These are the last licks taken at PECOTA…this year anyway. As a reminder, PECOTA 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. After showing that PECOTA was definitively wrong about the Guardians and Twins being the better teams in the AL Central, the Sox were shown to be better than what the AL East had to offer, and better than the AL West’s best…or at a minimum on the level of projected winners like the Astros, Yankees, Angels, Rays, Mariners and Blue Jays. The A’s, Orioles, Tigers and Royals are inconsequential. But interestingly, the Red Sox and Rangers were picked as finishing roughly the same as the White Sox, around 79 wins. What’s interesting about that is how they got there. The Rangers spent big last year on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, among others, and have amassed an expensive rotation around Jacob DeGrom and Nathan Eovaldi, among others. The Red Sox fell on hard times, and have lost or let veteran free agents walk and are largely trying youngsters and bargain veterans to rebuild around Rafael Devers and Chris Sale. One team trying to buy relevance, and one team returning to their decades of futility in a rebuild. And somehow a young, talented White Sox team is right there with them? Poppycock. PECOTA, get that last egg and put your sucking lips on. As always, this is assuming no acquisitions or season-ending injuries. Even though Yoan Moncada has an excuse now that he’s concussed and has a bad rib cage.
Ranking the teams by position:
Rotation: White Sox over Rangers over Red Sox. Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Mike Cleavinger. Jacob DeGrom, Andrew Heaney, Martin Perez, Jon Gray, Nathan Eovaldi. Chris Sale…ummm…Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, I guess, OH! Corey Kluber…and…Garrett Whitlock or Kutter Crawford. The Red Sox are banking on Sale and Kluber to regain a form of dominance that they had before injuries took over. For Sale…maybe. For Kluber…probably not although he isn’t terrible. Pivetta is a never-was and guys like Houck, Whitlock, Crawford and Josh Winkowski are teetering on never-will-be status, though Houck and Whitlock have been really solid relievers. So the Red Sox are not a factor here. Meanwhile the Rangers have tried to build a rotation of veterans at a high cost, a combined $93,150,000 this year not including the $12,500,000 that Jake Odorizzi is getting to not be a starter in 2023. Granted, the Rangers are building around a legit ace in DeGrom. Well…Jon Gray, Martin Perez and Andrew Heaney have all had both middlin’ to decent success and been legitimately bad. Nathan Eovaldi is good. He just rarely stays healthy. But that’s one ace, one solid two and three who knows. Actually, that describes the Red Sox too. Huh. So one ace, one solid two and three unknowns versus the White Sox ace, former ace, the Rangers’ former ace, a former Red Sox guy who is supposed to be an ace and is still on the rise, and the former Cleveland ace now two years removed from Tommy John when form is regained. Advantage White Sox.
Bullpen: White Sox over Rangers over Red Sox. This has been the one thing that maybe PECOTA sees as why the White Sox could be not so great. In fact, the White Sox bullpen hasn’t exactly been stacking up well in the efforts to discredit PECOTA. But that’s why the comparison to the Rangers and Red Sox are so baffling because as questionable as the White Sox bullpen is, there is no question how bad the Boston version is and the Rangers have even more questions than the White Sox. The Red Sox have Kenley Jansen at the back end, but have very little in front of him after taking Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock out of the bullpen. Richard Bleier, Chris Martin (not the Coldplay guy, but maybe the Coldplay guy)…and John Schreiber (definitely not Bo Duke, that was John Schneider) are the best Red Sox relievers. The Rangers are somehow worse while maybe being better. The uneven and unproven Jose Leclerc is the presumptive closer with names like Brock Burke and Josh Sborz leading the way in front of him. The best thing that can be said about the Rangers is that they are young in the bullpen, meaning maybe there’s a chance they can emerge. Meanwhile, the White Sox are a mix of guys that they know what they’ll get and some guys that have proven histories to return to, and some guys that can emerge. Joe Kelly rebounding, Nick Avila and Franklin German emerging, Aaron Bummer, Kendall Graveman and Reynaldo Lopez being themselves would all be stellar even if guys like Garrett Crochet aren’t quite ready. Notwithstanding the White Sox having closer questions, there’s no question that their bullpen is better than the teams that they are allegedly equal to. Advantage White Sox.
Outfield: White Sox over Red Sox over Rangers. This is the part where the three teams become easily separated. Luis Robert, Jr., Andrew Benintendi and Oscar Colas are by far the best trio of this trio. The Rangers, for all the cash they’ve spent, have the solid Adolis Garcia and then a sad trombone. Fangraphs projects Bubba Thompson, Leody Tavares and Robbie Grossman as the other starters. Grossman is a 4th OF that has somehow been starting in recent years, Tavares is emerging as a solid guy but not on Colas’ level. Bubba…yeah. Guys named Bubba can’t be taken seriously and he’s projected to have an OPS of .649, which is bad. They have Dustin Harris and Evan Carter waiting, but they’re not here yet. The Red Sox tried going young but then didn’t, with the solid Alex Verdugo now joined by 30-year-old Japanese import Masataka Yoshida and whatever is left in the near-corpse of Adam Duvall. Verdugo has a power outage against lefties, Duvall is barely more than a middlin’ power source himself these days and Yoshida’s game is more leadoff than middle of the order and who knows if he’ll translate to the MLB. So the rebuilding team goes veteran and pricey, the big spender goes cheap, or young and unproven…and both can’t touch the White Sox. Advantage to the Southside.
Shortstop: White Sox over Rangers over Red Sox. Tim Anderson, bona fide star. Just ask Mike Trout, a guy who knows about being a baseball star. Corey Seager, a star in his own right. Seager can’t touch TA in the batting average department but Seager is a 30-homer guy and TA isn’t that. Power versus overall hitting, middle of the order versus leadoff. TA has the slight advantage in being a better base stealer and therefore more of an overall offensive menace, where Seager hits 30-plus homers and that’s kind of his one trick. The Red Sox lost Xander Bogarts in free agency but had 2B/OF Kike Hernandez, or career backup Christian Arroyo, or now deposed 1B Bobby Dalbec waiting in the wings. So that’s…three role players. Yikes. Advantage to the White Sox.
Third Base: Red Sox over White Sox over Rangers. Maybe Yoan Moncada is better than the Rangers’ Josh Jung or Josh Smith or Ezequiel Duran. Maybe not. All three of those guys are unknowns with varying pedigrees and skill. Smith and Duran weren’t able to seize a job last year as rookies, and Jung had shoulder surgery that lead to an absurd strikeout rate on his return, well above his minors career where he was the Rangers’ top prospect. Yoan is looking to regain something along the lines of league average, with the consensus being that his head is what’s stopping him. The WBC seems to be what the doctor ordered in that regard, letting Yoan be a star amongst his countrymen and play without pressure. Still, he’s well behind Rafael Devers who continues to be among the league’s best. So with a star player in Devers being compared to a guy who is trying to be above average and a few maybes, the Red Sox take this one.
Second Base: Rangers over White Sox over Red Sox. Remember when Marcus Semien was on the White Sox and was deemed expendable, only to become a star in Oakland and then too expensive for the notoriously cheap White Sox? Those are all very recent events and therefore should be memorable. The expensive and overall productive Semien is better than Elvis Andrus, who will be competent and solid for the White Sox but is unlikely to match Semien in power and maybe even steals. So…the ex-White Sox on the Rangers is better than the ex-Ranger on the White Sox, and both are ex-A’s. Huh. The Red Sox have career backup Christian Arroyo, and whoever between Kike Hernandez and Bobby Dalbec isn’t playing short. Ummm…y’all want Leury Garcia to change his Sox? The Rangers have the best of the bunch.
First Base: Pick ’em. Andrew Vaughn is a guy on the rise who could be a star. Tristan Casas is a rookie of the year candidate and a potential star. Nathaniel Lowe is a guy on the rise who could be a star. Lowe has shown more power than Vaughn but only last year. Vaughn has more power to tap into and might be a better overall hitter than Lowe, who still strikes out a lot. Casas has the pedigree that both Lowe and Vaughn came in with, and who knows where he ends up but for right now, ending up a Vaughn or Lowe clone seems like a reasonable thing. It’s a tossup.
Catcher: White Sox over Rangers over Red Sox. Yasmani Grandal is, by both anecdote and visual evidence, possibly in the best shape of his life, and if true, he remains an elite catcher by comparison. Seby Zavala has been solid at the plate last year and into this spring, and solid behind it in his brief career. Jonah Heim and the DH-for-now Mitch Garver are sort of diet Yas and Seby, with Garver being the once elite catcher trying to recapture his health and stroke and Heim being the non-prospect holding the fort. But Garver never quite touched Yas outside of the happy fun ball year and Heim was solid to start 2022 and then flopped hard. The Red Sox have Reese McGuire in case anyone cares, and he might be upended by the ever-underwhelming Jorge Alfaro. Bleh. White Sox win.
DH: White Sox over Rangers/Red Sox. Eloy Jimenez, young power hitter with a clutch gene and potential yet untapped. The Rangers and Red Sox are where Brad Miller and Justin Turner are apparently ending their careers. Turner might still have some juice left, but the fact that the Dodgers moved on feels like a sign that maybe he doesn’t. Brad Miller is somehow still in the league despite never being a star and barely being a starter. In all likelihood the Rangers will use Mitch Garver and others in a rotation until someone sticks, but unless they have an Eloy clone waiting (they kinda don’t) it’ll be a weakspot. Easy win for the White Sox.
Position by position, the White Sox have the top rotation, bullpen, DH, shortstop, catchers and outfield; they’re tied in a good way at 1B, and somehow they are supposedly still equal to a Rangers team that has spent big but somehow not enough, and a Red Sox team that is in deep transition to a rebuild? If not for Rafael Devers and Marcus Semien the Sox would have swept every position. PECOTA. No. Bad.
So without delving into any other advanced analytics, The White Sox are much better than the the two AL teams that PECOTA thinks will equal the Sox in wins and futility. There’s really just no excuse here, because if PECOTA can see that the Rangers’ spending spree is inadequate and the Red Sox’ rebuild is only just underway, then how does a White Sox team that has improved over the team people talked about being a World Series contender a year ago match them? They don’t. PECOTA, GO SUCK AN EGG.
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.
Oscar Colas was told he could keep the staff of Cork and Kerry until he felt like giving it up. Well, Hanser Alberto is absolutely on fire right now and making a real push to make the team. Since the idea that he would actually be able to get Leury Garcia off the team is unfathomable given that Leury, like Daryl Boston, is forever, Alberto gets to spend a week with the Staff of Cork and Kerry. Smite away, before you end up at Charlotte or randomly starting 58 games for the Marlins.