PECOTA can Suck an Egg Part V: Houston, You Gotta Problem?

In space, no one can hear you scream about PECOTA. Or bang a garbage can. No matter how intensely you listen. (C) Universal Pictures

PECOTA put the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. The projections say no playoffs. Predicted to still compete hard in the AL West and take that particular enchilada whole are the Houston Astros. A year past the garbage can scandal and now without Justin Verlander and George Springer, the Astros are still a solid team, albeit one that has youth in key roles. Previously we looked at the Jays, The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, the St. Paul-adjacent Twins thems what bombs from the Bronx, and the non-deviled Rays 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 in the AL Central, whilst being better setup overall than the predictably unpredictable Rays, the oddly-rotationed Yankees and the still-building Jays. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders stack up against the oddly-projected California LA Angels of Anaheim and the Oakland A’s, being among the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA you may devil your eggs and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Astros.

Spring training game 1 results not considered.

Ranking the trash can rocket brigade and the White Sox by position:

Rotation: White Sox over Astros. Zack Greinke is fading, ’tis unknown whether Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers are for real, and the duo of Christian Javier and Jose Urquidy are as unknown a quantity as Dylan Cease and eventual starter Michael Kopech. In reverse, though, Kopech and Cease are/were better prospects than Javier and Urquidy, Lance Lynn and Dallas Kuechel are for real, and Lucas Giolito is rising. This could be even if everyone is at their best, but while ‘Stros the backend may outperform the Sox early, the Astros might lack the true ace that Giolito has become. Just barely, but tipped towards the White Sox.

Bullpen: White Sox over Astros. If you’ve been reading this, I’m pretty much sticking the Sox bullpen towards the top of the MLB while giving even good pens like the Astros little to no chance at catching them. Ryan Pressly is projected to close for the Jetsons’ dog, and while he’s slated to be decent he isn’t Liam Hendriks. Pressly will be joined by a few fun arms, but he’s also projected to be joined by Steve Cishek. The Astros are patching holes while the Sox are likely filling slots by who has options. Sox have the better relief.

Outfield: White Sox over Astros. Michael Brantley would have been a more welcome sight in the Sox lineup and outfield than Adam Eaton, but he’s back in Houston. Kyle Tucker is a good young player that isn’t quite what Luis Robert should be, nor quite what Eloy Jimenez is. The Astros are replacing George Springer with speedster Myles Straw, who can be summed up as Nick Madrigal with a lousy batting average. Unlike the Sox with Adam Engel, there’s not much behind Straw. In fact, there’s Straw and sucking? If Springer wasn’t sprung to the Jays, this would be a tie at best or possibly titled to the Astros. But with a big question mark in CF, there’s no doubt it’s a Sox winner.

Shortstop: White Sox over Astros. Carlos Correa is not as good as he gets credit for. TA is better than he gets credit for. I’m not going to belabor this one, Correa doesn’t hit enough to match TA. Case closed. Sox take it.

Third Base: White Sox over Astros. Yoán Moncada can out sing Alex Bregman, I’m like 99% sure. Bregman was caught up in the can banging but he’s still a really really good 3B who walks a lot, strikes out a little, but had power during the happy funball era when his team was cheating. Moncada should be better than Bregman’s non-cheat years, even though both had down 2020s. This is a narrow one if Bregman shows that the cans were irrelevant, but he has more to prove than Yoyo. Put this one on the board. Yes.

Second Base: Astros over White Sox. Jose Altuve had a bad 2020, but he also had a bad knee and rebounded at the end of the year in a big way. He’s also a can-bashing question mark, but unlike Bregman has a longer track record that suggests he’s in the upper end of keystoners. Nick Madrigal will be great in his own way, but Altuve remains a more rounded bat. Less rounded garbage can. Still, Altuve has the edge.

First Base: White Sox over Astros. MVPito! Yuri Gurriel is simply not on Abreu’s level, and is almost at first by default. Good bat, garbage cans, yada yada. Abreu is just better.

Catcher: White Sox over the Astros. Jason Castro and Martin Maldonado are all glove and no stick at this point in their lengthy careers. Yasmani Grandal is entirely another level. This is comparing apples and armpits. Both can be warm and soft but only one smells better when that happens. So Grandal smells better. And is the better catcher, more importantly.

DH: Even. Yordan Alvarez and Andrew Vaughn are both youngsters who need to show that their pedigree is indeed translatable to the Big Show. And as any HHH can tell you, it certainly can be. Both guys are expected to hit, though Alvarez may have the advantage in power. After 2021 we should know. If either fails, the remaining options are probably better for the Sox, as the Astros bench is thin.

Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, bullpen, outfield, first baseman, third baseman, shortstop, and catcher, but are behind at second base and tied at DH. The Astros will be there at the end, and if they have their youth advance the way the Sox want their to advance, the match up should be fun to watch.

Without delving deep into analytics, PECOTA projecting the Astros to finish higher in their division and win the AL West is at least partly a good bet. They should take their division and win a bunch of games in the process. But we’ll see that on the Southside too…and the Sox are certainly equipped to take out the trash.

GMs Who Don’t Know What’s Known

I’m not even going to put a picture of Rick Hahn with a pithy caption. Last week Rick Hahn gave an interview where he basically said that fans don’t get how this works. He’s only saying what Gar/Pax, Ryan Pace, Jed Hoyer and Stan Bowman and their predecessors have basically told us all in the past as fans: we know what we are doing and you just need to sit there, buy stuff and cheer.

I’m paraphrasing, of course. But in a Traveling Wilburys-esque kind of way, Chicago pro GMs have always sung this harmonized tune in a town where fans are both diehard and disappointed simultaneously for decades at a time. We’ve watched the Blackhawks dynasty get dismantled for lack of cap space, but watched Bowman bristle when asked why he can’t find enough Defensemen. We are still waiting for Ryan Pace to explain how he whiffed so badly scouting Mitchell Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, and how he went from drafting a QB every year at his first presser to drafting just Trubisky in his entire tenure. The smug cloud coming off Halas Hall about the state of the team and the fans not understanding it is astounding. Jed Hoyer won’t call a rebuild a rebuild when he traded his best pitcher for prospects that are years away, even though we know what the Cubs are doing. Enter Rick Hahn last week, who ignores Sox Twitter but hates Sox Twitter’s hot takes about his work, or something to that effect.

Guys, fans are smarter now. We are. We are way better informed than even 10-15 years ago. We know all the Sox prospects and the projections. We see the payrolls. We see the draft projections. We see how the team fares against the rest of the league. The information is free and plentiful. We know things. And many of us drink and know things, because as fans we care and we get obsessive. This is our hobby and escape from the otherwise unremarkable lives we lead. It gives us things to talk about with friends. And those friends are sometimes people we only know through social media and You Tube. And guess what? Through being with other fans, getting the info online, talking it out, we have opinions and context for those opinions. And the opinions are not wrong. Neither are the facts. Since we can go back and read quotes from years ago, in context, when the quotes are thrown back in a GM’s face it isn’t from slack-jawed ignorance.

As a pro GM, there will information given to you on things that go on behind the scene that fans are not privy to. Like the Sox budget. We don’t know it, but we have their payroll for 2021 so it isn’t hard to guess. Entering this off season, fans knew where the holes were that needed a free agent or a trade. We were able to look at the Padres off season and understand that they have more prospects to trade or get that the Mets and Dodgers have more money. But to get mad when fans question why ‘the money will be spent’ didn’t translate to a veteran DH and another starter? That’s not a stupid question, and in the context of failing to sign Manny Machado, fair to ask why that statement means we still have to put faith in youth like Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal or rebound candidates like Reynaldo Lopez when there were established starters and hitters that could be here. Or why 2019 and 2020’s pursuits of high-end free agents became a bargain-bin hunt in 2021. The quote isn’t being taken out of context, the moves simply stopped backing up the quote.

GMs, you get scouting reports on players. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You know their agents. You know their schools, academies, amateur leagues and histories. You get detailed financials from the team and the league. You know what the money is and what can be spent. You know the market. You get scouting reports on the league. You know what has been successful in the league and what hasn’t. You spend hours on this stuff.

So do we. And we are the ones paying the owners to pay you. And we are watching. We were here before you, we’ll be here after. Don’t tell us what we don’t know, and don’t tell us we’re ignorant. You don’t want to explain yourself? Don’t. You don’t have to explain yourself, but only because as fans we have no choice but to put our hopes into you, not because we don’t know or understand.

Chicago White Sox: When should we expect Andrew Vaughn?
Those eyes know the second pitch’s location and spin rate before the first one is thrown. Also, I think he just psychically told me to bring him a burrito.

First Game, First Impressions, Random Thoughts.

Jason Bennetti made me laugh when he said on Sunday’s broadcast of the first spring training game that with a walk in his first AB that Andrew Vaughn secured the DH job. Vaughn had two walks in the game and barely took the bat off his shoulder, admittedly not swinging at some real garbage pitches the way you’d want. Hopefully that isn’t a sign of passivity, just selectivity, and also that when he gets a strike he can hammer it. He did not do so yesterday. But then, the entire lineup kinda did nothing, totaling four hits and only two after the first inning.

I said in a prior post that Bennett Sousa is the type of NRI that can surprise and make a team, as a lefty reliever with solid minor league stats. He did not do so yesterday.

Adam Engel was merely growing on me last year but now I’m becoming a fan. There isn’t much wasted effort in his swing and he was quick and to the point in hitting that ball out of the park. I actually found myself expecting him to hammer Eric Lauer because Lauer is a lefty with middlin’ stuff and that seems to be Engel’s happy place at the plate. The fact that this thought happened before Lauer threw a pitch…I would not have had that thought before last year and I will continue to have it into this year.

Jake Burger looked over matched. He clearly needs some games played under his belt.

Zack Collins doesn’t look like a major league hitter at the plate. His swing just screams easy flyball out and in the at-bats I’ve seen him, I don’t recall hard contact. I want to see more of him to be proven wrong or so as fans we can move on.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, The Sox ran out pitchers that are of little consequence to their season and near future, while the Brewers used guys that could be of consequence. The last two, Ethan Small and Aaron Ashby, are prospects that will vie for starts sooner or later, while the first three to appear in Eric Lauer, Angel Perdomo and Justin Topa all pitched for the Brewers last year, albeit poorly.

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

  1. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  2. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  3. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  4. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Spring Training Edition).
  5. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  6. Lucas Giolito extension discussions equivocating to the Allen Robinson extension discussions.
  7. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  8. Nothing! Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  9. That Vaughn will really earn the DH role, but the Sox will play the time game with him and cause a distraction.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Spring Training is where Hope Springs Eternal! But we’ll read too much into too little…

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