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October 27, 2005
White Sox, Reds
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?
PA HR RBI AVG/OBP/SLG VORP Actual 497 18 56 .257/.308/.420 17.7 PECOTA 502 13 63 .277/.327/.430 18.5Before 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 30.8The 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 32.3Weighted 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 13.5For 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.
PA HR RBI AVG/OBP/SLG VORP Actual 540 16 71 .251/.294/.411 12.9 PECOTA 595 19 73 .269/.316/.444 22.0Uribe'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 19.3What 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 34.6This 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 12.6Underestimated 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…
PA HR RBI AVG/OBP/SLG VORP Actual 124 12 26 .219/.315/.590 9.2 PECOTA 435 23 69 .274/.399/.529 39.0Yes, 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 19.2Oh, 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).
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.
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 23.8Ken 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.
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.
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?