AHHHHH YES. PECOTA, you wascially-est of wabbits when it comes to prognosticating the MLB season. Once again you have picked the White Sox, a talented team with playoff aspirations, to be a non-playoff team that aspirates ranch dressing on their shirts. Well, as has been the tradition in this space for several years now, a look at the main starters in each position will tell the tale of what team has the greater talent and therefore the greater chance at winning. Thus far, PECOTA’s darlings in the AL Central, those Guardians of nothing and the Twinkies have been cast aside as the less talented squadrons. Ignoring the Tigers, Royals, Orioles, and Oakland as all those teams are in either a rebuild or just aren’t good, the next few looks will be at the Sox vs. the best of the AL West, a look at how they stack against the Rangers and Red Sox who are projected to be as mediocre but in vastly different manners of arriving there, and then here and now with the best of the rest in an overrated AL East. Oh sure, the Yankees have Aaron Judge and the Blue Jays are stacked and the Rays are always weirdly competitive, but they ain’t no White Sox. So a raw egg, if’n you please PECOTA, and let’s get that sucker ready to be sucked. That could have been better stated.
Ranking the teams by position:
Rotation: Yankees over Blues Jays/White Sox over Rays. Rotation is always where the Rays seem to have weird dark magic and the Yankees and Blue Jays have spent oodles of cash. Oodles. This year the Jays will roll out the fantasy baseball rotation of Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi (and I say Kukichi). Manoah is legit ace material, but the rest are guys that were bought for what they did last year but not necessarily what they will do. Berrios hasn’t been as good as when he was a Twin, Bassitt has been reliable, Gausman has had a recent good run later in his career and Kikuchi hasn’t translated to the US. Or Canada. Too many exchange rates maybe? Meanwhile Gerritt Cole and his spider tack grasp of reality is still the ace of the Bronx, followed by mound dancer Nestor Cortes, the solid Luis Severino, either CPA Clark Schmidt or the not-very well liked Domingo German, and…oh crap that’s where Carlos Rodón ended up. Meanwhile the dark arts hath yielded lefty fire conjurer Shane McClanahan, mysterion Jeffrey Springs, the likely disappearing Yonny Chirinos, a standard-issue Drew Rasmussen and Phillies castoff Zach Eflin, who has spin rates and things like that in his hat. Working from the bottom up like a gentleman, the Rays rotation just isn’t all that frightening. Eflin feels like 2023 Vince Velasquez, a failed Phillies starter that ended up in the bullpen in his walk year. Rasmussen and Springs are middle of the road and the fifth spot, nominally Chirinos, is where maybe a *poof* magic ace comes in but maybe not. McClanahan is legit, but no more than Dylan Cease or Alek Manoah. Meanwhile, Lynn, Kopech, Bassitt, Gausman, Clevinger and Kikuchi feel interchangeable. But they are all kinda looking up at Cole, Rodón, Severino, Cortes and whoever. Really, Carlos is the difference here. He and Cole form a 1-2 that Cease and Giolito/Kopech/Lynn are supposed to form but those three are still behind Cole and maybe equal at best to Cortes and Severino. It is really, really close though and if Kopech takes a leap or Giolito rebounds hard, it could actually go either way, especially if Nestor’s tricks fall flat or Cole starts to regress. The Yankees have the advantage, but the Sox aren’t far behind, and they are right there with the Jays and ahead of the Rays.
Bullpen: Pick ’em. If you’re looking for brand-name relievers here, look elsewhere. Without Liam Hendriks, no team is currently committed to a top-end closer unless Clay Holmes, Jordan Romano or everyone guesses mostly Pete Fairbanks makes the needle jiggle. The Rays always end up squeezing orange juice out of Cheez Whiz when it comes to bullpens, but the idea that they should be counted on for that alchemy is a little much. Basically, there are some good and some questions in each bullpen, as there are in the league generally, but gone are the days of the Yankees having four legit closers and the Jays have had their bullpen hurt them the past couple years. If Pedro gets the leverage guys right, and Liam strikes out cancer, maybe the Sox take this. But maybe not. See? Questions.
Outfield: White Sox over Blue Jays over Yankees over Rays. Yes, results are early and Arizona-tainted, but Oscar Colas is the real thing (stick it, 70’s Coke). Combined with ex-Yankee Andrew Benintendi and Luis Robert Jr., the Sox have a really top-end OF. The Jays counter with George Springer and Daulton Varsho, but downgraded at the plate by adding the eternally overrated Kevin Kiermaier and likely playing Cavan Biggio out there. The Yankees have Aaron Judge. They have him standing next to Harrison Bader and and Aaron Hicks…so…that could be better. And the Rays had the eternally overrated Kevin Kiermaier with the eternally blah Manny Margot and the currently overrated Randy Arozarena, and now the Rays have…Jose Siri? Josh Lowe, who strikes out more than he hits? It isn’t great out there for the Rays. Judge, Springer and maybe Varsho or Arozarena match up to the Sox’ talent, but only the Sox have three legit outfielders. This is all White Sox.
Shortstop: White Sox/Blue Jays over Rays over Yankees. It is really hard to say where Bo Bichette ranks in the shortstop world. He can rake and field, he can also be a dope and cost his team games. He needs his head squarely in the game to succeed. Tim Anderson is not much different, though Bichette has greater power when TA is like EA Sports and is in the game, he’s the straw that stirs the entire bar. The Rays have Wander Franco. Some who are Wander are lost, and thus far Franco hasn’t quite made the leap to superstar as he was predicted. But he has been solid. The Yankees are going with a rookie, either Oswaldo Peraza, the unrelated Oswaldo Cabrera, or Anthony Volpe who is completely unrelated to anyone. Maybe. For now, Bichette and TA feel like they are neck and neck, in that whoever has their head attached to said neck correctly will be great. The others might be there eventually. Sox get this in a tie.
Third Base: Pick ’em. Instead of a murderers row, the 3B’s in this group are gently killing their fans. Matt Chapman of the Jays hasn’t been the same since his glory year in Oakland. Josh Donaldson at this point is past his prime and is that bulldog that always lost to Droopy in the cartoons…a jerk that ends up not performing up to his potential. Isaac Paredes is a carbon-based lifeform that the Rays will roll out. And Yoan Moncada is also here. Just not good all around. The X-factors are whether Moncada has the ability to progress to a different approach and find himself, and good bat/bad glove Curtis Mead who the Rays have stashed in AAA. A dead cat bounce from Chapman or Donaldson, a reinvention by Moncada or a surprise by a Ray would leave the rest in the dust, but walking into it for now…yeesh.
Second Base: Rays over Yankees over Jays over White Sox. Let’s assume that Brandon Lowe is healthy. He’s a 30-HR guy. Gleyber Torres isn’t that, even though the happy fun ball made him look that way, but he’s a good all-around player. Whit Merrifield is on the back nine, as is Elvis Andrus, and both come in with questions about manning the position everyday. No real mirth to be had here. Just kinda got one guy that’s really better than the rest, and he isn’t on the White Sox. Take it, Rays.
First Base: Jays over White Sox over Yankees over Rays. Just let’s say Vlad Guerrero Jr. is not really touchable by the mere mortals run out by the other teams. Andrew Vaughn is better than Anthony Rizzo at this point, and not because Rizz went from one set of loathable pinstripes to another. Rizzo has had age and injury sap him. The Rays have the maybe underrated Yandi Diaz at 1B, but underrated often means “better than you thought” moreso than “great but no one notices”. No matter, it’s a Vlad, Vlad, Vlad, Vlad, Vlad world.
Catcher: White Sox/Jays over Yankees/Rays. Yasmani Grandal might still be the most overall talented catcher in this group is he is, in fact, in the best shape of his life. Alejandro Kirk is a potential hitting machine but the Jays seem desperate to keep Danny Jansen in the lineup and aren’t using Daulton Varsho behind the plate. Meanwhile, Seby Zavala on his own is better than Christian Bethancourt and Jose Trevino. Also, any two names typed there could have represented the Yankees and Rays at this position. Yas/Seby at their best might edge out Kirk/Jansen, who in turn might have another gear to edge out Yas/Seby. Meanwhile Jose Bethancourt and Christian Trevino aren’t even real guys. So Sox take another tie.
DH: White Sox over Yankees over Jays over Rays. Eloy Jimenez at this point is more trustworthy to show up and hit than Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton was once one of the best hitters in the game but even as a DH he’s been chronically hurt and last year wasn’t really all that good beyond hitting 31 bombs. Eloy has been hurt too, but while fielding which he won’t be doing much of anymore. The Jays are apparently using Brandon Belt, who is on the downslope of a decent but not great career, and the Rays have Harold Ramirez who is really just a guy. Eloy is on his way up, at 33 years old Stanton feels like he might be on the way down. Maybe by a thin margin, but the Sox have this one.
Position by position, the White Sox are right there at the top at DH and outfield, tied in a good way at shortstop and catchers, and are tied in mediocrity and madness at third base and the bullpen. They’re really only behind the AL East at second base, as at 1B and in the rotation they’re an easy second, where at second it is easy to see the Sox just aren’t…good. So, PECOTA…explain yourself. The Sox stack up to these teams pretty well. Are you really drinking the Yankees Kool-Aid? Are you vexed by Canadian exchange rates? Are the Rays using their dark magic on you? All three? Evidently it’s all three.
So without delving into any other advanced analytics, and unless PECOTA was compelled by magic to drop a twooney and a looney on some red sugar water in a pinstriped cup, what in the name of East Coast bias was PECOTA doing here? There’s no way that the Sox are worse than New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays or the Toronto Blue Jays. Git that egg to the suckin’.
THE STAFF OF CORK AND KERRY
And what, pray tell, is the Staff of Cork and Kerry? Scholars maintain two definitions are valid: first it is the assembled persons who provide the excellent food and drink at Cork and Kerry at the Park and Cork and Kerry Beverly. Also, same said scholars maintain that the Staff of Cork and Kerry is a weapon of mythical and fearsome power, wielded by only those of rare strength and skill or powerful of spirit to rise to greatness.
Yes, small sample. Yes, not representative of his past stats. Yes, Oscar Colas can hit. The hot start has Oscar grabbing the Staff of Cork and Kerry and showing that it can just smite with contact rather than just power. Besides, you’d need mythical powers to make hot Colas in the Arizona sun into something refreshing.
(no promises that there will not be more beverage-related gags in the future)