Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pat Riley Plays the Media

Wow, I agree with Jay Marriotti.

The big story after the Bull’s victory last night over the Heat was the flagrant takedown of Luol Deng in mid-air by Miami thug scoundrel James Posey (editors note: you are longer allowed to use racist code words like thug when discussing the NBA). At least in Chicago that was the big story.

It was the third cheap shot Posey has given the Bull sin the past year. In the playoff series last year, Posey blindsided Hinrich on a drive which cost Posey a one game suspension. He fouled Tyrus Thomas hard as went up for a dunk in this year’s season opener and broke his nose (Posey was not punished for that one) and now he has reinjured Luol Deng’s wrist that Deng had broken less than two years ago.

Posey was thrown out of the game last night and might be looking at a multiple game suspension. Of course if it might help Posey’s case if the media attention was deflected off on to something else. Cue Pat Riley.

Riley accused Hinrich of a dirty play that ended up injuring Wade’s wrist:

''Yeah, Hinrich pulled his hand. Hinrich grabbed his hand -- which he does all the time. That's what he does,'' Riley said of the first-quarter sequence. ''Anytime Dwyane comes off screens, they always grab his shirt or his hand. It's a little bit of a tactic, down below the body where the official can't see it. He had Dwyane's hands, and he tried to pull it out of there. And something happened.''

That’s just silly. Hinrich was just trying to fight through a screen and there was no intent to injure anyone.

But ESPN and Deadspin highlight the comments about Hinrich and ignore the cheap shot that might have re-broken Luol Deng’s wrist. Pat Riley, the media maestro.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rangers get McCarthy from ChiSox in five-player deal - MLB - Rangers get McCarthy from ChiSox in five-player deal

Is this the move of a man who thinks the White Sox will win the division in 2007? It certainly didn't make the current squad any better.

I was excited to see McCarthy in the rotation this year. He's pitched some great games as a starter and it would have been interesting to see what he could do with a full year in the rotation.

McCarthy was good, young and cheap. And you trade him for three prospects? I understand Danks has a very high ceiling but the move doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Maybe Kenny has another move in the works that will make everything clear. But right now I would have to give this move a thumbs down.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Big Ten Wonk Is Back

The Big Ten Wonk starts his college basketball previews by looking at Illinois here.

The Wonk provides an amazing amount of insightful and informative college basketball analysis during the college basketball season. If you want stay on top of Big Ten basketball (with some national tidbits thrown in) please be sure book mark his site.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gross Returns

I know most liberals would like to ignore good economic news in the weeks running up to the election, but to pretend like to economy has been anything but remarkably strong is absurd.

Daniel Gross, in Slate, tries to take Republicans to task for touting the Dow Jones record highs as they prepare for November elections. His article is not exactly false, but it is a complete non sequitur. The stock market does not equal the economy. They often move in step, but the market has many influences that go beyond the strength of the American economy.

If he wants to argue that the economy is not doing well he should, instead he launches into an academic debate about the market not doing as well as Republicans would have us believe (although his argument there is pretty weak too). Since Gross doesn't make an economic argument I'll just show where his analysis comes up short regarding the stock market.

Gross first argues that the Dow Jones index is not representative of the market as a whole and this is certainly true. He goes on to argue that the S&P 500 index is more representative of the entire stock market and 10% off its March 2000 highs. Again this is true, but hardly indicative of the current economic environment. Does Gross actually believe the stock market in March 2000 fairly represented the economic fundamentals of its time and the market's intrinsic value? Is the March 2000 high a proper baseline for judging the current market?

There are two factors that determine market capitalization: current earnings and expected growth. Of the two, earnings are a much better reflection of the economy and earnings have never been better. The chart below, which is adjusted for inflation, shows just how much earnings have grown over the past six years:

S&P 500 EPS - Inflation Adjusted


Overall, earnings per share have grown 74% since 2000. Now let us take a look at how those earnings translated into market caps.

Currently the S&P 500, at 1335 on September 30, 2006, is trading about 17 times earnings, close to its historical average. The index ended its highest quarter on March 30, 2000, at 1498 and it traded just over 34 times full year earnings. If we used that multiple with today's earnings it would give us S&P index of 2700! Of course we wouldn't use that multiple because it was an historical anomaly. Which is the exact reason why we wouldn't want to use it as a baseline for looking at the market today.

Go back to 2000 and ask yourself why the market was overvaluing future growth. There were plenty of reasons: big increases in productivity, low inflation, the tech stock boom. But I don't think you can discount the fact the press was writing about the economy under a Democratic President. And if the NY Times wasn't writing about homeless people shitting gold nuggets under Clinton it's only because the media doesn't write about homeless people under Democratic Presidents.

It's also misleading to suggest that because many sectors are off their 2000 highs that investors haven't fared well the past few years. Unless you're a poor sap who put all their money in the market in March 2000, you would have made much money before and after the S&P reached its peak. The S&P 500 is currently up 65% since reaching the nadir of its current cycle in September 2002.

Finally, I have to mention the ridiculous swipe Gross takes at George Will, even having the gall to call his column absurd. Gross writes:

Take a gander at George Will's absurd column last week. "Economic hypochondria is also bred by news media that consider the phrase 'good news' an oxymoron," he wrote, "even as the U.S. economy, which has performed better than any other major industrial economy since 2001, drives the Dow to record highs." Next, Will pooh-poohed high oil prices, noting "the recent 20 percent decline of the cost of a barrel of oil, from a nominal record of $78.40 (which, adjusting for inflation, was well below the 1980 peak of $92 in 2006 dollars)." Got that? Will celebrates the record nominal high in stock prices but urges readers to focus on the real price of oil.

I'm no fan of George Will, he's a Cubs fan and wears a bow-tie for crying out loud. But there is nothing peculiar or misleading about his column. It's hardly customary to make inflationary adjustments to market indexes outside the academy, and doing so here would have done little to change the substance of Will's argument that the U.S. economy has performed better than its industrial peers.

However, oil is commonly adjusted for inflation, as it should with the central role it plays in the American economy. Gross goes on:

By mixing and matching real and nominal, Will could just as easily have argued that oil is more expensive than it has ever been, while the Dow is barely at the level it reached in 1999. If Democrats controlled the levers of power, he'd be making precisely that argument.

This is just wrong, as he is basically calling Will a hack. But I think he doth protest too much. George Will's bonafides stand on their own as he has earned a reputation as a partisan but honest pundit. The irony is that Gross accuses Will of such hackery in a column in which he so eagerly displays it himself.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

TV Notes

I've been watching of bunch of new television shows now that the White Sox season has ended. Unfortunately the remote mostly ends up on TLC, HGTV or the Travel Channel. My wife enjoys home improvement and traveling, and since we can afford neither, the least I can do is let her watch a few tv shows.

Of the three, the Travel Channel has the most interesting shows. Anthony Bourdain can be fun to watch even if he is in love with himself (or maybe because he is). And just last night we watched a fascinating show about the Yawalapiti tribe of Brazil.

It's a tribe that lives completely independent of modern society, although the Chief did sport a pair of glasses in a few scenes. The glasses were about the only piece of clothing I saw on the show. They seemed to have something over their lower privates but I couldn't be sure as the Travel Channel thoughtfully blurred the screen whenever those parts were displayed on camera.

The tribe didn't seem to do much more than bullshit and wrestle all day. On special occasions even the females wrestled each other.

Did I mention they were nude? This is obviously a patriarchal society.

The women weren't exactly ready to appear in a Victoria's Secret catalogue but definitely scored an 8 out of 10 of what I call the National Geographic Scale.

Anyway, I would like to thank my wife for opening my eyes to the stimulating television that exists outside of sports.

But back to sports for a moment. Slate had a nice article calling bullshit on the stupid talk of the Tigers somehow boosting the spirits of Detroit. It's not like Detroit never sees a winner, as both the Pistons and the Red Wings have been good for a long time. My only complaint about the article was the awkward swipe at Reagan. I don't think Detroit's hardships in the 80's can be blamed on "Reaganomics" as the writer states.

Another show I have been watching is Studio 60, which showed great promise in the pilot but has gone downhill since. Dan Kois, in Slate, touches on some of the problems but seems too focused on the show -in-the-show being not funny. That's certainly the case but not the shows biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that Sorkin is trying to recycle West Wing political themes for a show that is supposed to be about sketch comedy. So what storylines do we get: the religious right go after the show, someone digging up dirt on the network president, rubes from Ohio who don't even know the "Who's On First" sketch, the network trying to get an audience for a show about the UN, reminiscing about Hollywood blacklists, giving someone from the inner city a shot at making a better life, etc.

Please, this is supposed to be a behind the scenes look at a sketch comedy show. It doesn't have to be funny but does it need to be so serious?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Huskie Do

Recently, five UCONN fotball players were kicked off the football team for purchasing beer. Coach Randy Edsall showed no mercy in giving this quintet of would-be inebriants the boot even before they had the chance to open up a cold one.

Coach Edsall is far cry from shis basketball counterpart at UCONN, Jim Calhoun, who let's convicted criminals play for his team. I would say Edsall's actions show Calhoun to be ethically challenged, but in fact both Coach's decisions fail to stike the right balance between discipline and compassion.

A player like Marcus Williams, who betrayed the trust of fellow students and athletes when he stole laptops from members of the UCONN women's team, should have never seen the college hardcourt again. The UCONN football players, who bought some beer, much like 95% of the college population, probably just deserved to run an extra lap at practice.

Neither decision reflects well on the University.

When Sting Rays Attack

First a Sting Ray, a creature known to be non-threatening towards humans, kills well-known wild animal showman Steve Irwin. Now comes news that a Sting Ray jumped in a Florida man's boat and proceeded to stab the poor man in the chest.

I believe only those who are willfully blind cannot see what is happenning out there. The oceans are too damn hot! Global warming is no longer some abstract concept with only tangible effects of pleasant winters in the Midwest. Now it's killing people.

The Sting Rays are trying to tell us someting but so far we have chosen not to listen. WILL WE LISTEN BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!??!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Finally, The End

Fun while it lasted, but it sure didn't last long

Last night's loss to the Tigers dropped the Sox playoff chances from improbable to infinitesimal. The last two months have been a frustrating grind and there is some relief in the season's finality. No more hoping and the accompanying disappointments.

A lot of things broke down for the Sox this year (something I'm sure will be talked about at length in the upcoming weeks) but it I don't think it will take much to remain a playoff-caliber team. I look forward to watching Kenny Williams wheel and deal this off-season (just don't trade Sweeney!).

Anyway, let me end this with a picture of happier times:

Friday, September 15, 2006

Frank Thomas Media Relations 101 - Who'll have last laugh in Thome vs. Thomas?

Let me start off by saying Frank Thomas is my favorite baseball player. But man, he seems to have no clue how the media works. For example, when asked to compare your chances to win comeback player of the year compared Jim Thome, the following answers are acceptable:

"I don't care about individual awards, I'm just worried about helping my team get to the playoffs"


"We're both having great years and it's an honor to be considered".

It's not that hard. Here is what Thome had to say about Frank:

"I'm happy for him. He battled an injury, not knowing what was going to happen. We both have had really nice years."

These statements might not be true, and they are certainly cliches, but they are still the proper way to answer such a question. But what does the Big Hurt say?

"I know Comeback Player of the Year comes down to numbers, but personally, I think I was more injured than any ballplayer in America. I was written off. I don't think [Thome] was ever written off. Everybody thought I was done . . . . [Thome] has had an excellent year. I think the past four months my year has been more incredible

Frank, its a stupid award and it's beneath you to campaign for it. For once, try and say the right thing, even if you don't mean it.

By the way, I take it that Rich Lederer is a big Big Hurt fan as he had an extensive essay on Frank's career on his old blog a few years back and had another nice post on Frank a couple of weeks ago at the Baseball Analysts.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sox 7 Cleveland 6

I've been posting irregularly on this blog for just over 3 years now and this is the first time I've ever been compelled to jump on the computer to write about a just completed game.

Watching Bobby Jenks blow a two run ninth inning lead in the middle of pennant race (ok, wildcard) was probably the low point of the season. Four doubles in row?

But you know what, I keep watching. When they blew a 3-0 lead to Minnesota a couple of weeks back I thought to myself that I needed to take a break from the Sox. These losses were were having an effect on my emotional state. But I turned on the game the next night anyways to watch the Twins jump ahead with Johan Santana on the mound. Down 5-1 to Santana, I kept watching. They scored a couple of Santana, a couple more of Rincon and Reyes, and finally Dye hit a game tying 2 run homer of uber-closer Joe Natahn in the ninth. And speaking of Dye, how many players do think have hit game tying home runs of Joen Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon this year?

Anyway, the Sox ended up losing that game too, but I keep watching. They have had some mediocre pitching this year and a lot of the bounces have gone the other way (three of the four doubles off Jenks tonight were blooped or within an inch of the foul line). But they never give up and I'm not about to stop watching.

And I would be remiss if didn't mention AJ's heroics tonight. I've seen too many comments on Sox blogs criticizing AJ for his lack of clutchness. I would think his three-run bomb of Ryan Dempster earlier this year would be enough to earn our eternal gratitude. Hopefully tonight's two-run bomb, which I don't think is an understatement to say kept us in the playoff picture, puts an end to such comments.

Finally, I think Sox fans need to start looking at the positives of our situation and stop wallowing in the inevitableness of missing the playoffs. Four out of five starting pitchers just pitched lights out through the last turn of the rotation and we have a better offense than the Twins and Tigers. We might not make the postseason, but its silly to act like we have no chance when we are only a half game out of the wild card.

This is pretty much the same team that won 110 games last year and played .600 ball for the first half of this season. They certainly have a good shot at the playoffs and I wouldn't be surprised to see them go on a nice run to finish the season.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

2006 Run Distribution

Well, the Sox may still have a pulse (although I heard a dead man once got a hit off Kason Gabbard), but I want to get a head start on the autopsy. Here's a quick look at the Sox run distribution this year compared to last year. First let's take a look at the distribution of runs scored (percentage is of all games played):

There's not much to complain about here. The offense has struggled lately, but it was the catalyst of the great start in 2006. The 2005 Sox offense failed to produce runs in many ballgames. Of course they managed to win a fair share of those games anyways. Here's a look at the team winning percentage by runs scored:

As my two year old daughter would say, "Wowser!" This year's Sox team just can't grind out victories. Last year the Sox won 22 games when they scored 3 runs or less and 57 games when they scored 5 runs or less. Through 138 games this year, those numbers are 5 and 29, respectively.

Some of this is luck, but 95% of it is bad pitching. Let's take a look at the runs allowed distributions:

You can see why the Sox won so many of those low scoring games last year. The pitching staff yielded 3 runs or less in 49.38% of their games last year compared to 37.68% so far in 2006. As for the high scoring games, the Sox gave up 7 or more runs in 32 games last year. This year that number is 41 and counting.

There's not much to learn from the runs allowed win percentage chart as the distribution of runs allowed above tells pretty much the whole story. But since I ran the numbers, here is the chart:

Tonight's game against Boston was the first time the Sox were shutout 1-0 this year. They are now 12-1 when they give up only one run after going 25-1 last year.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Twins, Again

I honestly expected to the Sox to take three out of four in Detroit. The Buehrle loss wasn't a surprise but I didn't see the Contreras meltdown coming. The last thing this team needs is another unreliable starter.

The Sox end up losing a half game in the wildcard standings to the Twins after the split as Minnesota took two of three against the Orioles. The Sox are now only a half game up on the Twins as the two teams start a critical series at the Cell on Friday. It will be up to Javier Vasquez to hold on to the wildcard lead Friday as he takes on Brad Radke in the series opener.

I thought it might be a fun exercise to break down Vasquez' starts to show just how bad his one inning meltdowns have been this season. So I produced a chart that pulls out Javier's worst inning (or partial inning if he was pulled - which of course is not the case most of the time) and compared them to his non-meltdown innings.

Now this is sort of a pointless exercise as you can do this for any pitcher and his numbers are going to show a huge disparity. But I have to believe the ERA gap between Vasquez' good innings compared to his meltdown innings would have to be among the league leaders if you were to keep track of such a stat.

Melt Down Inning21.1596124.92761211124.08
The Rest12827301.90846301100.89

As you can see, for most of the game, 85% of his innings pitched, Vasquez pitches like a Cy Young candidate: less than a runner per inning pitched; almost a K per inning pitched; and only six homers allowed in 128 innings.

However, looking at his worst inning from each game shows you what a basketcase Vasquez can be. He has given up 76 hits in 21.1 IP, nearly as many as he has in the other 128. He has given 61 runs in his bad innings, more than double the amount he has given up in the remaining 128.

In 24 starts, Vasquez has given up at least 3 runs in one inning 12 times. In nine games, Vasquez has entered an inning with a lead only to give up multiple runs and finish the inning with the Sox trailing.

I don't have any explanation for his meltdowns. I can only hope it just a case of randomness and dumb luck. But with meltdowns that bad, I have to think there is more to it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

No Power Mauer

Joe Mauer is getting some buzz in the AL MVP race despite some pretty weak power numbers. Yes, he does have a slugging percentage .516, but that is being propped up by his abnormally high batting average of .359 (abnormal because that .382 BAPIP isn’t sustainable). Mauer’s Isolated Power number is a much more modest .159, good enough for 45th in the American League, sandwiched between Curtis Granderson and Michael Young.

Mauer has been getting a recent MVP push from the Baseball Prospectus crowd, first in an article by Joe Sheehan, and then in a chat with Rany Jazayerli. Now, I didn’t read BP back in 2001, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this same group criticized Ichiro’s MVP award that was won under similar circumstances.

Sheehan also wrote in his article:

The least-interesting factor in this discussion, yet the one likely to move at least some names on some ballots come late September, is team performance. I think it’s interesting that the Tigers, the best team in the AL, have no one in the discussion. The A’s and White Sox, who could both make the postseason, lack MVP candidates as well.
Talk about no respect. Dye was leading the league in slugging at the time this article was written and Dye and Thome are two of only six players with an OPS of over 1.000 in the American League. I don't think either one is a favorite but I would call them both legitimate MVP candidates.

But back to Mauer . When you take a closer look, Mauer just doesn’t stack up against some of the other contenders in the MVP race:


I could see giving an edge to Mauer in a close race because of his defense behind the plate, but I just don’t think the race is that close. His powers numbers are dwarfed by Hafner, Dye, Ortiz and Ramirez and I don't think you should be able to single your way into an MVP award.

Mauer does play a very important defensive position. But defense in baseball is more of a commodity than offense and should be rewarded as such. I’m sure the Henry Blanco fan club will be disappointed.

I can see Mauer winning an MVP award once he gets his “man muscles”, but not this year. Don’t feel too bad for him, he has another trophy waiting for him after the season ends.

And yes, I know by writing this Mauer is going to hit at least three home runs this weekend against the Sox.

That's Strange

Both Brian Roberts and Johnny Damon led off with a home run in the Yankees/Orioles game this afternoon, Roberts fifth of the year and Damon's eighteenth.

An hour later, David DeJesus and Pablo Ozuna do the same in the Royals/Sox game. It was even more unlikely in the White Sox game as it was the seventh homer of the year for DeJesus and only second for Ozuna.

UPDATE: The Sox/Royals game also had both leadoff batters (Brown, Dye) lead off the second inning with home runs, which according to the ESPN scroll was the first time in MLB history both leadoff batters in the first and second innings hit a home run.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cooper Interview

The White Sox starting pitching has started to come around and the team is looking like a World Series contender again.

Apropos of the resurgent staff, Jeff Angus has multiple posts of an interview with Don Cooper over at his Management by Baseball blog. The interview gives you a good idea of the White Sox organization's pitching philosphy and some insights into what Cooper has his starters working on as they try to get through this rough patch.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wild Card Races

Wild card races are fun. Wild card collapses - not so much.

I've only been to two baseball games this year but have been lucky enough to witness the beginning of the collapse for both of the city's baseball teams.

I went to a Cubs game way back in April when they actually had a winning record of 14-10. They lost 8-0 to the Pirates that day and went on to a 4-21 meltdown over the next month.

My first Sox game this year was their 7-2 loss to the Red Sox right before the break. They went into that game 56-29 and have gone 3-10 since.

I'll be at the series finale against the Twins tomorrow and hopefully work some reverse mojo that will get the Sox back on track.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Name Game

Home-Run Javy
Big-Inning Javy
Jav "Yourself a Hanging Breaking-Ball" Vazquez
The Peripherals Man

Whatever you want to call him, please don't let it be "starting pitcher". Many people argue that Vazquez peripheral stats (K's, WHIP) suggest Vazquez' high ERA is the result of bad luck. These people are stupid.

I, for a long time, was a stupid person. But I have seen enough. I am now convinced Vazquez is just unable to get outs in pressure situations. And not only does he seem to give up hits (many with 2 strikes on the batter) in big situations, he has a knack for giving up punch-in-the-gut home runs.

If you can trade Vasquez for a reliever and a prospect, do it. I've heard others argue that you can't trade Vazquez for only a reliever and a prospect because the Sox had to give up a starter, reliever, and their number one prospect to just to get him.

But it doesn't matter what it we gave up for Vazquez, as that's a sunk cost. Get whatever you can for him now.

The trade with Arizona certainly looks bad now, especially as we already had McCarthy ready to take over the fifth spot of the rotation in the spring. I was against the trade at the time, but I knew what Williams was thinking. But it hasn't worked out and it's time to move on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Pack Is Gaining

Even after losing two out of three before the break, the White Sox still found themselves comfortably positioned for the playoffs as they were six games ahead of the Yankees in the wild card race. All they had to do was win one game in NY and leave the city with a five game lead.

Unfortunately, they picked a bad time to stop hitting the ball with runners on-base, as they consistently failed to to take advantage of scoring opportunities. The result was a three game sweep.

The Sox still have the league's second best record but now the Red Sox are only two games back and the Yankees two-and-a-half back. The Blue Jays and Twins are also now back in the picture. The Sox are now just another bad week from finding themselves out of the wild card lead.

I'm not worried - yet. Take look at these pitching numbers. I take comfort in these numbers because I know there is no way the starters will continue to pitch this bad. Once the pitching returns so will the wins.

Despite losing the last two series against the Red Sox and Yankees I'm not convinced either one is a better team. It will be hard for the White Sox to catch the Tigers but I don't think they will get passed by Boston or New York in the standings.

Finally, the toughest part of this weekend was watching Cliff Politte pitch his final game for the White Sox. Politte seems like a real nice guy and a likeable teammate. The poor guy just couldn''t get anyone out this year. As the Yankees scored four runs off him on Saturday, I knew it was the end of the road for Cliff Politte, and I'm sure he knew it too. Baseball players make a lot of money and are certainly fortunate to make a living playing a game. Yet I still find it incredibly sad when a player is forced out before they are ready to give it up. Actually, I didn't feel too bad for Sammy Sosa, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, here's to Cliff Politte, right handed set-up man for the 2005 World Series Champions Chicago White Sox (7-1, 2.00 ERA, 67.3 IP, 57K, .936 WHIP).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Not Quite Convinced

There is no doubt that Joe Crede is having a great, if not quite spectacular, year. His current batting line of 294/331/512 would give him career highs in average, on-base and slugging percentage. His 50 runs and 58 rbis at the break are both just 18 short of his career highs.

However, the way in which he has improved his numbers lead me to question how much is luck and how much of the improvement is sustainable.

Often when a slugger makes a leap like Crede has it comes with improved patience at the plate. The hitter waits for his pitch and when he gets it he drives it. When he doesn't get his pitch he takes more walks and strikeouts. The strikeouts are usually a necessary trade-off when hitting for power (for example, see Paul Konerko's historical trends).

But this year Crede is actually walking and striking out at the lowest rates of his career. He continues to be a very impatient hitter only seeing 3.53 pitches per plate appearance. His walk rate didn't have too far to go down but his strikeout rate has decreased by 33% (see the blue line in the chart below).

I included two other numbers on the chart: isolated power and batting average of balls put in play (BAPIP). The isolated power number has a lot less noise than slugging percentage and itshows that Crede has improved his power-hititing the past couple years. However, the BAPIP number is known jump around from year to year and might suggest that Crede is just happening to "hit them where they ain't" this year.

Not only is Crede getting more hits on balls put in play, but as previously mentioned, he is putting many more balls in play this year. Crede has a career strikeout rate of about 15% of his plate appearances and this year he is below 10%. That alone would cause his average, on-base and slugging percentage to increase. The table below shows Crede's percentage of hits per plate appearance the last few of years and reflects this increase.

The chart shows that Crede is getting more of all types of hits per plate appearance. But looking at his hits for only when he makes contact (plate appearances minus walks and strikeouts) tells a little bit different story. The results when he makes contact are largely the same.

Crede is getting a few more doubles and singles this year but his rates are not out of his career range and can be explained by normal variataions in his BAPIP.

If Crede's ability this year to get more hits on balls put in play can be chalked up to luck than the big question is whether he can keep his strikeout rate below 10%. He will need to continue to make contact to sustain his improvement.

The truth of the matter is that Crede has not been a very good hitter for most of his career. While he has always hit for some power, his low batting average and inability to draw a walk has prevented him from becoming an asset on the offensive end.

I believe that Crede has improved his hitting over the past couple of years but not to the extent that his current numbers would lead you to believe. I hope I'm wrong, but I think his low strike-out rate is flukish and will return closer to his career norm in the second half of this year. Crede's power numbers will continue to make him a nice complimentary player, but he will keep making too many outs to become a true offensive force.

Looking Ahead

The Sox start the second half tomorrow against the Yankees two games back of the Tigers who start a four game set against the Royals tonight. The two teams have a similar schedule for the second half of the season (schedule sorted by winning percentage in descenging order).


The two teams play each 13 times in the second half. If either team can win the head to head match up decisively they will put themselves in a good position to take the division. Nothing really stands out as a clear advantage in the other games.

Both teams play every other AL team in the second half. The average winning percentage of the White Sox opponents is .523 while the Tiger's opponents winning percentage is .513. The difference mainly comes from the extra 3 games the Sox have against the Yankees, the 2 against the Twins, and of course, the 13 games against each other.

Even though the Twins have a better record than the Indians, I'm glad the Sox get more games against Minnesota in the second half. The Indians have been giving the Sox a lot of trouble since last September.

Hopefully, the Sox will be fortunate enough not to have to face Santana and Liriano in every series against the Twins. But Gardenhire's recent history suggests that he will do everything possible to make that happen.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fourteen Rotations

All baseball teams, even good ones, go through some tough stretches. However, good teams tread water through their tough stretches, while others watch their seasons sink.

Last year the Sox played 500 ball for stretches than would go on a few long winning streaks. The only exception was their nerve-wracking 7 game losing streak in August.

This year's team seems to be following a similar pattern. The main reason the Sox are able to still put up W's during the bad streaks is their depth in the starting rotation. It's just not likely that all five pitchers will start slumping at the same time.

So far the Sox have only played less than 500 ball three times through the rotation. They have yet to lose all five games in one rotation.

On the winning side, the Sox have posted two perfect turns through the rotation and three 4-1 records. Rotation 15 has gotten off to a 2-0 start as the Sox try to win 8 straight games for the seventh time in the last two years tonight against the Astros.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Quickies

Baseball Prospectus had a White Sox Notebook entry yesterday (no subscription required) focusing on Brian Anderson's defense.
Anderson is producing on defense at a RATE of 124, meaning that if he keeps up his current play he'll have saved an astounding 24 runs above the average centerfielder (think the once-spectacular Andruw Jones since 2004) over 100 games. Since 1900, no centerfielder has kept up a 124 RATE for a full season--not Willie Mays, Tris Speaker, Curt Flood, or Jim Edmonds.

They give the usual disclaimer about small sample sizes but conclude that BA's defense is worth keeping him in the line-up every day.

I guess I'll throw my two cents in about the latest Ozzie controversy. First, I think Ozzie was wrong to berate Tracy in the dugout after failing to hit Blalock. But it's not that big of deal. While Tracy is a rookie, he's 25 and I would hope he has the maturity to handle being yelled at by Ozzie.

Hell, when I was 16 I made two errors at shortstop that blew a game for my high school team. After the first error that led to the tying run scoring, my coach reacted by taking a bat and slamming it againt a fence-pole and then shouting out to the field "E-6!". That motivated me so much that when the very next ball was hit to me, I booted it again and let the winning run score.

Getting yelled is just part of baseball and my experience left no emotional scars on me whatsoever. Honestly, I was completely at ease with it by the time I turned 30.

The Chicago Rush won the Arena Bowl last week and Teddy Greenstein says:
The Rush's ArenaBowl game Sunday on NBC was popular in Chicago, equaling ratings for the French Open men's final earlier in the day.

Um, Teddy, I don't think popular means what you think it means.

The Cubs are planning on platooning Matt Murton with Fast Freddie Bynum in left and may possibly send Murton down to the minors.

At this point, I'm starting to feel sorry for Cub fans as this season is going from bad to worse. Certainly, Murton is having a ton of trouble against righties, batting only 226 with a 298 on base percentage against them. But the Cubs are probably going to have the worst record in the National League by the end of the month and are going nowhere fast. Why not let Murton, a rookie, try and work things out? He may actually have a long term future for the Cubs as a starter, as opposed to Bynum, who doesn't look like he should be on a major league roster.

And if you platoon Murton, how in the world does it make sense to platoon him with Bynum? Bynum is hitting 236 against righties with a a 263 on base percentage. He is slugging better than Murton against rights (455 to 297) but his other numbers suggest that he his at-bats should be kept to a minimum.

If the Cubs want to make a serious run at trying to get back in the playoff race (which I would not advise) they would be better off putting Walker in left and platooning Murton with Jacque Jones, who is hitting 204/232/407 off lefties, in rightfield. If you combined Jones' numbers against righties (316/350/546) with Murton's against lefties (375/444/571), the Cubs would get tremendous production out of their rightfield position.

Even if they made this change the Cubs would still have a lot of other holes to fill. Their best option is to let Murton play every day and see if he can develop some power and start hitting righties.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Big Comebacks

The Sox carried over the offense from Sunday night's 9th inning and beat the Rangers tonight 8-3. The Sox may not have won Sunday night, but by finishing the game strong with 6 runs in the ninth they were able to carry some momentum into the start of their seven game road trip.

Sunday night's loss reminded me of a similar comeback by the Twins in September 2003. The Sox were on the winning side of that game but on the losing side of the momentum shift. I think most Sox fans would remember this as the Jose Paniagua Game.

The Sox took a 8-2 lead into the ninth of that game. The Twins scored 4 runs off Paniagua and actually brought the winning run to the plate before Tom Gordon struck out Michael Cuddyer for the final out.

This would be the only game Paniagua would pitch for the Sox and the last game he pitched in the majors. He earned his release by getting ejected in the game and then flipping off the umpire as he walked off the field.

At the time, I was just happy the Sox pulled the game out as it moved them 2 games in front of the Twins with just 3 weeks left. Losing it would have been a disaster.

In the end, it wouldn't matter. While the Sox were able to hold on to their lead in the ninth they were not able to hold off the Twins down the stretch. They would go on to lose their last five games against the Twins and finish four back in the standings.

How much did this comeback effect the Sox? It's hard to say. But I think the fact that baseball teams play a game on a daily basis and the play same team three or four times in a row makes these momentum shifts more pronounced than what you might find in other sports.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Return of Grinder Ball

The last two victories over the Tigers rekindled memories of the many one run victories the Sox had last season. They have been a little bit harder to come by this year.

Although both games ended with the Sox on top 4-3, the games differed greatly on how the final outcome was achieved. The first game had the huge mometun swing provided by Cintron's 3 run-homer in the eighth. The guys at provide Win Probabilty charts showing the win probability after every at-bat for all MLB games. The chart from Tuesday's game reflects the dramatic shift in win probability after Cintron's homer.

Tigers at White Sox, 06/06/06

Before Cintron's at-bat the Sox had about a 20% chance of winning. After the three-run blast their chances improved to 80%. That is about as large of a percentage swing you will see in one at bat.

Wednesday's game wasn't quite as dramatic as the teams went back and forth until the Sox scored the final run of the game in the bottom of the seventh.

Tigers at White Sox, 06/07/06

By the way, for those of you who aren't familiar with the fangraphs website, it is quite remarkable. Not only do they keep track of Win Probabilty Added totals for individual players, but they have player charts for almost every meaningful individual player stat by career and season. It's a very unique and useful way of looking at players stats, and it's free.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Big Bad Bobby

Although Bobby Jenks started the year slowly I didn't think he pitched as badly as his numbers suggested. Sure he had a couple of bad outings that shot his ERA up to 5.53, but for the most part he was getting the job done, blowing just one of his first eleven save opportunites.

Since his last blow-up on May 10th, Jenks has been almost unhittable, striking out 17 batters in the last 10.2 innings and giving up only four hits (and one of those was a mis-play by Ozuna). After getting his second straight save against the Tigers tonight, Jenks dropped his ERA to 3.20.

Jenks On a Roll
thru 5/10/0618111014.295.52173159.25.0
after 5/10/06910710.200.00441714.34.25

The funny thing about Jenks recent dominance is that he is completely predictable on the mound. Throw fastballs until you get 2 strikes then put the batter away with a curve. You know what's coming, I know what's coming and the batter knows what's coming. And they still can't hit it.

Reversal of Fortune

The Tigers looked like they were on there way to an important series opening victory last night as the White Sox squandered a number of scoring opportunities.

The Sox would again put two men on base with one out in the eighth. To be honest, I was expecting another rally to end without any runs scored. As the count went full to Alex Cintron I started to hope for a walk to load the bases. I did not expect Cintron to hit a 3 run homer giving the Sox a 4-3 lead going into the ninth.

But that's what happened last night as the Sox got their most important victory of this young season. I would also call it the most exciting home run this year, edging out Brian Anderson's game tying home run with two outs in the ninth off Mariner's closer Eddie Guardardo and Pablo Ozuna's (ed: cut and paste) game tying home run with two outs in the ninth off Mariner's closer Eddie Guardardo.

All three home runs were unexpected as none of the three are sluggers (in fact it was Ozuna's first career homer). But a three-run late-inning bomb, turning a likely defeat into victory, against a team you are trying to catch in the standings, is definitely more thrilling than a game tying home run against a not very good Mariners team.

And just a reminder, Kenny Williams landed Alex Cintron for a AAA reliever that did not make the D-Backs roster.

Jayson Stark on last night's game.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Sox Waste Garland's Effort

Jon Garland pitched well last night, only making one mistake in the second, giving up a 2 run homer to Brad Wilkerson. He was charged with a third run after two outs in the seventh when Jeff Nelson came in and gave a double that scored Gary Matthews Jr. from first.

The bullpen again had issues last night and again they were not give any help from Ozzie. With the scored tied at three in the eighth Ozzie pinch hit for his best outfielder, Brian Anderson. Mackowiak came to bat with two outs and a runner on first.

This is not a situation where there is a high probability of scoring a run so I didn't see the necessity of taking Anderson, and his defense, out of the game. I'm not sure how much your chances of scoring increase by hitting Mackowiak in this situation. But I knew after Anderson left the game there was almost a 100% that a game changing ball would be hit to his replacement in center field.

I don't know if BA gets to Matthews Jr. drive to the center field wall that scored the winning run in the ninth, but he had a better chance of making the catch than Mackowiak.

The Sox offense better start pounding the ball because it doesn't look like the team is going to get a lot of help from Ozzie and the bullpen in close and late situations.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Garland Takes On Rangers

It’s up to Jon Garland tonight to be a streak-buster. Yikes. Garland’s main problem this year has been giving up the long ball and the Rangers are not a good match-up for him in that department. Garland can go a long way towards turning around his season by shutting down the Rangers tonight.

But just in case Garland falters again, the offense better be ready to go. They should be able to score some runs off Texas starter Kameron Roe, who come in with a 4.49 ERA. Roe has done well on the road this year (2.79 ERA) and he did get a win against the Sox last year during their August slide. Let's home the Cell reminds him of the Ballpark at Arlington where his ERA is 5.94.

Let’s hope Ozzie gives Anderson the start in center despite facing a righthander. I would gladly give up some offense for the defense BA brings to the team. And I’m not convinced a strict platoon situation with Mackowiak makes sense anyways as I’ve haven’t noticed BA having problems specific to righthanders. Anyways, you might as well give BA a chance to hit against mediocre righties such as Loe and save Mackowiak for the tougher ones.

And please, oh please, let this article be a joke.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cubs, Barrett Reach New Low

Wow, it’s been a crazy few days at the Cell. Michael Barrett made a complete ass out of himself on Saturday but has gotten a free ride from the media. I guess MacFail and Hendry’s dressing down of Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan had the desired effect.

As everyone who does not drink the blue kool-aid knows, Barrett got off the sucker punch of the year on A.J. Pierzynski. The only instigating AJ might have done was slap home plate which Barrett admittedly did not even see.

I’m not sure why Barrett wasn’t crucified for his weak rationalization that does not make any sense. First, AJ did not intentionally “bump” Barrett with his shoulder, as Barrett was still on the ground as AJ attempted to walk by him to retrieve his helmet. Pierzynski's shoulder hit Barrett as Barrett jumped off the ground to grab AJ. As for Barrett stating that he thought AJ made an aggressive move towards him, then why did he tell AJ “I didn’t have the ball, bitch”. If AJ’s move towards the Cubs dugout was the reason for the violence that ensued, Barrett would have said something like “back off, bitch”. But he didn’t say that because he was upset about getting his ass pancaked in front of 40,000 fans, not about AJ walking towards the Cubs dugout.

Barrett was embarrassed and humiliated and the only thing he could think to do was sucker punch AJ. My two year old has more mature instincts. Barrett can’t handle himself in a pressure situation so it’s not surprising, in a panic, he reacted with violence.

But instead of being called out by the press, Barrett has actually been given props for being a stand-up guy. This despite the fact that he does not regret what he did (except, of course, for all the childern who saw it!) and still tries rationalize it as somehow being AJ’s fault.

What did we learn from this incident? Barrett has zero baseball smarts. It was perfectly legitimate for AJ to run him over with or without the ball. You block the plate and this is what happens. We also learned, yet again, Barrett chokes hard when the pressure is on.

Last August, against Philadelphia, he let the winning run score when he threw back to third too soon on a rundown, letting the runner quickly turn around and easily reach home. That game effectively ended the Cubs playoff hopes.

Last April, with the bases loaded, a ball was hit to Aramis Ramirez who stepped on third for one out and threw home for the second out. Barrett did make the tag but then in a panic threw back to third to get the runner who had been already forced out. Unfortunately, Ramirez had vacated the bag and the throw sailed into left allowing the other two runners to advance and eventually score.

In 2003, Barrett let a run score when he didn’t know how to handle a pop-up that dropped after the infield fly rule was called. Barry Bonds hit the pop-up with the bases loaded. After retrieving the ball and stepping on home plate (even though no force was in effect) Barrett then ignored the runner on third, one Neifi Perez, allowing him to score the tying run.

Most people learn the infield fly rule in little league but I guess Barrett learned with the Expos. Although I wouldn’t bet against it happening again. Barrett said at the time, “I stepped on the plate. It was just a wacky play. I have had times in my career when I was embarrassed and that was the most embarrassing. I’ve just got to learn from it. “

But he doesn’t learn. The mistakes and embarrassments continue. Luckily for him, he plays for a team so bad, his horrid play blends into the background of a season that has reached new depths for the Northside club.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Eight Rotations

After a hot start the Sox have been struggling a bit. Here are the records for each turn through the rotation:


The Sox are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They losttwo games in what would have been Contreras turn in the rotation. Both games were winnable but the bullpen let each one get out of hand (12-6 against the Angels and 10-7 against the D-Rays). Still, I can't help but think Contreras would be 7-0 if not for his stay On The DL.

More worrisome is that the Sox lost both of Vasquez' turns in the rotation. Against Minnesota, he was unable to hold a 4-0 lead which is inexcusable against the Twins line-up. Last night, he gave up 3 runs in the seventh inning and was unable to hold a 3-2 lead. The Sox should have scored more runs for him, but Vasquez needs to do a better job of avoiding the big innings.
If he is unable to avoid these meltdowns, Ozzie should take the Cheat's advice and keep Vazquez on a short leash.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bullpen Woes

I guess the World Series spoiled me a bit because I am not comfortable with the thought of the White Sox potentially falling out of first place tonight.

The Sox are still tied for the best record in baseball, but that won't be the case for long if changes aren't made to the bullpen. McCarthy heads back to the bullpen with Contreras coming off the DL which provides the pen some relief. But other moves should still be made.

The Sox need to send Boone Logan down once Contreras is back on the roster. They shouls also send Montero down (I'm not sure why he was even brought up) and call up Javy Lopez who has pitched well in the minors.

This would give the Sox a pen of:


This would still leave the bullpen as the weakest area on the team, but not weak enough to torpedo a playoff spot. It would still be wise to make a move to shore up the bullpen and acquire another arm in a trade and I have no doubt Kenny Williams is working on it as we speak.

My choice would be to make a trade for Scott Williamson of the Cubs. He is not part of the Cub's long term plans, as they have Dempster, Eyre and Howry signed for the next three years. Williamson has had control problems throughout his career but there is not doubt that he has some nasty stuff. If the Cubs continue to fall in the standings they will start to looking to deal, and as the bullpen is their one area of strength, Williamson would be a logical player to trade. Kenny has never been afraid to trade prospects so this could be a match.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Baseball Notes

The Sox have gone through the rotation five times now and have records of:


One of those doesn’t look like the others.

fans sure showed some class last night. Jim Thome is a great hitter and seems to be a real good guy. He left Cleveland after being offered a contract that was about $20 million less than what he received from the Phillies. Cleveland was going into a rebuilding mode and didn’t want to pay Thome market value so he left. No hard feelings, right?

What do the Cleveland fans, at the least the few who showed up at the park, do? They boo him and hold up signs calling him a traitor, and “Jim Phoney”. Nice.

Ex-Cub whipping boy Corey Patterson was back where he always wanted to be last night, batting leadoff. Corey has a decent average of .278 and has 7 stolen bases but nothing else about his stats suggest his game has changed.

He only has one walk leaving his on-base percentage in familiar territory below .300. And believe it or not he has been even more impatient at the plate this year looking at a miniscule 2.47 pitches per plate appearance, down from 3.39 p/pa in his career. That it the lowest p/pa in all of baseball. I know Brian Roberts is hurt, but the Orioles have to have someone more suitable for the leadoff position.

As far last night's Orioles game, they ended up losing when an even bigger ex-Cubs whipping boy, Latroy Hawkins, let 3 runs score in a third of an inning. Corey ended 1-5 with one K. He did see 21 pitchers in 5 at bats.

It looks like Baltimore has become a popular destination for Cub rejects with Sosa, Patterson and Hawkins all finding a home, if not their games, there in the last two years. If I were Jacque Jones, I might start looking at some Baltimore real estate.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ha Ha, The Twins Stink

Wow, can the Twins really be this bad? The Twins are in fourth place in the AL Central and falling fast. So far they are 0-9 against the three teams ahead of them in the division.

They were swept by the Indians three weeks ago and outscored in the three game set 17-8. Eight runs in a three game set is usually good enough for the Twins to pull out one win in a series but this year their pitching has been just as bad as their hitting.

Unfortunately for the Twins, the Cleveland series would be their best showing against the Central’s top three teams. Last weekend they were dominated by the Sox in a three game set and outscored 23-6. It was especially satisfying that the Sox tagged each of the Twins top starters, Santana, Radke and Silva, with a loss, as all three had given the Sox problems in the past.

I thought outscoring an opponent 23-6 in a 3 game series was about as good as it gets. But then this past weekend the Twins went ahead and got swept by epic proportions 33-1. This is one of the biggest routes in a three game set in baseball history and arguably the worst since WWII.

Add it all up and the Twins are 0-9 against the Sox, Indians and Tigers and have been outscored 73-15.

Nothing would make me happier than to watch the Twins battle the Royals for last place in the division. Twins fans were incredibly smug and arrogant as their team won three straight Central division crowns from 2002-2004. It is certainly fun returning some of the hate.

I actually don’t think they are as bad as KC. The Twins did play all three of their rivals on the road and they are actually 9-6 against the rest of the league (and outscored them 82-75). But they certainly don’t look better than a fourth place team and are going to have a hard time finishing the year above 500.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

West Coast Time

I have mixed feelings about the 9:05 starts the Sox have on the West Coast. It usually means that I go a week without a good nights sleep. But on the plus side it is one of the few opportunities I have to watch a game from start to finish.

I guess it's only worthwhile when they win. And about the worst possible outcome would be for the Sox to lose in extra innings, which they they did last night, 4-3. But since I stayed up to watch I guess I'll share my thoughts:

I was not too happy to see Guillen give a day off to three starters last night: Dye, Crede, and Podsednik. I just don't see the point on the first day of the road trip. That's a pretty huge dropoff on both sides of the ball.

Garland pitched okay, and I'm not going to complain about 3 run in 8 innings. I thought Joe Cowley was off the mark today in the Sun Times, blasting Garland for not holding a 2-1 lead and giving up a homer in the eighth. The tying run scored on a weak liner off the end of Ichiro's bat. The homer was certainly on a bad pitch, but the offense gave him no room for error. If the Sox had all their starters in, Garland's effort would have been good enough for the W.

I also thought the home plate umpire did a horrible job last night. Moyer owned the corners all night and got the benefit of many borderline calls. The ump also seemed to make a number of "payback" calls against the Sox. After Mackowiak rolled his eyes at the ump after getting a called third strike, the umpire called a strike on the very next pitch to Brian Anderson that was barely off the ground.

Then later in the game Pierzynski must have made a comment to the umpire after a pitch down the middle from Cotts was called a ball. The umpire came out to clean home plate and you could see him talking to Pierzynski. The next pitch was again down the middle and again called a ball.

I thought the umpire was fair to Garland, but the large strike zone he gave to Moyer probably cost the Sox a couple of runs.

Both Pollitte and Cotts looked good out of the bullpen last night. McCarthy wasn't hit too hard in giving up the winning run. But a couple of singles can hurt your catcher can't throw out any basestealers.

Even though the Sox lost, Anderon's game tying home run with 2 out and 2 strikes in the ninth was huge. While it did cost me an extra 45 minutes of sleep, it was a great moment to watch.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tough Break for Cubs

I have a confession to make. I used to be a Cubs fan. I never liked them more than the Sox, but I did root for them in 84 and 89. A combination of things happened in the nineties - interleague play, the glorification of Sosa who pretty much represents everything I don't like in a baseball player, and the rude dismissal of Mark Grace, one of my favorite players - that turned me into a Cubs hater.

But the current team is hard to dislike. They seem like a nice bunch of guys and for the most part they play the game the right way. I even started to feel kind of sorry for Cub fans when the Tribune Company was too cheap to make the necessary moves to take control of their division this offseason.

They still had a decent chance to make the postseason with a good offense, a revamped bullpen, and a potentially good starting rotation (if Prior, Wood and Miller could contribute). But now Derek Lee is out for 8-10 weeks and their playoff chances just took a big hit. It has to be rough for Cubs fans right now and my sympathies are with them.

I still wouldn't count them out. Walker can move to first while Hairston takes over at second. They can be productive enough for the Cubs stay above .500 until Lee comes back in July. I think the bigger worry is whether Lee will be the same hitter when he returns. The Cubs just spent $65 million on Lee and they better hope that wrist is able to get back to 100%.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Third Time Is the Charm

The Sox finished a sweep of the Royals, holding them to one run and 11 hits in the three game series. I would be more excited if the Royals weren't 2-12 right now, with both of those wins coming against the Sox. After the sweep, the Sox are 4-2 against KC for the year. I don't think Cleveland and Minnesota will have too hard of a time matching that record.

The Sox have gone through the rotation three times now and posted records of:


Each Sox starter got the win in this last go round and they are 9-1 in their last ten games. They have quietly become the hottest team in baseball.

Still, not everything is running on all cylinders. Their were some bad starts by Garland and Vasquez in the last ten games and Brian Anderson couldn't hit a basketball right now. But 10-5 is a nice start - even if six of the fifteen games were against KC.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thome v. Thomas Update

The Big Hurt started the season with a home run in his first at bat with the A's. Unfortunately for him he hasn't done much since.

He has a line of 091/200/273 with 1 home run and 4 rbis.

Thome has been crushing the ball since Arizona and had a great opening week. Through today's victory over the Tigers, Thome has a line of 318/519/909 with 4 home runs and 7 rbis.

Adantage Thome (and Kenny Williams).

Sox Blogs

The Cheat posted a rundown of White Sox blogs the other day and after a slow start the Sox are now well represented in the blogosphere.

Baseball blogs started to take off in 2003 during what was a great season in Chicago. The Sox fell short in great race against the Twins and the Cubs - well they had very memorable season too.

Both the Twins and Cubs seasons were being chronicled by some very good and very dedicated bloggers. And the Sox were being blogged by absolutely no one (blogwise that is - the Sox did have a web presence with Whte sox interactive and the It was embarrassing and I really felt I had no choice but to start Chisox Daily. The daily part didn't last long but honestly I just liked the sound of the name and didn't put a lot of thought into it.

It's a very different scene now as the Cheat's diverse list demonstrates. And for that the Cheat deserves a lot of credit as he set a very high standard with his site Blogging a site like mine is easy. I just post something when I fell like I have something to say. It might take five minutes or it might take and hour. Whatever.

But to build a site of the quality of Southsidesox takes hours of work each day. I hope the Cheat is able to make a little money off the site. His work is certainly appreciated here.

Anyway, you should check out the blogs on the list. The White Sox now boast a line-up of blogs that can stand up to any other team in baseball.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Let The Games Begin

The Sox got off to a great start last night beating the Indians 10-4. I was able to catch most the game despite it being interrupted by a three hour rain delay. I finally headed to bed at 1am but not before watching Jim Thome hit a monster blast and Brandon McCarthy pitch three perfect innings.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay awake and watch new Sox lefty Matt Thornton finish off the game with 1.1 scoreless innings.

If Jim Thome can regain his pre-2005 hitting stroke, the Sox will have no problems winning the Central this year. Even if he struggles, the Sox starting rotation will keep them in the race. But if he can hit 40 homers, the Sox might be unstoppable.

The other big worry for the Sox is their bullpen. But last night's game showed what a luxury they have with McCarthy in the pen. When you have a pitcher in the bullpen who would be a front of the rotation starter on most other ballclubs, it can't be that bad.

Anyway, on to some predictions. I don't think the Sox will get back to 99 wins. Both the Twins and Tigers improved in the offseason and you can't expect them to go 14-5 against the Indians again. But I do think the Sox will win the division.

CLE 89736

The Cubs are where the Sox have been prior to the 2005 season. They have a shot if they get a couple of breaks. So do ten other teams. I think they will finish third this year in a bunched up NL Central.

MIL 86764

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Part III - Run Distribution (Allowed)

Oh boy, did this start to feel like homework. Oh well, I finally wrapped it up a month late.

Part I
Part II

Cleveland led the league in preventing runs from scoring whole the Sox finished right behind them. The Tribe only let 642 runs cross the plate, three less runs than the Sox. But looking at Predicted Wins derived from league run distribution percentages show that the Sox pitching staff actually had a better year.

Sox Predicted Wins and WAP

Cleveland Predicted Wins and WAP

The White Sox pitching staff had 105 games in which gave up only 4 runs or less compared to 99 for the Indians. These games are the most crucial for a pitching staff as they give the team a greater than 50% chance of winning the game. The graph below shows how the Sox had a higher percentage of these low scoring games than the Tribe and the rest of the league.

The graph also shows that Cleveland was able to prevent more runs in total than the Sox by concentrating their games in the 4-6 runs allowed range while reducing the amount of very high scoring games. However, while this distribution pattern allowed the Tribe to give up less runs it did not help them win more ballgames. With a league average offense, Cleveland would have been expected to win 91.02 games. That's very good, but a full game less than the Sox who would have been expected to win 92.11 games with a league average offense (which is about what they had).

The White Sox pitching staff is even more impressive when you consider they pitched in the homer happy environment of U.S. Cellular field. Adjusting for park factors could easily boost their predicted win total to 95 games

Actual Win Percentage
It's again interesting to look at each team's actual win percentage in these games. For some reason Cleveland just wasn't able to do well in low scoring games despite a top pitching staff and above average offense. The chart below shows how Cleveland trailed both the White Sox and the rest of the AL in winning low scoring games.

Since Cleveland had the better offense, you would expect that they would have more wins above their pitching staffs predicted level (WAP) than the White Sox. But Cleveland only won 2 more games than predicted while the White Sox won 6.89 more games.

I started this project hoping to find that the Sox were actually better than their Pythagorean record suggested. However, the numbers don't really lead to that conclusion. The Sox offense was good enough to produce 80 wins while pitching and defense came in at 92 wins. You add these two numbers up (1 game below, 11 game above) and you get their Pythagorean win total of 91 games. It actually works out quite nicely.

But the numbers do show that Cleveland was not as good as their Pythagorean record would indicate. Their offense was only slightly better than average at 82.8 games while their pitching came in below the Sox at 91. Viewing runs scored through a distribution scheme instead of total runs scored still puts Cleveland ahead of the Sox, but not by the 5 games predicted by the Pythagorean formula.

Nevertheless, this little project doesn't get us much closer to explaining how the Sox finished six games ahead of the Tribe last year. Maybe it was because the Indians were inconsistent, as they were outscored in both April and July. Maybe they just didn't match up with the Sox as they dropped 14 of 19 games against them. Maybe they were just chokers as they went 22-36 in one run games and crapped their pants the last week of the season.

Who knows. But as I finish this look back at last year let me make a statement about this year. The Sox got better and the Indians got worse. If the Tribe couldn't get the job done in 2005, what chance do they have in 2006?

A Rational Thought

I was out on vacation last week and missed this bit of commom sense from Rich Lederer at the Baseball Analysts:

To suggest that the White Sox weren't a great team is ignoring the facts. We can form our own opinions going into a season or quote Pythagorean records but the bottom line in measuring how successful--or unsuccessful--a team is (or was) is based on actual wins, place in the standings, and performance in the playoffs. Period. It is simply a mistake to do otherwise. If we want to use Pythagoras for predicting future performance, fine, go for it. But the bottom line isn't about having the biggest run differentials; it is about winning games.

After winning the World Series it gets easier to ignore all the haters out there. But it is nice to see someone call them out for being so willfully ignorant.

AL Central Previews

There have been a few previews of the AL Central around the web:

Phil Rogers in the Tribune
Gleeman and the Cheat joining the Baseball Analysts
Sports Illustrated
Fox Sports
TSN Canada
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Monday, March 20, 2006

Bye Bye Borchard

The Sox finally said goodbye to Joe Borchard by trading him to the Mariners for Matt Thornton. The guys at USSMariner seem happy about the deal, although many are just glad to see Thornton gone.

But a few people over there seem to think that Borchard will actually help Seattle win a few games. One person called his 191/254/342 batting line a small sample size. Well, its not that small, coming in 100 games and 300 at bats at the major league level. And I wouldn't put too much stock in his minor league numbers. Charlotte is an extreme home run park, I believe the most extreme in all of baseball, and yet he never even posted a 500 slugging percentage there. Nothing in his background suggests he should be on a major league roster.

I don't think this trade is going to help either team. But both players were out of options and not likely to make their respective teams anyways. Both teams are playing the lottery. Spending little without much expectation of anything in return.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Sports Guy

Bill Simmons seems to be a polarizing figure in the sports world. He has some huge fans and just as many hardcore detractors. As for myself, I enjoy his writing, but will allow that some of his schtick can get tiresome (you know, the wide-eyed outsider act while he has been an insider for a long time now - the constant ass-kissing of his interview subjects). But I really look forward to each new column so any of my complaints are rather petty.

But I do have to question what would prompt him to post his mother's and wife's NCAA tourney picks on his blog. Did he think anyone would actually find this interesting?

I know it only his blog and not an actual column but in reality there isn't that much difference between the two on his espn2 site. I can't wait until next week when he posts his grocery list for his Final Four party.

Friday, February 24, 2006

An NL Team to Root For

I wanted to post Part III of my look at run distributions today but it looks it will be over the weekend. In other news...

Cubs tickets went on sale today. I get decent tickets for a Phillies game in August. Third row in section 215 at $46 a ticket (and that's not including then "convenience" charge). But no folks, they could not afford an extra $3m a year for 3 years to sign Furcal.

Anyway, I specifically looked for Phillies tickets to see Aaron Rowand. I hope Aaron does well for the Phillies this year and it will be nice to actually have a team in the NL to roof for.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Run Distribution Part II: Sox v. Indians (Offense)

So how does Cleveland score more runs than the Sox, allow less runs than the Sox, and finish 6 games back?

Actual Records
CLE 93696

Pythagorean Records
CLE 7906429666-
Sox 74164591715

I've found that run distribution is part of the reason for this discrepancy. As you can see, runs scored accounted for the biggest difference in the pythagorean standings as the two teams gave up an almost identical amount of runs. The Cleveland offense, however, scored 49 more runs, and isolating this component adds 4.55 wins to their pythagorean record.

There is nothing that looks extraordinary in this graph. Both teams played a similar amount of games where the offense scored 4 runs or less. Cleveland actually had more of these games, 85 to Chicago's 81. Neither team differed that much from the AL average in these games. Still, it's surprising Cleveland wasn’t able to score runs on a more consistent basis.

On the flip side, you can also see how many high scoring games the Cleveland offense achieved. They had 27 games of at least 9 runs scored compared to only 20 for the Sox.

As we saw in Part I, concentrating runs in a bunch of high scoring games is not an optimal distribution pattern. They do add to your winning percentage, but each run scored is worth marginally less as your run total increases. For example, going from three runs scored to six runs scored last year would have more than doubled your expected winning percentage from .340 to .691, a difference of .351. Going from six runs scored to nine brought you to .846, only a difference of .155.

Predicted Wins
The chart below gives the distribution of runs scored for the Sox and Indians last year as well as the average winning percentages for AL teams at each run level. From these numbers, you can calculate the amount of Predicted Wins (prW) each offense would have if they received league average pitching.

As you can see, the Sox offense racks up 80.4 wins while Cleveland comes in 82.8, a difference of 2.4 games. This is 2.1 games less than the 4.5 game difference derived from the pythagorean record.

There is one huge caveat when looking at the offense in this manner: they are not including park effects! As we know, the Cell is a hitter's park, and the Jake has become a pitcher's park. This means that a run in the Jake is worth more in terms of winning percentage than a run in the Cell. And it also means the 2.4 prW gap may actually be something closer to the 4.5 pythagorean difference when park effects are included. Of course, the same will be true for runs allowed when we take a look at pitching and defense in Part III.

Actual Winning Percentage
So Predicted Wins doesn’t get us too far when we factor in park effects. That’s fine as I think each teams actual win percentages are much more interesting. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure what, if any, conclusions to draw from them.

The Sox were much better than league average in low and medium scoring games while Cleveland beat the league average in high scoring games.

3-5 42-1829-30+13
6+ 42-1158-3-16

The table above breaks down these games into the three categories. The odd thing about this breakdown is that both pitching staffs gave up nearly the same amount of runs but with very different results. The Cleveland staff actually gave up less runs than the Sox so there is no obvious reason why they would do worse in low scoring games.

The two tables below calculate a number called WAP (Wins Above Predicted). This number shows how many wins each team recorded above the prW number previously calculated.


The Sox has an unbelievable record in games where they scored 5 runs or less. They went 57-42 for a winning percentage of .523. The league average winning percentage for these games would have been .350 and only 38 wins. The Sox WAP of 18.6 comes almost entirely from games where the Sox scored 5 runs or less.

I'm almost suprised that the Sox didn't figure out a way to win a game in which the offense scored no runs at all. They were able to attain a winning record by just scoring three runs while the average AL teams had to score five. They even had a not to shabby winning percenetage of .410 in games where they scored two runs.

I would have to attribute this to dominant pitching, superior game strategy, and a good amount of luck. There is just no way you can expect to produce so many wins in these games without some luck on your side unless you have five Johan Santanas taking the mound for you. The Sox may have had the best rotation in baseball, but they weren’t that dominant.

Cleveland WAP

The Indians don't exactly do badly in low scoring games, as they come in just above league average. Going back to those 85 games of 4 runs or less scored by the Indians, they were actually about 2 games better than league average at 25-60. But that record is less than stellar when compared to the Sox, who played four less games at that level, but finished with 12 more wins at 37-44.

At the high end, Cleveland was absolutely dominant in games when they scored at least six runs. They were 58-3 for winning percentage of .951. League average for these games would have been 50-11 for an .820 winning percentage. The Sox finished these games at 42-11, approximately league average.

I have some theories on how these results occured, but I plan on holding off trying to explain them until after I look at the runs allowed distribution in Part III.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Run Distribution Part I: The New Sox

It's well known that White Sox outplayed their expected Pythagorean record from anywhere from 7 to 10 games, depending on which system you use. Now many people chalk this up to "luck" and some people go as far to judge a team not by the amount of games they actually win but by their run differential alone - as if run differential represented some intrinsic value of a baseball team.

It's actually quite ironic that people who pride themselves on taking a scientific view of the game would describe something that they aren't able explain as "luck". That may be a bit unfair, as the majority of bloggers realize that while luck plays a part, other factors, such as managerial decisions and run distribution, also play an important role. But too many times people write-off the variance between a team's actual record and pythagorean record as luck without making any effort to look for other possible explanations.

Pythagorean won/loss records are certainly a great, if blunt, tool in evaluating baseball teams. Anyone who looked at the NL East standings at the 2005 All-Star break would have realized that the Washington Nationals were going to have a difficult time staying in first place. While they were 16 games over 500 they had allowed more runs than they had scored, 361 to 357. No amount of managerial skill or run distribution could explain a difference that large and luck (along with a solid closer) certainly played a major role in their first half success.

Of course, the other surprise team in baseball at the break was the White Sox, and while they were already outplaying their pythagoreanan record by 7 games, they still had the best pythagorean winning percentage (.587)in the American League at the break.

This was actually a nice change a pace for the Sox as they had fallen short of thier pythagorean projections for the previous three seasons. And of course I couldn't help but wonder if the change was due to Kenny Williams offseason emphasis on smallball and defense. To do this I wanted to take a closer look at their run distribution in 2005 compared the 2004 White Sox squad.

The Same, But Different

Before I begin, I guess I should state what I define as "smallball". On offense, I would simply define it as sacrificing outs for runs. This will reduce your chance of a big inning but increase your chance of scoring at least one run. So yes, the Sox still played "longball" and hit 200 home runs for the sixth straight year. But they also employed a strategy of bunting, stealing, and moving runners over that emphasized getting one run across the plate.

Over at Beyond the Boxscore, Cyril Morong recently did his own comparison between the offense in 2005 and 2004, but came away unimpressed with the changes that were made. While I think he does a great job of presenting the facts, I don't think he came up with the right conclusions.

There's no denying the fact that the 2005 White Sox scored 124 less runs than the 2004 version and this certainly wasn't what Kenny Williams had in mind as he changed the team in the offseason. Unfortunately for Williams, players such as Uribe, Crede, Rowand and Pierzynski, did not have the offensive years that were expected of them.

Morong then looks at run distribution to see if the 2005 version was better than the 2004 version at avoiding low scoring games, and he says no, they weren't any better. They actually played the same amount of low scoring games. Both teams played 81 games where they scored 4 runs or less and 81 games where they scored 5 runs or more.

While Morong sees this information as evidence that the Sox weren't able to build a more consistent offense, I can't help but find it remarkable. Do you mean to tell me that the Sox offense sacrificed 124 runs in the offseason and still managed to score at least 5 runs in a game as many times as the 2004 team? That's quite amazing. And when you add in the fact that American League teams scored less runs overall in 2005 (4.74 per game compared to 5.01) you can emphatically say yes, the 2005 White Sox did do a better job of avoiding the low scoring game.

As you can see from the distribution chart, the 2004 White Sox did not have an offensive advantage over the 2005 team until you get to 9 runs scored. The 2004 team just happened to score double digits in a ridiculous amount of games. That had the effect of driving up their pythagorean winning percentage but did little to add actual wins. A team will win over 80% of the games they play when they score at least 7 runs. So it doesn't make much of a difference in the win column whether the offense scores 10 runs or 15 runs in one particular game. The bottom line is that those 124 extra runs that were scored by the 2004 team did not help the Sox win many more ballgames.

In 2005, the Sox were basically able to upgrade defensively at left, shortstop, and rightfield without really giving up much, if anything, in offense. Indeed, if a few more players had lived up to their offensive expectations, the Sox very well may have pulled off an impressive feat of improving their offense while scoring less runs. All hail Kenny Williams.

In Parts II and III, I plan on comparing the 2005 White Sox runs scored and a runs allowed distributions to those of the Cleveland Indians. The Indians finished with the best pythagorean record in the AL (5 games ahead of the Sox) yet finished 6 games behind the Sox in the standings. I'm hoping the distributions will shed a little bit of light on how this result occured.


In response to a comment below, I thought it would be a good idea to try and quantify the difference in the offense.

First, you can get an expected number of wins by an offense by comparing their run distribution to the league average winning percentage at each run scoring level. For example, in 2005, a team that scored 5 runs won 61.7% of their games. If you go through the run distribution for the 2005 Sox (and I do this in upcoming posts) their offense should have produced 80.4 wins when combined with league average pitching. If you plugged the 2004 Sox into the same distribution chart, they would have been expected to win 87 games.

However, more runs were scored in 2004 and the winning percentage for each distribution level would be lower. Therefore the 2004 Sox expected offensive win total would drop to 85 or 86. You would need the winning percentages for each scoring level in 2004 to get the exact number and I don't have those readily available. However, I think the above exercise gets close enough to the truth of the matter which is that 2004 offense was better, but not as much as the runs scored gap suggests.