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October 27, 2005

Prospectus Notebook

White Sox, Reds

by Baseball Prospectus

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics

Germany demilitarized, got back to the point where it could start another World War, and then demilitarized again. The computer was invented--not the specific model of computer you're reading this on, or the personal computer, but digital electronics itself. Man went to the moon, got sick of it, and now doesn't do that anymore. The Red Sox won the World Series--twice--and in between, their fans whined incessantly about how they were the most cursed creatures on the face of this Earth.

All of these things and more happened since the last time the Chicago White Sox won the World Series back in 1917. And to celebrate Chicago's sweep of the Houston Astros in the just-ended World Series, we're looking back at our projections that showed the White Sox as a roughly .500 team at the beginning of the season. How'd we go wrong?

Catcher--A.J. Pierzynski


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   497   18   56   .257/.308/.420   17.7
PECOTA   502   13   63   .277/.327/.430   18.5

Before you complain that the PECOTA value above, doesn't match Pierzynski's player card, note that we are using the very final playing time projections on the site, those used for the team Depth Chart. Pierzynski underperformed his projection, to an extent greater than implied by the 0.8 difference between his expected VORP and projected VORP.

First Base--Paul Konerko


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   664   40   100  .283/.375/.534   56.3
PECOTA   641   31   103  .276/.353/.494   30.8

The first of two serious underestimations on offense, Konerko had a big walk year, contributing roughly three wins more than PECOTA expected of him. Konerko's .298 EqA places his performance at roughly the 75th percentile projection. Even more dramatic is the difference between Konerko's projected and actual defensive numbers--PECOTA pegged Konerko with a low Rate of 84.9, meanwhile his actual defensive numbers suggest extreme competence at 107.

Second Base--Tadahito Iguchi


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   582   15   71   .278/.335/.438   30.9
PECOTA   591   11   61   .277/.344/.408   32.3

Weighted mean EqA? .265. Actual EqA? .266. In the words of Mona Lisa Vito, that's a dead-on-balls accurate projection, particularly impressive given that Iguchi was coming from the Japanese Leagues, and hadn't played a single inning in the majors prior to 2005. Iguchi's defensive projection was less studly--PECOTA projected Iguchi as an above-average defender, with a Rate of 102.6. Reality presented Iguchi as one of the worst defensive second basemen in the game, with a Rate of 89.

Third Base--Joe Crede


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   471   22   62   .252/.301/.453   13.8
PECOTA   585   25   77   .266/.321/.459   13.5

For all that's being made of Crede's "breakout season," PECOTA expected more of the third baseman. In a continuing theme, Crede's defensive performance was far better than we've come to expect of him.

Shortstop--Juan Uribe


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   540   16   71   .251/.294/.411   12.9
PECOTA   595   19   73   .269/.316/.444   22.0

Uribe's .240 EqA was right around his 25th percentile projection, although he is the rare White Sock from whom great glovesmanship was both expected and received.

Left Field--Scott Podsednik


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   568    0   25   .289/.347/.348   13.4
PECOTA   689   14   65   .278/.342/.416   19.3

What were the odds that Podsednik would underperform his projection and make it to the All-Star Game in the same season? I guess chicks don't dig the longball as much as we think.

Center Field--Aaron Rowand


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   640   13   69   .270/.327/.407   22.6
PECOTA   617   23   87   .290/.341/.482   34.6

This is what a 100 point drop in Isolated Power will do to you--a .253 EqA, pretty close to Rowand's 10th percentile projection. Again, the defense was better than expected.

Right Field--Jermaine Dye


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   579   31   86   .274/.333/.512   35.7
PECOTA   490   19   68   .256/.332/.449   12.6

Underestimated in just about every way possible--healthier than expected, more pop in his bat, better leather than expected. His revival goes a long way toward making up for the next entry…

DH--Frank Thomas


          PA   HR   RBI   AVG/OBP/SLG     VORP
Actual   124   12   26   .219/.315/.590    9.2
PECOTA   435   23   69   .274/.399/.529   39.0

Yes, our projection of the White Sox as a .500 team did not presage the Big Hurt spending most of his season in street clothes. Jurassic Carl Everett, who picked up a lot of Thomas's playing time, didn't come close to making up the difference between what the Sox expected from their DH and what they received (11.7 VORP projected, 14.2 actual for Everett).

So roughly speaking, Konerko's offensive gains were balanced by Thomas's shortfalls, Dye's surprising revival made up for disappointments from Rowand and Uribe. Where is the big improvement coming from? What gives?

We'll present the following as a package:


Mark Buehrle
          IP     W   L   ERA   VORP
Actual   236.7  16   8   3.12  54.2
PECOTA   205    13  11   4.47  36.3

Jon Garland
          IP     W   L   ERA   VORP
Actual   221    18  10   3.50  50.1
PECOTA   180    10  11   5.05  20.9

Freddy Garcia
          IP     W   L   ERA   VORP
Actual   228    14   8   3.87  45.6
PECOTA   195    12  11   4.55  33.3

Jose Contreras
          IP     W   L   ERA   VORP
Actual   204.7  15   7   3.61  41.5
PECOTA   135     8   9   4.91  19.2

Oh, this is how you confuse a 100 win team for an 82 win team. Everyone performs up to their 90th percentile projection for ERA, except that slacker Garcia, who only lives up to his 75th percentile projection. Everyone exceeds their 90th percentile for innings pitched. All that repeated "underestimated his defense" comes to roost in these numbers, since the White Sox pitchers allowed batters to put a fair number of balls in play. The White Sox ranked 13th in the majors in strikeout rate. The nearly eight games this unit picked up over their projected performances more than cleared the disappointing showing of frequently-injured oldster Orlando Hernandez (28.9 VORP projected, 6.1 actual).

In the bullpen, Damaso Marte's injuries (16.4 VORP projected/8.1 actual) and the unexpected collapse of erstwhile closer Shingo Takatsu (12.2/-0.6) was eclipsed by the amazing performances of Cliff Politte (7.9/28.2) and Neal Cotts (7.7/23.7), and lesser breakouts by Dustin Hermanson (9.8/19.8) and Luis Vizcaino (10.7/14.9).

--Derek Jacques

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Team DT Cards | Team Articles | Team Statistics

The 2005 Reds were a team of extremes. They led the National League in scoring, and finished last in runs allowed. Sound like the Rockies teams of yesteryear? But don't go blaming Great American Ballpark. This team earned its stripes. For each aspect of this team, hitting, pitching, and defense, we'll check out the three players most responsible for the merry-go-round on the base paths.

Hitting

We want to look at raw production here, regardless of position, so we look to Marginal Lineup Value, or MLV:


Name              PA   AVG  OBP  SLG  MLVr   MLV
Ken Griffey Jr.  555  .301 .369 .576  .320  41.3
Adam Dunn        671  .247 .387 .540  .226  38.3
Felipe Lopez     648  .291 .350 .485  .237  23.8

Ken Griffey's renaissance was a huge jolt to a team that, realistically, shouldn't have expected much from the hobbled legend. Paul Swydan's excellent work in the last Reds Notebook put Junior's year under the microscope, and every word of the article still applies today because Griffey didn't play another game after that date. (Perhaps our first Notebook jinx?) That Griffey led the team in offensive contribution despite playing just 128 games speaks to what a top-notch year it was.

Adam Dunn essentially matched his 2004 campaign, losing half a dozen home runs and paring back the strikeouts a bit. PECOTA pretty much pegged its weighted mean for Dunn in a smaller serving of plate appearances; the only real difference was the occasional blooper or line drive landing in a Mizuno instead of on grass.

The final words of Felipe Lopez's entry in BP 2005 were "Look for a breakout season." Indeed, Lopez surged to the upper realms of his PECOTA forecast and was chosen as Cincinnati's lone All Star. He hit much better against right-handed pitching than left, but he hasn't shown a consistent tendency either way over his career, so this is probably a fluke. Following his midsummer cameo in Detroit, Lopez didn't lose much ground with his bat, either, finishing atop all NL shortstops in VORP.

Pitching


Name          IP    ERA    RP*
Eric Milton  186.3  6.47  -46.3
Ramon Ortiz  171.3  5.36  -22.9
Luke Hudson   84.7  6.38  -19.0

*Runs Prevented

While the offense led the league in home runs (222), the pitching staff nullified almost every single one of them (219 allowed). To neutralize your team's greatest strength is a sure way to wreck a season.

The most whiplashed hurler in baseball this year was Eric Milton (40 home runs allowed). His signing last winter came with fair warning, and ended up even worse than we imagined, as Milton blazed his own trail to dead last in the league in Pitcher VORP.

Milton stands out below the rest, costlier than the next two pitchers, Ramon Ortiz and Luke Hudson, combined. Remember, a figure of -X in Runs Prevented means the pitcher allowed X runs more than the average pitcher, after adjusting for defense and park effects. Ortiz allowed 34 home runs, while Hudson's biggest fault was yielding 50 walks in 84 innings.

Aaron Harang, the Reds' best pitcher this year, had a higher VORP (38.8) than the next three highest Reds pitchers combined--certainly more telling of the team's failures than of Harang's success. Even eliminating defense by using Defense-adjusted ERA (DERA), the Reds ranked last in the league at 5.29. Any way you slice it, Cincinnati's pitching was the pits.

Defense

But the Reds defense did fuel the fire. Their Defensive Efficiency of 0.678 ranked 15th of 16 in the league. They also ranked 15th in double plays, though the staff's fly ball fetish had a lot to do with that. The defense wasn't so much erratic as it was sluggish. Fielding Runs Above Average will also account for things like range (or lack thereof).


Name     Primary_Pos  FRAR  FRAA
Griffey       CF       -2   -16
Lopez         SS        4   -15
Dunn          LF        4    -7

Lopez had some major issues and is the other half of the double play problem, but at 25, he should only get better. Dunn was above average (+1) in 33 games at first base, but in left field his lifelong challenges continued (career -33 FRAA). Additionally, the pitchers only hurt their own cause, finishing a combined -10 FRAA.

If the chart above looks familiar, well, it's for good reason--it's identical to the first chart for hitting. The Reds front office faces a nearly impossible task this winter. On top of having to rebuild the league's worst pitching staff--an enormous undertaking--how do you fix a defense when your biggest culprits are the exact same men fueling the offense?

How?

--Dave Haller

Related Content:  Defense,  PECOTA,  Paul Konerko,  Vorp,  OBP,  SLG

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