Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Defending White Sox Disrespect?

Blog buddy, Josh Borenstein, usually feels much the same about all things baseball as this writer. But Josh took great exception to the piece featured here for disrespecting the White Sox pitching staff and team. While Josh is super high on the Fan's respect list, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Let's put some numbers behind the rationale.

According to PECOTA projections, the starting rotation of the White Sox is projected to have the highest value over replacement players (VORP) in the division. They project out to a VORP of 128.6 compared to 100.9 for the Twins and 114.9 for the Tigers. But while the Fan believes some of the White Sox pitchers are rated too highly (more on that later), some of the projections for the Tigers and Twins seem way too low. Kevin Slowey has been terrific this spring and the Fan believes he will come in higher than projection. Rick Porcello was rated very low (5) and he should come in much higher than that. If those two projections alone account for some closure between the numbers, consider the Twins' projected batting order (even with Nick Punto at third!) projects to 209.4 VORP compared to the White Sox' projection of 125.2.

The Fan also believes the White Sox projections are too high. Let's go through each member of the starting rotation:

Mark Buehrle: Despite his no hitter, Buehrle gives up a lot of hits. He's led the league in that category three of the last five years. Plus, his strikeout to walk ratio has dipped for two straight years. Add to that his BABIP which was .283 last year compare to his career number of .291 and Buehrle (which is darn hard to type by the way) should finish with an ERA over 4.00 and a record around .500.

John Danks: Danks regressed a bit last year compared to the year before. His ERA went up as did his walks per nine innings. His homers per nine innings doubled too. You can count on him to strike out seven guys per nine as he has been there consistently, but it's hard to predict his success in not walking people because his last three years show high/low/high. His BABIP was also low last year at .269 compared to his career mark of .291. All that being said, Danks will finish with an ERA of 4 or higher and he will be a .500 pitcher unless he brings his walks down dramatically.

Gavin Floyd: Floyd had a great season in 2008, his first year as a featured starting pitcher. But he fell to a .500 record last year with an ERA of 4.06. It's hard to figure though because his strikeouts per nine and his strikeout to walk ratio numbers were the best of his career. His WHIP and homers per nine were also the best of his career. So one would have to assume that Floyd was very unlucky last year (though his BABIP was dead on for his career average). All that being said, Floyd should fare close to his projections.

Freddie Garcia: Garcia has been a serviceable pitcher for most of his career. He's a veteran and he knows what he is doing. But he's also 35 and has missed major portions of the last three years. He is a gigantic "IF" in this Fan's book. At least he can't be any worse than Contreras...

Jake Peavy: Peavy is a stud, or at least he's been one. And that's the concern. Will he hold up? Was his brilliant 3-0 look-see last year an indicator of things to come or was that a function of hitters not being familiar with him? Time will tell. But Peavy has been a great pitcher and could be again. The Fan will go this far to meet Josh in the middle: If Peavy is Peavy and puts up prime Padres-like numbers, then the White Sox edge out the pitching staffs in the rest of the division. But they still won't hit enough to win the division.

Hey, at least the Fan came halfway, right?


Josh Borenstein said...

Buehrle does give up a lot of hits, but he counters that with his control. Roy Halladay gave up the most hits in the AL in 2003 and won the Cy Young. Buehrle's career ERA is 3.80. That's not fluky. Given his stuff, is Buehrle an overachiever? Absolutely, but that's because he's a smart pitcher. Not a cerebral pitcher, but his methodology is smart. Works fast, changes speeds to keep the hitters off balance, hits his spots. And the guy is an absolute horse. You can pencil him in for 30+ starts and 200+ innings every year. At 31, I think he still has a lot of quality innings left in him.

Danks did regress a little last year, but it was still a good year. If you look at what he's done the last two seasons on a month to month basis, he's one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball. In 2008, his ERA was well below 4.00 every month but July. In 2009, his ERA was well below 4.00 every month but May (not counting October, which was one start). And he's still only 25.

Floyd was a high draft pick out of high school in 2001 who has finally hit his stride. Even though his ERA was a little higher last year than in 2008, as you said his peripherals were better, particularly his K/9. He got off to a slow start last season, but really picked it up in the second half. In the first half, his ERA was 4.44 and his WHIP was 1.31. In the second half, his ERA was 3.49 and his WHIP was 1.11. If he can be a little more consistent over the course of a season (like he was in 2008), a sub-4.00 ERA isn't out of the question. Not as young as Danks, but he's only 27.

I agree that Garcia is a huge "IF." I don't think the Sox will get many innings out of him, but if they can get 100 out of him through 15 starts and an ERA around 4.50, that's definitely serviceable for a 5th starter. When/If Garcia goes down, the Sox have big prospect Dan Hudson who can pick up the slack. Perfect time to put a guy like into the rotation, slot him in 5th where there's no pressure.

There's no way Peavy will be as good with the Sox as he was with the Padres. Pitching in the NL in Petco versus the AL in a bandbox makes a world of difference. But he still has ace stuff and while he isn't the most durable pitcher in the world, he still managed to start 27 or more games every year from 2003 to 2008. I don't think anyone is expecting a sub-3.00 ERA, but 3.50 seems doable. I think he could approach what Sabathia did with the Yankees last year. It seems like Peavy has been around forever, but he's turning 29 in May.

bobook said...

I'm with Josh on this one and believe the Chisox reclaim this division.