PECOTA Can Suck an Egg Part III: Can You Take Me High Enough?

Tommy Shaw evidently took too long in the shower and almost missed the shoot. Can’t blame him. Hair like that, it takes time.

PECOTA put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. The projections say no playoffs. So Where You Goin’ Now? To compare the Sox to the Damn Yankees. Not the circa 1989 rock supergroup, the circa 2021 Bronx Bombers. Previously we looked at The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage and the Twinkie Weiner Sandwiches, showing that the Sox have better talent at enough positions that they should beat out the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage easily and do no worse hang evenly with the Twins. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders stack up against The Tampa Bay Rays, The Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA git them suckin’ eggs and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Yankees.

I am also not taking into account injuries or early spring training ravings.

Ranking the Yanks and Sox by position:

Rotation: White Sox over Yankees. If the Yankees rotation was a band, they’d be Gerrit Cole and The Flyers. Jordan Montgomery, Cory Kluber and Jameson Taillon are all returning from injury and the 5th spot will be a rookie or a guy that just served the longest domestic violence suspension the league has ever doled out. Eventually, Luis Severino will come back…from injury. Assuming the best doesn’t help here because Taillon has very little in his track record, Montgomery the same, and Kluber is 34 and regression could be hitting him. Cole and Giolito are both legit aces, with Cole being the more established. Dallas Keuchel is a former Cy Young winner and Lance Lynn has very recently received Cy Young votes. The Sox top 3 are solid, and even though Cease, Kopech and the rest are unsettled the margin is still in favor of the White Sox.

Bullpen: Pick ’em. Aroldis Chapman vs. Liam Hendriks at closer are decently comparable to each other, though Hendriks is the top guy at the moment. The Yankees pen is veteran and very solid, the Sox pen is young and potentially electric. One could regress from age and use, the other from age and inexperience. I think in terms of stuff, the Sox could be running out an all-timer but there’s something to be said about having been there and struck that out.

Outfield: White Sox over Yankees. Aaron Judge and Eloy Jiménez both mash and are qualified to wield The Staff of Cork and Kerry. Luis Robert is way better than Aaron Hicks, who is also not as good as Adam Eaton, or maybe even Adam Engel. Clint Frazier looks like a good player, but he’s unproven and any advantage he has over Eaton is swallowed by Hicks’ deficit. Even at the fourth OF, Brett Gardner is on the downslope and Adam Engel would probably start over him or at least platoon with him…on the Yankees. If Frazier really breaks out and Eaton slumps, this is closer to even. But if Robert really breaks out…this is well ahead for the Sox.

Shortstop: White Sox over Yankees. Tim Anderson’s bat vs. Gleyber Torres’ bat. Torres was a monster in 2019, launching 38 bombs after sending 24 long distance the year prior. Last year he projected to hit somewhere around 10 taters. That’s not a lot of taters. Torres doesn’t run and carries a career .271 average, so without power he’s awfully pedestrian. TA, meanwhile, was batting champ in 2019, and nearly so in 2020; he also runs more and has some power as well. Torres going back to 40 bombs narrows the gap but Anderson is more dangerous at the plate more often.

Third Base: White Sox over Yankees. Yoán Moncada, a good defender who might just be the White Sox best all-around player versus the incredibly solid Gio Urshela is pretty close. But Urshela has a lower floor and we may have seen his ceiling, a nice 10′ without the popcorn crap on it, but Moncada is getting better and his ceilings are at least 12′ and vaulted.

Second Base: Yankees over White Sox. DJ LeMahieu has become something special in the Bronx. Nick Madrigal is also special, but in his own way. Why do I feel like I’m trying to pick my favorite kid? LeMahieu is up there in the best 2B conversation, Madrigal has a lot to prove, no contest here.

First Base: White Sox over Yankees. MVPito! Luke Voit is expected to have a monster season, but he is also hoping that projection means that he is Jose Abreu when he grows up. Abreu is already himself all grown up, and the work ethic and attention to his craft means that he isn’t likely to regress below Voit’s ceiling. Also, fun fact, Voit’s 30 so he’s entering that decline phase too.

Catcher: White Sox over the Yankees. Gary Sánchez went from the best offensive catcher in baseball to his stats being offensive…smelling. There’s talk he’ll be platooned with Kyle Higashioka. Yes, THAT Kyle Higashioka. Yas Grandal is clearly the best catcher in baseball, with JT Realmuto being hurt. This isn’t even close.

DH: Yankees over White Sox. Giancarlo Stanton is one of the biggest power hitters in the game and paid like it too. Andrew Vaughn projects to have a higher average but nowhere near the power. Also, Vaughn hasn’t done it yet at the major league level and Stanton has, and boy howdy has he.

Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, outfield, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop and catcher, have a pretty equal bullpen, but are well behind at second base and DH. In a playoff series, especially a short one, there’s little chance the Yankees can hang in based on the pitching deficit.

Without delving deep into analytics, what PECOTA says about the Yankees being the better team doesn’t ring true. Damn Yankees a supergroup? Didn’t even rank in the Top 10-20.

Michaeleen Oge Flynn has set the ground rules. If you please.

Position Fights to Watch: Now and All Season

We talked a little about actual position battles in spring training, and there will be some that carry over into the season and beyond. Sit back and watch the fights unfold. But…if you please, these are private fights. The Marquis of Queensbury rules will be observed on all occasions. Non-belligerents will kindly remain neutral. Now, shake hands and come out fighting. I thank you.

Backup catcher:

Spring Fight: Jonathon Lucroy as a veteran makes sense as Grandal’s backup, and he’ll get slack for a weak bat in spring as a receiver first, bat bonus guy. If Zack Collins was ever going to make the team, his time is running out. Yermin Mercedes’ bat tends to outweigh his glove behind the plate, while Seby Zavala might have the inside track to unseat Lucroy if a youngster is going to do so. Mind your nose, Squire.

Season Fight: Figure Mercedes to try and win a different fight, and Zevala’s abilities behind the plate to fall short of Lucroy. If Collins doesn’t win another battle he’ll have to find a way to reinvent himself at Charlotte.

Fifth Starter:

Spring Fight: Carlos vs. Reynaldo vs. Bernardo Jr. vs. Jonathan vs. Jimmy vs…it feels like the Royal Rumble. Oddly, Michael Kopech is probably a non-belligerent remaining at neutral this spring. Ethan Katz is overhaulin’ the veterans’ mechanics, getting Rodon to cross his body less and compacting Lopez. But the real difference maker is who can swing the best…take that were you want but in this context it means who can transition to the ‘pen best. That might be someone like Lambert or Flores.

Season Fight: It is Kopech’s job come the second half. Who stays in the bullpen or forces a tough choice will come down to performance. Lopez and Rodon have had their chances, if one of the kids lays claim they could make things interesting.

Right Field:

Spring Fight: Wait, what? Adam Eaton, right? Engel is the 4th outfielder, anyone else is slated for the minors. Is this a courting or a donnybrook?

Season Fight: Engel, Gavin Sheets, Luis Gonzalez and Adam Eaton are all trying out for next year and the future of the position. Sheets’ showing in spring will be especially interesting, as he profiles to what the Sox want in RF, a lefty power compliment to to Eloy Jimenez. Gonzalez will be trying to prove that he can be the good all-around OF prospect, in particular to take Engel’s place as the fourth in the trio if Engel takes his game up a notch too. All of them are gunning to send Adam Eaton out of town, and Eaton should be trying to stay.

DH:

Spring Fight: Andrew Vaughn versus whoever comes at him. No patty-fingers, if you please. The proprieties at all times. Hold on to your hats. Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes in particular are looking to take the position and send Vaughn into AAA. Gavin Sheets, Nick Williams, Adam Engel, Jake Burger…anyone not in the starting 9 really…but those six are the ones that seem to have the most fight in them. Vaughn may not start the season with the big club regardless. If Vaughn rakes in the spring, you’ll see Engel and Garcia rotating into the lineup and once Vaughn’s called up DH will be his.

Season Fight: If Vaughn wins the battle, he has to perform all year. Bottom line. If, say, Zack Collins comes out hitting or NRI Nick Williams regains his form from the pre-Bryce Harper Phillies, or Gavin Sheets outhits Vaughn, then they have to keep it up all season. Basically, one small misstep and the next guy is coming in. There are no non-belligerents.

Second base:

Spring Fight: Wait, what? Madrigal!! Nick Magical!! Yeah, except Tim Beckham and Leury Garcia are there if LaRussa isn’t convinced that the rookie is ready. Shouldn’t we put a stop to it now? Ah, we should, lad, yes, we should, it’s our duty!

Season Fight: There really isn’t one. Madrigal will take the gig eventually, but he needs to show health and brains right out of the gate. If he’s making errors on the basepaths or in any way injured in the spring, figure Leury to man the position until Nick’s ready.

Bullpen:

Spring Fight: Hendriks, Bummer, Crochet, Marshall, Foster, Heuer are all givens, except that Codi and Matt have to show they still belong. The long relief spot seems answered with the news that Kopech will be used “creatively”, meaning he’s probably carrying a pen spot, although he could just be an opener for Crochet, Carlos or Reynaldo, or Lambert, or…the list goes on. There is still at least 1-2 spots open, with Jace Fry out and Jimmy Cordero underwhelming last year. Figure NRIs and unheralded youngin’s to come looking for their chance. Cordero will get first crack at keeping a spot, with Lopez and Rodón the leaders in filling it out.

Season Fight: Bullpens are always in flux, never as solid as “When I drink whiskey, I drink whiskey; and when I drink water, I drink water.” That Cordero spot and the long relief spot are probably going to be used to bring guys in and out for spot starts and fresh arms.

Closer:

Spring Fight: It was cute of Liam Hendriks to say he hadn’t earned it yet, but really…uhhh…could Aaron Bummer take it from him? No, right? No. No. He can try. He’ll regret it til his dying day, if he lives that long.

Season Fight: Bummer will close a game here and there and you might see others get one but you don’t sign the best closer in the game and have him not close the game.

Well it’s a nice, soft night, so I think I’ll go and join me comrades and talk a little treason. That’s enough fighting until next spring.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. Dylan Cease being declared a Cy young candidate, World Series or bust, the hyperbole better just be confidence and not hubris.
  2. That PECOTA measures hubris.
  3. Ethan Katz’ lone talent being “changing _______’s mechanics”.
  4. New mechanics=no change in results.
  5. Adam Eaton being viewed as a tough leader after Drake LaRoche.
  6. I can’t keep Nick Williams’ name out of my mouth. It’s becoming the new ” if Giolito blows his arm out” crutch.
  7. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (For all seasons).
  8. That the movie I quoted above has such a cringey view of marriage and domestic life, that it shouldn’t be referenced in 2021 without a Disney+ style warning that it shouldn’t have been ok then and it isn’t now. They put that on the Muppet Show.
  9. That Vaughn won’t really earn the DH role, but the Sox pot-committed and he’ll be in there ready or not.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Spring Training! Everything is awesome for the next few weeks!

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