Feb 27, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.
The Big Question: Can the White Sox rebuild the league’s worst lineup on the fly?
Chicago went from 85 wins in 2012 to 63 wins last year for the White Sox’s worst season since 1970. Their pitching got worse, but it was nothing compared to the offense falling off a cliff by going from fourth in the league with 748 runs to dead last with 598 runs. It was ugly.
Instead of stocking up on prospects with an eye toward several years down the road general manager Rick Hahn has instead tried to rebuild the lineup in the short and long term, acquiring MLB-ready young talent in Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, and Avisail Garcia. In doing so he traded away a young closer in Addison Reed and a young mid-rotation starter in Hector Santiago, and the White Sox previously parted with Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Jesse Crain, and Matt Thornton in the middle of last season. Toss in Paul Konerko fading into a part-time role and this is a very different lineup than the .680 OPS crew, but will the results be much different?
Not so long ago Eaton looked like one of the best leadoff prospects in baseball, Abreu has immense upside after putting up monster numbers as a slugger in Cuba, and both Davidson and Garcia have the potential to be solid contributors offensively. But for the White Sox’s lineup to go from horrible to respectable immediately they need just about everything to click and holdover bats Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Tyler Flowers have disappointed after once showing promise as youngsters themselves.
Chicago’s offense can’t help but be better in 2014, but the White Sox don’t look capable of making the leap into contention and the success or failure of the season depends largely on Abreu living up to the hype and 2-3 other young bats emerging as long-term regulars (plus Chris Sale staying healthy and remaining one of the elite starters in the league, of course). If they can accomplish those things and win 70-something games Hahn and company should be pretty happy with the offseason moves.
What else is going on?
- Thanks to a misleadingly poor win-loss record last season it’s possible that a lot of people don’t realize just how amazing Sale has been as a starter. Among all MLB starting pitchers since 2012–when he moved into the rotation–Sale ranks ninth in ERA and third in ERA+, which adjusts for ballparks and leagues. He’s also fifth in strikeout rate, fourth in K/BB ratio, and ninth in opponents’ OPS. He’s one of the best 5-10 pitchers in baseball and he’s still just 25 years old.
- Much is being made about the decision to trade away a 24-year-old closer coming off a 40-save season, but Reed wasn’t all that great once you get past the save total. He has a 4.17 career ERA, is more fly-ball prone that is ideal in the ninth-inning role, and has mediocre control. And while he’s piled up plenty of saves his actual save conversion rate of 85 percent is nothing special. The wisdom of the trade obviously depends on whether Davidson proves to be a valuable regular, but the idea of cashing in Reed was a smart one. Closers are made, not born, and Nate Jones or Matt Lindstrom likely can handle the job without much dropoff.
- Exactly how good can Abreu be? Projecting foreign players is always tough, but Fan Graphs’ reliable ZiPS system pegs Abreu as a .273 hitter with 26 homers and an .858 OPS as a rookie. To put that in some context, an .858 OPS would have ranked sixth among MLB first basemen last season, one spot behind Freddie Freeman. If the White Sox get that, they should be thrilled with their $68 million investment. (The bad news? Abreu is the only White Sox hitter projected by ZiPS to be above average.)
- Overshadowed by the young, MLB-ready bats brought into the mix is that the White Sox also already had a very good infield prospect in Marcus Semien. Last season between Double-A and Triple-A he hit .284 with 19 homers, 24 steals, more walks (98) than strikeouts (90), and an .880 OPS, including a studly .401 on-base percentage at age 22. Semien getting on base and Abreu knocking him in could be a very nice combo for a long time, perhaps as soon as midseason.
Prediction: Better–and a whole lot more interesting–but still nowhere near good. Fifth place, AL Central.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
The Royals rallied and now lead the Giants 4-1 in Game 4 of the World Series.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Montreal will host some more spring training games next year with the Blue Jays taking on the Reds.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
The Giants took a 1-0 lead over the Royals in the first inning thanks to Gregor Blanco’s speed.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
Are the Giants using outside help to slow down the Royals’ running game?
Oct 25, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton are your winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award.
Oct 25, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed that Jake Peavy will start Game 6 and Tim Hudson will start Game 7 if the World Series extends that far.
Oct 25, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Mo’ne Davis will throw out the first pitch before the start of Game 4 of the World Series between the Royals and Giants on Saturday night.
Oct 25, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
This is the second hernia surgery in the back-end of the Mets’ bullpen since the end of the season, as closer Jenrry Mejia had his earlier this month.
Oct 25, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT
Jason Vargas vs. Ryan Vogelsong.
Oct 25, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
Wright is expected to be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks and hopes to avoid surgery.
Oct 25, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
Sternberg has reportedly had discussions “with wealthy Wall Street associates” about moving the Rays to Montreal.
Oct 25, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Set aside a few minutes to watch this.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:29 PM EDT
The Pirates also designated right-handers John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment.
Oct 25, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
We learned yesterday that Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his foot. Everyone was caught off guard by the extent of his injuries.
Oct 25, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
After Joe Maddon stepped down as manager of the Rays yesterday, there was plenty of speculation about what his next move could be, but we didn’t hear much about who could replace him in Tampa Bay. Look for that to change soon.
Oct 25, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT
Yes, it would have been closer had Blanco continued to run, but it was a heck of a play by Perez.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
Ned Yost was hoping that Jarrod Dyson made an out last night. Really.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
After losing Game 1, the Royals have responded with two straight victories to grab a lead in the series. Can the Giants answer? That’s the big question going into Game 4.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT
Ryan Vogelsong will start as scheduled in Game 4 of the World Series against the Royals. Madison Bumgarner will not pitch on short rest.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT
The Royals’ bullpen was solid, allowing only two base runners in four innings to preserve Jeremy Guthrie’s win in Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.
- Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton win the Hank Aaron Award 1
- World Series, Game 4: Royals vs. Giants lineups 1
- Report: Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has discussed moving the team to Montreal 50
- Dave Dombrowski on Miguel Cabrera: “It’s worse than what we ever would have anticipated” 27
- World Series Reset: Can the Giants even things up? 4
- Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead 36
- Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award 4
- The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled … 3
- Shocker! Joe Maddon to opt out of his contract and leave the Rays (143)
- Erroneous Narrative Alert: no, the Giants are not a “gritty,” anti-stats organization (122)
- Pedro Martinez has some opinions about who the new “face of baseball” is (112)
- PANTY RAID! Homeland Security agents confiscate unlicensed Kansas City Royals underwear (109)
- The World Series ratings are low. So what? (101)