The Oddibe Awards

This is a slightly modified excerpt from my upcoming book, Bridging the Statistical Gap, to be released towards the end of April/beginning of May.
A friend of mine, RJ Anderson of Beyond the Box Score, recently sent me the introduction to a book he is currently writing to look over.  While reading I could not help but notice an extremely fascinating statistical tidbit and RJ graciously allowed me to conduct further research regarding his findings.  Using the Lahman Database he had taken all of the offensive seasons from 1960-2006 and, after tallying the counting stats (H, AB, 2B, etc.), calculated the average slash statistics (BA/OBP/SLG) of major league hitters in that span.  The average major league hitter from 1960-2006 put up a slash line of .259/.326/.395.
He then set parameters in the spreadsheet and was able to find the player with career numbers that most closely matched these slash statistics.  The player?  Oddibe McDowell.  McDowell’s career .253/.323/.395 was closer to the average than anyone else in that timespan.
While RJ then went onto discuss the collegiate and major league career of Sir Oddibe I decided to apply this theory to individual seasons.  I found the average slash lines for each year from 1981-2007 and found the players most closely resembling those lines.  Since Oddibe’s career line came the closest I have named my yearly award after him.  Therefore, the award for the most average offensive player, via slash stats, in a given year, will be hereby known as “The Oddibe Award of Excellence in Average Performance.”
This way anybody with a small sample size of statistics would be disqualified from inclusion; the slash parameters were originally smaller but widening them became a necessity when it was determined that so few people came within 5-7 points of each.  Some players would be within 1-2 points in BA and OBP but were 10-15 points off in SLG, and other variations of the same type of discrepancy.  If multiple players were essentially equivalent I went for those with the higher number of AB’s.  If multiple players were close and no clear-cut winner emerged I simply measured how far off they were in each of the three stats; I went for consistency meaning that a player within four points of all three would be more average than one who was equal in two stats but twelve points off in the third.
With that being said, here are the winners of the annual Oddibe Awards from 1981-2007:

YEAR PLAYER TEAM BA/OBP/SLG
1981 Rich Dauer BAL .263/.317/.369
1982 Alan Trammell DET .258/.325/.395
1983 Alan Bannister CLE .265/.323/.393
1984 Ben Ogilvie MIL .262/.327/.384
1985 Bill Madlock PIT .251/.323/.388
1986 Rudy Law KC .261/.327/.388
1987 Robby Thompson SF .262/.328/.415
1988 Ozzie Virgil ATL .256/.313/.372
1989 Ken Caminiti HOU .255/.316/.369
1990 Gary Ward DET .256/.322/.392
1991 Luis Rivera BOS .258/.318/.84
1992 Jay Bell PIT .264/.326/.383
1993 Cory Snyder LAD .266/.331/.397
1994 Orlando Merced PIT .272/.343/.412
1995 Bret Boone CIN .267/.326/.429
1996 Travis Fryman DET .268/.329/.437
1997 Dan Wilson SEA .270/.326/.423
1998 Mike Bordick BAL .260/.328/.411
1999 Damion Easley DET .266/.346/.434
2000 Chad Curtis TEX .272/.343/.427
2001 Steve Cox TB .257/.323/.427
2002 Michael Barrett MON .263/.323/.418
2003 Robert Fick ATL .269/.335/.418
2004 Orlando Hudson TOR .270/.341/.438
2005 Brandon Inge DET .261/.330/.419
2006 Curtis Granderson DET .260/.335/.438
2007 Jhonny Peralta CLE .270/.341/.430

2008 ODDIBE GOES TO…?
With so many projection systems out there it just seemed natural to check who might qualify for the prestigious average award this season. And, as opening day really gets underway today (triple-rhyme) let’s examine this year’s Oddibe candidates, using StatSpeak alum Sean Smith’s CHONE projections.
1) Chris Burke – .256/.330/.392
2) Franklin Gutierrez – .259/.317/.404
3) Jacque Jones – .260/.318/.402
4) Chase Headley – .252/.335/.392
5) Brandon Inge – .249/.325/.405
We’ll all have to keep our Oddibe-eyes out for this one!

2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Baltimore Orioles

The tour makes its last stop in an American League stadium in Baltimore.  It must be frustrating to be an Orioles fan.  Listing off what the Orioles have done in the past few years sounds like a record on repeat (4th, 4th, 4th, 4th…)
Record: 69-93, 4th in AL East (see there it is again)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 70.22 wins (756 runs scored, 868 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Oriole Magic
More Orioles Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status 
Trade Rumors
Overview: If the rumor is true, then Cal Ripken is trying to step in to save the Orioles.  For the Orioles’ sake, he’d be best advised to grab a glove.  Melvin Mora played third last year.
What went right: Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts are really good players and the Orioles are really lucky to have them.  (What’s that?  Oh… yes I see.  Seattle?  The Cubs?  What do you mean it’s not exactly done?)  Well, the Orioles were lucky to have had them.  Erik Bedard has managed to string together a high strike out rate, low walk rate, high groundball rate, low line drive rate, and nary a speck of luck on the BABIP and HR/FB front.  In other words, if you liked what you saw this year, prepare for more of it.  Almost 11 K’s per nine innings.  Roberts is more of the fantasy heartthrob because he steals bases, although a second baseman with an .808 OPS is a nice luxury to have around.
If there is a medal that the Orioles give out for consecutive games played (wonder after whom that one could be named…) it would go to Nick Markakis who appeared in the first 161 games of the season for the Orioles and then sat out the season-ender.  At 24, most guys are content with being the best guy on their AA team.  This year, assuming Roberts actually finally moves to Chicago, he’ll probably be the best player on his Major League team.  I suppose I could tell you why he’s Sabermetrically very good and how he’s going to get even better (because that’s what guys in their early 20s do).  Someone pointed out that Bill James (I think…) did a study that said if a player at 23 is holding down a regular MLB job, he has a 1/3 chance of becoming a Hall of Fame player.  At 23, Markakis was putting up All-Star calibre numbers.
Also, the Orioles would make a great fantasy team.  What do fantasy owners spend their nights doing?  Worrying about stolen bases.  The Orioles, thanks to Corey “I can run but not do much else” Patterson, Roberts, and Markakis stole 144 bases and led the American League.  Huzzah!
What went wrong: The Orioles had the idea that if they threw a lot of money at some good middle relievers, this would solve their problems.  They brought in Chad Bradford (who had a pretty good season with some bad luck), Jamie Walker (who had a pretty good season with some good luck) and Danys Baez… who… had an OK season.  They laid out 3-4 year contracts for these guys figuring that they would repeat their past glories.  And they still finished fourth.  It’s not that a strong bullpen isn’t an asset, simply that it’s hard to leverage it into a lot of wins.  There was also the problem that Chris Ray got hurt and that the Orioles also had 8(!) guys pitch at least 10 appearances in relief who were functioning below replacement level for relievers.
What the heck happened to Miguel Tejada?  His OBP has been fairly steady over the past few years, but his power stats (SLG, ISO, HR/FB) have been trending downward and he’s progressively begun hitting more and more ground balls.  He seems like a guy whose muscles are withering away.  (…What?)  And now he’s Houston’s problem.
Yeah, that about sums it up: And now a list of Orioles batters who had positive WPA contributions to their team as hitters.  Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, backup outfielder Tike Redmond, Tejada’s replacement Luis Hernandez, Aubrey Huff (barely), Erik Bedard (you read that right), and swingman Brian Burres.  That’s swingman as in sometime reliever sometime starter who had an RBI single in there somewhere in 2007.
Jeremy Guthrie and the Rookie of the Year vote: Did anyone else notice that Jeremy Guthrie led the American League in VORP among rookies?  Guthrie, after fumbling around with the Indians for a few years, figured out that walking people wasn’t a good idea and reaped the benefits.  I was surprised to see that a few ROY votes didn’t wander his way, especially given that everyone’s favorite Sabermetric heart-throb Brian Bannister got a first-place vote.  (Huh?)  Actually, last year when MVN passed around the ballots for the “all the baseball writers vote for the major awards” column at the end of last season, Guthrie got one vote for Rookie of the Year.  Mine.
They got who?: For Tejada they got Luke Scott (blah), third baseman Michael Costanzo (strikes out a lot, hits a lot of long flyballs), Matt Albers (middling pitching prospect), Troy Patton (did OK in AAA at 21), and Dennis Sarfate (who was just flipped from Milwaukee.  For Bedard, they got Adam Jones (drool), the very under-rated George Sherrill, and a few other spare part pitchers.  For Roberts, they’ll probably get Ronnie Cedeno (an intriguing shortstop with a .900 OPS at AAA), and some young pitching.  Not a bad haul to re-build a team. 
Outlook: With Tampa Bay on the rise, is this the year that the Orioles finally break their long streak of finishing fourth and instead finish last in the AL East?  In the distant future, they’ve got a lot of really good young kids and can build around that nucleus, but Baltimore fans who surely have been pining for a winning season are going to be disappointed over the next 2-3 years as the kids have some growing pains.

2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Boston Red Sox

I’ll try to be magnanimous, but these are the same Red Sox that broke my heart this past October.  And there’s only one… nevermind…   I went to Boston about this time last year.  I have to say, pretty town.  I walked around Fenway (it was before the season started, so no game and no “Sweet Caroline“ for me…) and felt a special little feeling in my heart.  Might have just been dinner.  Stop #27 on the tour is Boston.
Record: 96-66, 1st in AL East (beat Angels 3-0 in ALDS, beat Indians 4-3 in ALCS, beat Rockies 4-0 in World Series)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula):  101.89 wins (867 runs scored, 657 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Fire Brand of the American League
More Red Sox Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status 
Trade Rumors
Overview: Somehow, it went from being tre chic in 2004 to be a Red Sox fan (and, of course, you’d been cheering for Boston since you were a kid… not, of course, as your favorite team since I know that you’re from Milwaukee originally, but your dad always kinda talked about how he liked the Red Sox and you got it from him) to being tre chic to hate Red Sox fans in 2007.  After all, they’re all so arrogant and pushy and entitled, right?  I mean, who do they think they are?  And I hate chowder.  And the Dropkick Murphys.  And The Departed wasn’t even good.
I say this as someone with no reason to say anything nice about the Red Sox.  I agree that the bandwagon jumpers were annoying with three Q’s.  But, I can’t hold it against someone who in all honesty had his or her heart broken by the Red Sox all those years if they want to celebrate a title.  So, when you see someone wearing a Red Sox hat, just smile and hope that you’re feeling the same thing they do some day.
What went right: Dustin Pedroia pulled off a rather rare feat in baseball.  He walked more than he struck out last year.  As a 23 year old kid, he had a .380 OBP (which would have put him in the lead on a lot of teams last year… he finished 4th on the Sox behind Ortiz, Manny, and Youk.)  Pretty good company.  Let’s not get carried away.  He’s not going to be the second coming of Manny Ramirez, but… the kid’s got some skills.  A well-deserved Rookie of the Year award on his part.
The Red Sox scored big when they brought in that pitcher from Japan.  And I guess that Dice-K guy did pretty well too.  If there was one baseball player that never quite got the kind of press that he truly deserved last year, it was Hideki Okajima.  Taking nothing away from Jonathan Papelbon, Okajima was just as good.  No big secret.  Few line drives + lots of strikeouts + few walks = good pitching.  If there was a “relief pitcher of the year” award (not that awful Rolaids relief man award), I think Okajima should have gotten serious consideration for it.  There are others from whom I could probably build a better case, but Boston fans, please note that you have two closer-quality guys in your bullpen.  Be proud.
What went wrong: Julio Lugo.  Oops.  What happened?  Would you believe me if I said that Lugo got a little unlucky last year.  His BABIP dipped well below his career average (as did his HR/FB).  Not many people talk about BABIP from a batter’s perspective.  BABIP is largely a repeatable skill with a batter, so when you see a player with consistent numbers over the years and then a sudden drop, treat it the same way that you treat a sudden spike.  Lugo’s not nearly as bad as he looked last year.  Don’t give up on him too fast.  Fantasy players, he probably didn’t get drafted in your league.  Keep tabs on him.  He might be a decent pick mid-year.
Looks like the Indians sold high on Coco Crisp.  Don’t worry.  It looks like the Red Sox sold high on Andy Marte.  To read Crisp’s stats is to see a guy who started striking out more and hitting fewer line drives when he got to Fenway.  2004-2005 is looking like a two year spike.  If you block those years out, 2002-2003 and 2006-2007 look about the same.  Sadly, Crisp has lost his spot to Jacoby Ellsbury and will spend the rest of the season pinch running and being a defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez.
Yeah, that about sums it up: They won the World Series.
Why Mike Lowell is not actually better than A-Rod: Do I really need to write this?  During the off-season when there was the briefest of flirtations between the Red Sox and A-Rod, sentimental Red Sox partisans pointed to the fact that Mike Lowell was also a free agent and that they’d rather Lowell than A-Rod.  I understand the emotion behind the desire, but I’ve never heard such a stupid sentence leave anyone’s mouth.  (And I hear myself talk all day.)  Pick any metric you want.  Mike Lowell is quite good.  A-Rod is stratospheric.  No one is worth $27.5 million a year, and so in that sense, Lowell might be the better bargain, but if that’s not an issue, sit down and tell me that given a choice between the two of them, you’d pick Lowell.  If you do, you’re managing with your emotions.  Now, does being a good “clubhouse guy” and a team leader have something to do with Lowell’s appeal.  Maybe… but you’ve never been in the Red Sox clubhouse… how do you know he’s a good leader?  Just about every team has a leader and there are nice guys in every clubhouse.  But, for a moment let’s grant that Lowell is the kind of guy who is sincerely a fantastic guy to be around and a great leader.  (I sincerely hope he is…)  Will someone tell me how that helps Julio Lugo hit the ball?
Would you believe: In 2007, David Ortiz was the fifth most un-clutch player in baseball.  You can look it up.
Outlook: Well, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to mention how hard it is to repeat as champions in baseball.  But then, it quickly becomes a game of who exactly will take the Red Sox down?  I suppose that there are a few candidates, but I can’t see any reason for the Red Sox not to start printing playoff tickets.  They are basically still the same unit from last year and it’s not like the Yankees got any better this off-season.

Open Letter to 'Baseball Tonight'

I am a huge fan of the show Baseball Tonight but what I witnessed a few days ago

Open Letter to ‘Baseball Tonight’

I am a huge fan of the show Baseball Tonight but what I witnessed a few days ago almost made me vomit, in a metaphorical sense, of course.  The idea behind the show is phenomenal; who wouldn’t want to watch 30-60 minutes of baseball highlights and analysis?  Despite this, what I saw the other day was almost as bad as those mock Steve Phillips press conferences and the “Who’s Now?” competition.  Below is a video of what disgusted me.  Before watching, understand that I think Tim Kurkjian is a tremendous orator, analyst, and writer.  This is more directed at John Kruk, though it seems Krucky ended up wearing off a bit on Kurkjian.

In the clip you will see Karl Ravech (who really needs to learn that his opinions are irrelevant and his job is merely to direct traffic between analysts) read questions that viewers sent in via e-mail to Kruk and Kurkjian for insight with regards to the chances of certain teams.  Five or six teams are discussed and, with the exception of the Cubs, John Kruk’s key analysis for every other team is some variation of: “…if (insert player/team) stays healthy…”

http://media.redlasso.com/xdrive/WEB/vidplayer_1b/redlasso_player_b1b_deploy.swf?swfv=03060801

If Randy Johnson stays healthy the Diamondbacks will have a shot.
If the Mets pitching/lineup stays healthy they have a good shot.
If Brad Lidge stays healthy for the Phillies they’ll have a good shot.
If Ben Sheets stays healthy the Brewers could win the Central.
Now, granted, Kruk is not a Harvard graduate but my grandmother (insert funny line about how little she knows about baseball) could tell me that a team’s success will increase if everyone stays healthy.  He does end up offering little tidbits of solid analysis but it seems that the biggest weapon in his arsenal is health.  Can we please stop talking about health?  Seriously… why is this a staple of every analysis?  People DON’T stay healthy.  That is one of the reasons baseball is so hard to predict; if you cannot make educated predictions or provide valid analysis without mentioning health, do not half-ass it, pardon my English “profanity.”  Or, at least explain the injuries; tell me that a torn labrum severely hinders the ability to move the shoulder freely; or why the pitching wind-up of Shawn Hill or Kerry Wood will lead to an injury due to poor mechanics.  But, more importantly, give actual analysis.
How about discussing how the Diamondbacks played so many close games last year and are now trying out another closer?  Can Tony Pena repeat the success as a setup man?  Will Chris B. Young regress and enter the sophomore slump?  Can Micah Owings pitch?  What do the Mets do if El Duque/Pelfrey are ineffective?  How will Kyle Kendrick fare in his sophomore season?  How will the combination of Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth fare in relation to replacing Aaron Rowand?  Can Chris Capuano rebound from a dreadful 2007?  How about Gagne and Turnbow?
These are all valid questions that viewers could actually benefit from and yet they are ignored so that we can learn a team will be better if their key components stay healthy.
I don’t expect analysts to provide insight from a sabermetrics point of view, but why can’t we have Rob Neyer or Jayson Stark on for five minutes discussing more than health or “psychology”?  Or, as Pizza Cutter could attest to, if they are going to explore the psychology, really explore it.  Don’t just mention something and brush it off.  We want analysis, not blue-balls.
The entire point of a sports analyst is to provide insight into a certain topic that a casual fan–or even a huge fan–can benefit from.  They are supposed to provide us with information we potentially could not get elsewhere.  Mentioning health or a team’s chances if players stay healthy, without diving deep into the specific injury and how it could really hurt a team, does not fall into either of these categories.
Later in this particular show Peter Gammons discusses how great John Maine looks in spring training and how many heads he is turning; he goes very in-depth and it is a fantastic analysis.  I had no idea Maine was doing so well.  When I turned the channel to watch Rock of Love Flavor of Love manly sports I felt as though I actually learned something.  All I learned from the video above is that Karl Ravech thinks Fukudome sounds like a stadium (Thanks, Karl!).
I do not know if anybody from ESPN reads this or if they would even care what one of their biggest viewers thinks but this really needs to change.  There are so many pre-season questions to explore OTHER than health and few, if any, are acknowledged.  Mentioning health as an issue would work as perhaps the 3rd, 4th, or 5th point in an analysis, not the major/only point.
Can we get Harold Reynolds back?  Or lock Mel Kiper, Jr in a room with every video of baseball (high school, collegiate, and professional) ever made and then unleash him?
Will Leitch’s (Deadspin.com) book God Save the Fan touches on issues like this and it really resonated with me.  In it, he discusses how Kruk admitted on a radio station that some of the opinions are fake and pre-determined.  I mean, that says it right there.  This is a show designed to benefit viewers and we are left with pre-determined opinions that analysts do not truly agree with and analysis that features health as its key proponent.
The point of having someone like Kruk is that he was a player and so he “understands” what it is like to play the game.  And this is all we get?  I was an All-Star first-baseman on my high school team and served as the Color Commentator for a Trenton Thunder game (a TV training operation) and I got rave reviews for my analysis.  I never played major or minor league baseball but people from the crew actually took things away from what I discussed.  If I–a 20-yr old in 2005 when I announced–can do it for a TV training operation these “analysts” better be able to do much better than that on a show like Baseball Tonight.  That is, unless they are unhealthy, which would be the key reason their analysis suffers.

2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Chicago Cubs

OK, the will-they-or-won’t-they-but-you-know-they-eventually-will thing with the Cubs and the Orioles over Brian Roberts is reaching tension levels not matched since Pam and Jim.  Other than that, my adopted home team is swimming along nicely.  Stop #26 on the tour is just up the street to Wrigley Field (which is every bit as gorgeous as it looks on TV).
Record: 85-77 , 1st in NL Central (lost 3-0 to Diamondbacks in NLDS)
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 87.51 wins (752 runs scored, 690 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
View from the Bleachers
More Cubs Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status 
Trade Rumors
Overview: Y’know, don’t tell anyone, but the Cubbies have a really good team.  The kind of team that might just make a run at… the thing that we’re not supposed to say… the thing they haven’t done in 100 years…
What went right: Where the heck did Carlos Marmol come from?  He pitched in 2006 and didn’t do anything close to this.  Marmol’s strikeout rate almost doubled from 2006 to 2007, and his walk rate fell.  However, he’s a pitcher who lives and dies by the flyball.  In Wrigley, a flyball pitcher is at the mercy of which way the wind is blowing.  His HR/FB was down in ’07, so he probably has some uppance coming to him this year, but what a season for Marmol.
The Ted Lilly signing worked out pretty well too.  Lilly actually out K-ed Zambrano, out VORPed him and issued fewer walks.  Not bad for a guy who had that “$10 million for an average starter” look about him at the beginning of the year.  Speaking of big marquee signings from last off-season, Alfonso Soriano didn’t disappoint, although if I’m not mistaken, he magically got older by about four years recently.  He’s now 32, and that’s hardly over the hill, plus it seems like he’s got some life in him, but I think people still think of him as a young pup that is still on the upside of his career.  He put up good numbers this year, but the trend line is probably going to be pointing downward soon.
What went wrong: It wasn’t that Matt Murton had a bad year.  It’s that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he didn’t get more playing time (and still doesn’t.)  His line of .281/.352/.438 looked a lot like Jacque Jones’s .285/.335/.400 and Cliff Floyd’s .284/.373/.422.  At one point, the Cubs had a trade going for Jones (who’s not the best defensive CF… not that Murton was the answer there either) but it was nixed by the Cubs owners.  It’s just that no one knows who owns the Cubs.  So, what was the logic behind that one?  A cheaper, younger player who can do the same thing as the older, more expensive model. 
Yeah, that about sums it up: Even though they traded him, it still makes me giggle.  Angel Pagan.  Second place: Rocky Cherry.
Say it with me now, “Ryan Therriot is neither a shortstop nor a #2 hitter”: Just keep repeating that over and over.  Yes, he can run the bases, play several positions, and is otherwise a handy guy to have on an NL team.  He also has an on-base percentage of .326.  To me that screams “#8 hitter!”  Lou Piniella has the guts to bat Alfonso Soriano in the #1 spot, but then bats Therriot behind him?
Why is Ryan Dempster still a closer?: Because he has “closing experience.”  I know that Kerry Wood is now the Cubs closer and that Dempster is going back to starting, but if the closer is supposed to be the best pitcher on the team, why wasn’t Bobby Howry working the ninth?  Yeah, he gets his strikeouts, but he also walks a lot of guys.  Well, now the Cubs will install Kerry Wood, and assuming his arm is still attached to his body, he’ll save 30 games and be hailed as a great new closer who no one ever knew had it in him.
Outlook: Kosuke Fukudome is in town, and there’s been a lot of talk about where to put him in the lineup.  My recommendation: second.  If he’s as much of an OBP machine as they say he is, then hit him where he will get extra at-bats.  The other piece of outlook that has to be resolved is the question of who will buy the team.  Cubs fans seem to want Mark Cuban and he seems to be interested.  Now that would be the kind of match that would give baseball in Chicago some character that’s been missing ever since the death of Harry Caray. 

2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Chicago White Sox

Well, the next stop (#25) on the tour will be a short trip, although I never really get down to the South Side.  If you ever want to know how deep that Sox/Cubs/South Side/North Side divide goes in Chicago, allow me to tell the following story.  In 2005, right after the White Sox won the World Series (first time I’d ever been in a city that had won a major championship), there were news reports that the South Side was just one giant party.  On the North Side, you probably would have gotten the same reaction if you had said “Hey, the Texas Rangers just won the World Series.” 
Record: 72-90, 4th in AL Central 
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula):  66.41 wins (693 runs scored, 839 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
The Bard’s Room (huh?)
More White Sox Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status 
Trade Rumors
Overview: That Pythagorean record is astounding.  The White Sox managed to look respectable by pulling out a few close games, but deep down, they were a 66 win team. 
What went right: Jim Thome is still going strong.  As an Indians fan still holding on to the glory of the mid-90s that’s good to see.  Still strikes out 30% of the time, and still a good bet to hit 35-40 HR.  Thome’s a good case study in why the magic 500 HR mark for admission into the Hall of Fame is going to lead to some weird cases.  I’m not much into the whole Hall of Fame debates.  I think it is and should stay a museum and a cultural shrine more than anything, so usually, I don’t lose sleep over who gets in, but… Thome?  In Thome’s defense, he has a career OPS of .974, and statistically, I could probably make a halfway decent case with the rest of his numbers.  Maybe I’m just reaching the point in my life where where I can’t believe that a guy might soon be in the Hall of Fame and I was at one of his first games in the Majors.  Sorry, I’m having a mid-life crisis when I should be re-capping everything that went right for the White Sox last year.  Fortunately, nothing went right for the White Sox last year.
What went wrong: Where to begin?  Juan Uribe?  It’s not that he actually even regressed to anything.  His stat line looks like it has for the last few years.  Juan Uribe is another one of those guys who looks better because fantasy players like him because he’s a shortstop who hits home runs.  He also has a OBP (also called the not-making-an-out percentage) of .284, rarely walks, strikes out a lot, and he somehow went 1-for-10 in stolen base attempts last year.  Maybe someone needs to have a talk with Ozzie Guillen about… well, a lot of things.  But, a conversation about this in particular would do some good.
Didn’t Jose Contreras used to be good?  His luck was a little off in 2007 (BABIP in the .340s), but the trend line is definitely pointing downward.  Even granting him the very generous “he’s really 36,” it’s not like there are a lot of 36 year olds who suddenly put everything back together.
Then there’s the little issue of the White Sox minor league system, ranked by Baseball Prospectus as last in the majors.  Part of it is because some of their prospects “graduated”, but that means that someone is asleep at the wheel in the White Sox front office that they have no one left.
Yeah, that about sums it up: A list of White Sox hitters with a VORP over 10: Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Jermaine Dye (12.2)  A list of White Sox hitters with a VORP below zero (min 200 PA): Jerry Owens, Danny Richar, Scott Podsednik, Darin Erstad, Juan Uribe, and Angel Gonzalez.  Alex Cintron and Joe Crede were also below replacement level, but just missed my 200 PA cutoff.  I just didn’t want to make the White Sox feel too bad.
A trade here, a trade there: I covered the Orlando Cabrera-for-Jon Garland trade in my piece on the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim near Los Angeles.  Summary: Orlando Cabrera is over-rated.  So is Jon Garland.  Carlos Quentin has the nice habit of putting up .900+ OPS numbers in AAA, but of course, needs to repeat that in the majors. Nick Swisher, all Moneyball references aside, is a good player to have on a team because he gets on base a lot.  All they had to give up was a lefty starter who absolutely lit up AA last year, a righty starter who absolutely lit up A ball last year, and a marginal 23 year old outfielder.  So, they got a good guy who will help them get up to .500 this year for two pitching prospects whose stats made me drool out of a very dry farm system otherwise.  And a throw-in outfielder.  Then, there’s Scott Linebrink who signed to help out in the bullpen for 4 years and $19 million.  That’s at once a bargain and an amazingly bad contract.  Linebrink has pitched just as well as many closers (such as Coco Cordero, who’s going to make something like $10 million this year), but didn’t do it in the ninth inning.  No saves, no money.  But, then the Orioles tried this type of strategy — throw a lot of money at some middle relievers – and it didn’t exactly work out well for them.  Four years for a guy who looked great in 2004 and 2005, when his BABIP was below league average, and in 2005 especially when his HR/FB was below league average…  Yeah, the White Sox are doing just dandy, aren’t they.
Is there something Bobby Jenks isn’t telling us?: Sneak a peek at Bobby’s fangraphs pitch breakdown page.  His average fastball has gone from 97 mph in 2005 to 95.8 in 2006 to 93.9 in 2007.  His strikeout rate also dropped a lot this year.  Not much else changed, and he’s still going to be a rough pitcher to have to deal with, but is there a reason for the declining velocity?
Ozzie Guillen and crazy ball: So, Ozzie likes to do the “bunt, run, and swear at your team in the presser afterward” strategy.  Hey, at least he’s entertaining.  BUT, it worked in 2005, didn’t it?  In 2005, the White Sox were third in the league in stolen bases.  They also led the league in times being caught stealing.  In fact, they checked in with 137 steals in 204 attempts, for a success rate around 67%.  That’s below the usually accepted cut off point of 70%.  So, the White Sox won in spite of their baserunning madness.  Then, there’s bunting.  Bunting is a good strategy when the player who’s doing the bunting is an awful hitter.  I now present the OBPs of the White Sox starting nine for 2005 (the guys who logged the most time at each defensive position — and DH).  .308, .375, .342, .303, .301, .351, .329, .333, .311.  Anyone notice any obscenely low numbers in there?  Yeah, bunting a little more often might be a good idea then.  The White Sox scored 741 runs in 2005, good for ninth in the league.  For a winning offensive strategy… that’s not a really effective strategy. 
Swearing at the team in the presser afterwards, however, makes living in Chicago a little bit more entertaining.  Thanks Ozzie.
Outlook: No farm system.  Players who were good last year are aging and there weren’t that many to begin with.  Odd trades.  Well… at least they’ve won a World Series in the last century, which is more than their neighbors to the north can say.

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