Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drinking The White Sox Kool Aid

It's hot.

As I was walking from the North Face store, beads of sweat were dripping from my face. I thought to myself: "Self, I could go for some Kool-Aid right about now." Typically, kool-aid is the summer drink for kids -- and some adults -- during those blistering summer days. I would come home, mix a pitcher of the cherry goodness with about three extra cups of sugar. It was delicious.

But who knew that the White Sox would bring heat of their own this summer and make baseball relevant in Chicago? The Southsiders have been on a tear as of late and are producing some interesting subplots for this season:


Will Paul Konerko Hit .400?
I'm much more bearish on this narrative than most of my White Sox friends. Paul Konerko hitting .400 for the season will undoubtably be a great story. But it will mean less if the Sox don't make the playoffs. I expect Paulie to come back down to earth but what I'm keeping my eye on is his WAR -- which is currently at 2.8 (he had a total WAR of 3.1 last season) -- his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP), and his Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).
  • The average BABIP for hitters is around .290-.300. Paulie's career BABIP (prior to this season) is .290 this is important to know because if a player's BABIP is extreme (very high, low) a player will regress back to the average. Konerko's current BABIP is .430. (wowza.)
  • Paulie's wOBA has been other-worldly: an excellent wOBA is .400, he is at... .473.
This why I'm bearish on Konerko. Regression will eventually catch up with him. When? I don't know. Updated ZiPS projections have Paulie with a WAR of 5.7, BABIP of .354 and a wOBA of .418 -- all great numbers. If Paulie does finish with these numbers, it will be fun to watch and bring more hope to the Southside.

Hello There, Adam Dunn
I was quite bullish on Adam Dunn last season. I mistakenly predicted he would have 50 (yes, 50) home runs at mobile phone park last season. I was egregiously incorrect.

But Dunn has bounced back from what seemed to be just an unfortunate outlier on a very good career. He has experienced an increase in both his fly ball and line drive percentage and a decrease in his ground ball percentage -- perfect ingredients for a new kool-aid flavor: BABIP Blueberry Blast (copyright pending). His current BABIP (.313) is higher than his career BABIP of .288.

Will Dunn regress? Probably. But it's good to see the Adam Dunn we hoped we would get on the Southside.

NOTE - Bill Petti at Fangraphs wrote an excellent piece explaining Dunn's resurgence and offers a cautionary tale about his performance against lefties. It's a recommended read.

Who's this De Aza Guy?
Alejandro De Aza is quietly becoming my third favorite White Sox player (behind my boy Alexei Ramirez (who is having not so good of a season) and Paul Konerko. Mainly because I like the two aspects of his game that are most commonly overlooked: defense and speed.

To be a good leadoff guy, one must A) see pitches B) get on base and C) run well

And De Aza does those three things decently.
  • His current pitch count per at bat is around 5 pitches. I like this.
  • De Aza currently has 9 stolen bases for the season with an updated ZiPS projection of 25... I think this will be around 30.
  • His OBP is .361 and I'm hoping he can get this to around .380.
Will the White Sox cool off? Eventually. But the key for the White Sox will be to mitigate this regression. If Konerko, Dunn, De Aza, and AJ cool off simultaneously (which I don't see happening), then the White Sox may finish slightly above average, but fall short of winning the division to make the playoffs.

But considering the Detroit Tigers were everyone's darling to win the AL Central, the White Sox came into this season with a new manager and lower expectations. Perhaps Kenny Williams and Robin Ventura already dipped into the punch bowl and are laughing together as the White Sox compete to win the division.

So pour me a glass of this White Sox kool-aid... extra sugar, please.

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