2010 Preview: Chicago White Sox

  • Wednesday, March 17, 2010 6:29 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 79-83, 3rd in AL Central. Pythagorean record of 80-82.
Key Additions: 3B Mark Teahen, OFs Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre, RP J.J. Putz
Key Losses: OFs Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik, DH Jim Thome, 2B Chris Getz, RP Octavio Dotel
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 79-83, 2nd in AL Central. CHONE – 79-83, 3rd. CAIRO – 81.8-80.2, 2nd

Pitching: 2009 – 4.21 FIP (11th in MLB), 4.35 for starters, 3.92 for relievers
2010 – A full season of Jake Peavy will provide a boost. Freddy Garcia, trying to rebuild his career, apparently is in line to be the fifth starter after posting a 3.35 FIP in nine starts late last season.
Hitting: 2009 – .325 wOBA (18th in MLB)
2010 – Starting Juan Pierre (especially in the leadoff spot) means giving away a lot of outs. Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin have a lot to prove. 23-year-old Gordon Beckham looks like a star.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of -35.6 (27th in MLB)
2010 – Replacing Dye with Pierre will be a huge help, as even though Pierre can't throw at all, at least he can move around out there. Rios will have to man center field, a position he's played much less than right in his career. Beckham, a natural shortstop, is now at second base after playing third all of last year.

Reasons to Watch
1. Ozzie Guillen: Managers are normally pretty boring, but Guillen is the most notable exception. You just never know what the guy might say (or tweet). Of course, he can sometimes step over the line, but in general I think the game is better off for having a few loose cannons around.
2. Quentin and Rios: The Sox are counting on these two to provide some offensive firepower this season after a rough 2009. Rios hit .247/.296/.395 with Toronto and Chicago last season, while Quentin hit .236/.323/.456 while playing only 99 games due to injuries. If they repeat those types of performances, the Sox likely will be on the outside looking in at the playoffs again.
3. J.J. Putz: From year to year, you generally can rely on relief pitchers about as much as you can on Guillen being quiet. Enter Putz, whose FIP has risen three straight seasons, culminating in last year's 4.19 mark (to go with a 5.22 ERA) in 29 appearances in his first season with the Mets. But he figures to play a major role in the Sox pen this year if healthy now that Octavio Dotel is gone.

Paint By Numbers:John Danks' 14.9 percent line drive rate was the lowest of any qualified pitcher last season, helping to explain his .273 BABIP, which was ninth-lowest. Danks' line drive rates the previous two years were 19.4 percent and 21.8 percent. ... Just how much of a drain was Jermaine Dye on Chicago's outfield defense? His -20.0 UZR in right last season was the third-worst mark of any player at any position. UZR can be fickle from year to year, but this was no fluke. It was Dye's fourth straight season with a RF UZR of worse than -19, which is pretty astonishing. ... Something to keep in mind if Juan Pierre is hitting leadoff on a regular basis: The No. 1 goal in baseball is to avoid making outs, and Pierre is an out-making machine. As an every-day leadoff man, he led MLB in outs made in both 2003 and 2006. His 532 outs in '06 with the Cubs is the second-highest mark in the National League in the past 27 years.

Blog Jog: Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs tries to reconcile Alexei Ramirez' very different 2008 and 2009 seasons. ... Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago discusses Jake Peavy's spring debut. ... Anthony Mazzuca of the Futuresox blogprovides the transcript of a conference call with Assistant GM Rick Hahn. ... Jim Margalus of Sox Machine likes the idea of letting Daniel Hudson pitch as a starter in the Minors to begin the season, rather than as a reliever in the big leagues.

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Assessing The Free Agent Leftovers (Part I)

  • Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:29 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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With pitchers and catchers due to report to Spring Training in about a month, most teams have finished the bulk of their offseason maneuvering and have only a few minor holes left to fill.

There are still plenty of useful players out there on the free agent market, though. Let’s run through each position and take a look at some guys who could be late additions to a team’s roster. I'll review the position players today and come back with the pitchers tomorrow.

Catcher – The biggest name out there is this point is Bengie Molina, who appeared to be headed for the Mets but has turned down their latest offer, according to Buster Olney. Olney says the Mariners, who currently have only the unproven Rob Johnson and Adam Moore behind the plate, make the most sense now for Molina.

But a smarter pick for some team out there might be Rod Barajas, who is similar to Molina (low OBP, decent power, painfully slow) but probably would come cheaper and with less expectations of playing time.

First base/DH – There are several intriguing names here, the most intriguing of which is probably Russell Branyan, a journeyman who got his first real shot to play every day last year with the Mariners. Branyan responded with 31 home runs and an .867 OPS while appearing to field a decent first base. He’s probably due for some regression but would be still be a good grab for a team in need of a power injection.

There are plenty of other options out there as well in this category. Carlos Delgado hit 38 home runs two years ago but spent most of 2009 on the DL. Ryan Garko is nothing special and doesn’t have the power of Branyan or Delgado but is only 29 and would be a decent fill-in. Hank Blalock has fallen off the map the past few years due to injuries and ineffectiveness but still has some pop and also is 29. Jim Thome and Jason Giambi are strictly DHs or pinch-hitters at this point but have the power to offer some value in that role, especially Thome.

Second base – It’s a bit shocking that there are still two players as good as Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez out there. Hudson is a solid hitter with respectable patience and a little bit of sock in his bat. The numbers tell us he’s not as good with the glove as he appears, but he still has considerable value, especially on a short-term deal like the one he signed last year with the Dodgers. He might be close to signing with Washington.

Lopez has played for five teams since 2006, but don’t let all the moving around fool you. He has similar skills to Hudson at the plate, but might actually be a little better with the glove at this point.

Third base – There aren’t many attractive names left at the hot corner, but one good option is Joe Crede, who spent last season with the Twins. Crede has a little pop left in his bat, although he put up a .289 on-base percentage last year, meaning he isn’t going to help much offensively. On the other hand, Crede has been consistently well above average with the glove, which at third base makes him quite valuable.

Other than Crede, you’ve got Melvin Mora, who is about an average third baseman but will be 38 when the season starts and had a .679 OPS in 2009. Adam Kennedy has been mostly a second baseman but actually played more third last year, posting a somewhat shocking .758 OPS (his best since 2003) that he is unlikely to approach again in 2010.

Shortstop – Orlando Cabrera is a solid batting-average hitter with not enough plate discipline or power to be a real asset offensively. His .705 OPS each of the past two seasons illustrates that. Cabrera has been great with the glove in the past but might be heading rapidly downhill now that he’s reached his mid-30s. One-season UZR totals are notoriously unreliable, but Cabrera’s -15.3 was the second-worst by an MLB shortstop last season.

Miguel Tejada was also bad defensively last season, and with his 36th birthday looming in May, might be shifted to third base by the team that eventually signs him. He can still swing the lumber a little, as he slugged .455 last season.

Left field – Johnny Damon is the clear cream of the crop here, coming off a year in which he posted a line of .282/.365/.489. The bat might be due for a bit of a downturn, and his arm is bad even for left, but this is still a mighty valuable package, especially on a one-year deal.

There are a few other guys who could be useful in part-time roles. Endy Chavez isn’t going to hit much but is a slick fielder. Jonny Gomes smashed 20 homers in just 281 at-bats last season. Gary Sheffield probably should be allowed in the field as little as possible at this point and is 41, but he did OPS .823 last season and could be a decent bench bat.

Center field – It’s slim pickings here, with Mike Cameron and Coco Crisp already off the board. That pretty much leaves Rick Ankiel. The former pitcher was a great story two years ago when he hit 25 home runs, but last season he struggled with injuries, struck out a ton and slugged only .387. He’s also been below average in center each of the past two years, although he’s got a tremendously strong arm. It wouldn’t be shocking if Ankiel bounced back a bit this season, but he has some big holes in his swing and his bat looked slow last year.

Right field – The bounty here is much more plentiful than in center, as even though there’s no real standout, there are several intriguing options. Xavier Nady missed almost all of last season with an injury and isn’t a very good outfielder, but he can hit (.458 career slugging percentage). Randy Winn is an excellent right fielder and can play all three outfield positions.

In the next tier, you’ve got Jermaine Dye, who should be banished to a DH spot (average UZR of -20.9 the past four years), as his defense is negating his offensive value. If you can stomach the atrocious fielding or can hide him at DH, you have a valuable hitter who has smashed at least 27 home runs in five straight seasons. Other options include Rocco Baldelli, who pretty much has to be a part-time player due to an energy-sapping medical condition, and the slick-fielding Gabe Gross.