of the Sox.
Third Base: Pick ’em. Yoán Moncada is a complete hitter and José Ramírez was Yoán Moncada before Yoán Moncada. They even are close in diacritical marks. You could give Ramírez a slight edge for being more established, but Moncada has a chance to be better than him. Frankly, if the Indians want Nick Madrigal for Ramírez, I’d move Ramírez back to 2B in a nanosecond. But that’s not important right now. Or..is it?
Second Base: White Sox over Indians. César Hernández is one of those really solid players that good teams have as glue and bad teams treat as top players. He’s also not as potentially good as Nick Madrigal in that Madrigal should be able to steal more with a much higher average and OBP. Neither should have much power. I’m projecting Madrigal a bit, but he has some pluses that the Indians options lack.
First Base: White Sox by a country mile over the Indians. MVPito! The Indians have…Josh Naylor penciled in. Other than having a contender for the best porn name in baseball, Josh Naylor is not the answer to a question anyone is asking.
Catcher: White Sox by a couple country miles over the Indians. The White Sox sport the best or just about the best catcher in baseball and the Indians have the duo of Roberto Pérez and the accounting firm or shrubbery warehouse Austin Hedges. Combined, the Indians catchers can’t hit anything and wouldn’t be able to unseat Zack Collins let alone Jonathon Lucroy as the backup on the Sox.
DH: Indians over White Sox (for now). Franmil Reyes isn’t great, but he’s pretty damn good. He’s a typical high power/low average/high K slugger. Vaughn should be the better of the two in short order, but Reyes is established as that prototypical DH that the Sox presently can only speculate that they have.
Position by position, the White Sox have the best bullpen, outfield, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and catcher, are are just behind at starting rotation, and tied at third base. Where they are behind, using 2020 WAR for both projected rotations, the Indians are at 7.3 combined (Quantrill 5th) and the Sox are at 5.3 (Cease 4th, Kopech 5th using his 2018 WAR of 0.1). That number should get closer with improvements to Cease and Kopech, and maybe McKenzie or Quantrill drop a bit. Meanwhile in the field, the Sox 2020 WAR is 10.8 (with Leury Garcia as the DH!!), versus a 6.9 with the best lineup for the Indians.
Without delving into any other advanced analytics, what the absolute hell is PECOTA doing here? There’s no way that the Sox are worse than the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. Go suck that egg. Bring some grandmas too. We can teach them.
A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:
- PECOTA has been right at times.
- My 5.3 combined WAR for the Sox rotation up there becomes 4.6 if Carlos Rodón is the 5th starter.
- If the Sox had Rich Hill and Collin McHugh at their combined $4.3 million instead of Carlos Rodón and Dylan Cease at their combined $3.575 million, the collective WAR for the Sox rotation up there becomes 6.3. (I’d still keep Cease though.)
- Andrew Vaughn’s WAR is projected to be negative by Depth Chart, Steamer and ZiPS.
- Fans will be in the stands at spring training, and the State of Illinois will declare that fans can attend sporting events on a limited basis in March, but the collective head-up-the-assery of the governments of Cook County and the City of Chicago will keep G-Rate, Wrigley and the UC closed until August.
- That we got mildly excited at Connor Sadzeck signing a minor league deal.
- Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Spring Training edition).
- Nick Madrigal’s stunning lack of power after they re-deaden the ball.
- That I’m actually irritated that the Sox didn’t sign Rich Hill because he’d be under budget.
- And warming up in the pen: 1,438 stories about Codify by next weekend. Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday!