Oh PECOTA. Thrice this year you have been trashed. As a reminder, you have picked the White Sox, a talented team with playoff aspirations, to be a non-playoff team and a distant third place finisher in their own division. Well, as has been the tradition in this space for several years now, a look at the main starters in each position will tell and has told the tale of what team has the greater talent and therefore the greater chance at winning. Thus far, PECOTA, y’all were wrong about the AL Central, as the Guardians and the Twins have been proven to be wanting. In fact, the best of the AL East went away as well. 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 how the Sox compare to the Rangers and Red Sox who are projected to be as mediocre but for different reasons than the White Sox, and in the following paragraphs the best of what the always over-projected AL West has to offer. The Astros are, at this point, annoying in their success; but how on Earth are the Trout-ruining Angels and the ragtag Mariners better than the White Sox? Spoiler: they aren’t. So grab an unspoiled egg, PECOTA, (there are no monsters here) and get ready for the sucking. As always, this is assuming no acquisitions or season-ending injuries. In Spring and with the WBC, the former is more likely than the latter. Eloy…
Ranking the teams by position:
Rotation: White Sox over Astros over Mariners over Angels. Let’s just get this out of the way: Shohei Ohtani is the best starter on any of these teams, and that includes Dylan Cease who is a close second. From there, the dropoff is bigger than the difference between Lance Lynn and a nun in a creative swearing competition. Without Justin Verlander and with Lance McCullers, Jr. unable to keep his arm attached, the Astros rotation is down to Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and rookie Hunter Brown. Brown has pedigree, Javier is probably the best of the bunch, while Garcia and Urquidy have long been mysterious in their success. Valdez, a pitch to contact guy, can be lit up. As one might recall. The Mariners have Luis Castillo, who can be dominant and then vanish, along with Robbie Ray who is a consistent underachiever. George Kirby, Logan Gilbert and whatever Marco Gonzales has left round out the Mariners. Kirby and Logan are young and could still improve but their combined Achilles’ heel is not being big strikeout guys. The M’s could go six man, add Chris Flexen into the mix to eat innings along with Gonzales, but both are just guys at this point. Speaking of six guys, five of them in the Angels rotation are not going to impress much. The best non-Shohei is Patrick Sandoval, who started to figure it out last year but had an expected ERA a full run higher than his actual ERA. Reid Detmers, Jose Suarez and Tucker Davidson are guys who have shown moments of competence, while Tyler Anderson was bad until the Dodgers worked their weird voodoo on him last year. He’s no longer a Dodger so weird voodoo may be in the past. Overall, the Angels and Mariners have questionable back ends while the Astros lack a true ace. So the White Sox, with one ace in Dylan Cease, their former ace in Lucas Giolito, two former aces in Lance Lynn and Mike Clevinger, and a once-projected ace Michael Kopech, are really just better in terms of stuff and past success than the rest of these teams. Easily advantage White Sox.
Bullpen: Astros over Mariners over White Sox over Angels. This is where the White Sox typically lag behind, and in this case at least the Angels are so committed to wasting the careers of two generational talents that they have a bullpen that is such a mess that even Rick Hahn couldn’t make worse. The Angels lack a closer and the rest of the ‘pen is just a bunch of ERAs in the 4’s, and Ryan Tepera. The Mariners, meanwhile, are one of those teams that has a no-name bullpen that is pretty effective. Their home park can sometimes help, as Kendall Graveman’s splits as a Mariner can attest, but overall they are solid with Paul Sewald quietly being an effective closer. The Astros ‘pen has largely been together a while and is one of their team strengths, along with their garbage can selection skills. Like that crack wasn’t coming. Ryan Pressly isn’t a flashy closer but he keeps his job on a winning team, while guys like Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, and Bryan Abreu are reliable and former closers like Hector Neris and Rafael Montero round out the back end. The Sox bullpen will be ok, not a disaster like the Angels but aspiring to be the Mariners or Astros. Even with signs of some better options in Spring. Even with Liam.
Outfield: White Sox over Angels over Astros over Mariners. If there’s any question that Julio Rodriguez and Mike Trout are studs, it better be in the kitchen or at chess or something that they may not be good at. Luis Robert Jr. is right there with them talent-wise and needs to show it on the field rather than the chess board. The problem for Julio and Mike are in their supporting casts. The Angels’ Taylor Ward is pretty similar to Andrew Benintendi, but Hunter Renfroe has never been what Oscar Colas should be. Kyle Tucker and eventually maybe the remains of Michael Brantley are respectively really good and used to be really good for the Astros, but they lack much impact in CF with 80’s teen movie villains Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers. The Mariners are hoping Jared Kellenic has something figured out after an atrocious start to his career, and that AJ Pollack and Teoscar Hernandez have something left. The Sox outfield should prove to be among the best in the league…the Angels aren’t bad but they aren’t as good, and the other two…woof. Sox take this one.
Shortstop: White Sox over Astros over Mariners/Angels. Tim Anderson, bona fide star. Jeremy Pena, possible star. J.P. Crawford and David Fletcher, at best a 1987 Ford Aerostar. TA will, at times, carry the White Sox. Pena showed that the Astros wouldn’t necessarily miss Carlos Correa as much as they thought, but he needs to take another step forward to really be a star. That step isn’t all that high for him. Crawford and Fletcher are really just guys at this point, with acceptable bats and defense, which might be generous. The gap between Anderson, Pena, and the Fletcher/Crawford duo is astounding enough that even an in-his-prime Evel Knievel would say “I ain’t crazy enough to jump it”. Clear advantage to the White Sox.
Third Base: Astros/Angels over White Sox over Mariners. It isn’t exactly a wide chasm that separates Yoan Moncada from the Astros’ Alex Bregman and the Angels’ Anthony Redon. It is hopefully a wide chasm between him and the Mariners’ Eugenio Suarez. Bregman and Rendon have been top-shelf 3B’s in the past and remain really good, even though injuries have slowed Rendon and Bregman’s power output left with the happy fun ball. Between them, Rendon and Bregman are projected by Fangraphs to hit an average of .267 with 21 homers. That isn’t out of the realm of Moncada’s talent at all. He just needs to actually do it. Meanwhile in Seattle, Suarez just hits homers and basically nothing else. He did hit 31 of them, but his .236 average was his highest since he had the double pleasure of hitting in Cincinnati and hitting the happy fun ball. Yoan can easily catch Bregman and Rendon, but until he does, they share the advantage.
Second Base: Astros over White Sox/Mariners over Angels. The sad fact is that Jose Altuve is the best second baseman of his generation, even with a cheater tag hanging off his backside. He’s still a tremendous hitter and good fielder. The Sox and Mariners have long-time professionals Elvis Andrus and Kolten Wong penciled in, and they should be fine for what they are at this point in their careers. The Angels? Brandon Drury and Luis Regifo. Drury’s best was a product of the Great American Ballpark, while Rengifo kind of emerged from nowhere to have a hot run last year. They are likely not what they think they are at this point in their career. Y’all want Leury out there in Anaheim? It’s not really a close in a win here for the Astros.
First Base: Astros over White Sox/Mariners over Angels. Working bottoms up, the Angels will run out Jared Walsh, who was terrible last year. Andrew Vaughn and Ty France profile in a similar way…high contact, high on-base, not really home run guys but good power, not gonna hurt you but not elite. Jose Abreu…will be missed on the Southside. He gets the nod over Vaughn and France because Pito has proven time and time again to be a run producing machine and capable of 30 homers. His 15 dingers last year felt like a Tony LaRussa issue, where the Sox over-corrected their homer-happy 2021 approach by trying for more hits. Hence Pito’s .304 average, something he last did in a full 150-plus season in 2017. He remains the definitive professional first baseman and therefore gives the Astros the advantage.
Catcher: White Sox over Mariners over Angels over Astros. Yasmani Grandal is heavily rumored to be in the best shape of his life, and if true, would remain an elite catcher by comparison. Seby Zavala continues to be overall quite competent at and behind the plate. The Mariners’ Cal Raleigh hit 23 homers last year in spite of injuries, and could be Yas one day if he can get into the best shape of Yas’ life. But there are thoughts that Raleigh sold out hard to get those homers and will regress at the plate. The Angels have promising prospect and possible Easter Bunny Logan O’Hoppe set to get his first taste of the bigs, which means he’s an unknown and history suggests he will have struggles at first. Meanwhile, somehow Martin Maldonado’s glove is so good that he can hit in the low .100’s and keep his job. He can’t be that good. Raleigh and O’Hoppe have arrows pointing up in some ways but Yas is already there and Seby is still more established than both of them. For now, it has to be projected to go to the White Sox.
DH: White Sox/Astros/Angels over Mariners. Eloy Jimenez, Yordan Alvarez and Shohei Ohtani walk into a bar. The bartender says I can only serve beers one at a time now because all the pitchers ran away. Buh dum bump. Seriously, folks…Ohtani is a dominant hitter, Alvarez is the best hitter on the Astros and Eloy can hang with them both over a full season. It feels like Ohtani is the best of the trio, but really his 30-plus homers and high .200’s average aren’t amazing and are comfortable in Eloy’s range, and Alvarez having a plus-.300 average and more homers than Ohtani last year just represents Eloy’s upper limit. They really are all bunched together. The Mariners will use a rotation that will probably fall to whoever isn’t in the outfield between AJ Pollack and Teoscar Hernandez, or Ty France if Evan White ever lives up to the contract the Mariners regret giving him. That group just isn’t in the same air as the others. Sox will take the tie here.
Position by position, the White Sox have the top rotation, shortstop, catchers and outfield; they’re tied in a good way at DH, and are only behind the AL West…well..the Astros…at second, third and first base where they are still equal to or better than the Angels or Mariners. The biggest bad area? The bullpen. So, PECOTA…it seems the Sox and Astros have a pretty equal set of bests while the Angels and Mariners are just worsts. The AL West…psssshhhh. PECOTA….PSSSSHHH.
So without delving into any other advanced analytics, and unless PECOTA was listening to the banging of garbage cans and therefore heavily distracted, The White Sox are as good or better than the top of the AL West. There’s an egg that needs sucking. Get to it.
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.
Jake Burger keeps hitting homers but also has this thing where he’s struck out at a 37% clip this spring. Oscar Colas keeps raking…so between the two foods the one named for pop has the better pop. Seriously though, .400 with homers starting to come in the spring says something. So Oscar, you keep the staff of Cork and Kerry until you feel like giving it up.