The Black and White Sox

Living in Minnesota and developing an affinity has undoubtedly colored my view of baseball and, in particular, of the AL Central. The same is true to an even larger degree of fellow bloggers Aho and Brooks, who have lived here all their lives. Our view, all season, was that the White Sox' record was a fluke, that their obscene record in one run games was a sign of extreme vulnerability, and that the stunningly rapid evolution of their pitching staff had to be an anomaly, and one that would eventually have to reconcile itself with reality as we saw it. We thought that 'smart ball' was a dumb idea, that AJ Pierzynski was clubhouse cancer, and that Ozzie Guillen was completely out of his mind.

I still believe the last one.

However, if I'd been less partial, both to my own prejudices about teams and to the opinions of the media, I might have developed a more complete picture of this team. If you look at the moves made by the White Sox, you couldn't blame me for having a negative view. They traded Carlos Lee, who went .303 / .366 / .525 had 99 RBI and 103 scored runs. This season, the Sox only had two regulars who slugged over .500 (Konerko and Dye), and the man they traded for didn't even slug over .350. No, Podsednik's most impressive stat was his stolen bases, 59. Still, it's important to note that all that added speed on the bases scored significantly fewer runs, 80, and Podsednik only drove in 25 runs (albeit from the leadoff spot). Podsednik is about seven million dollars cheaper, and, yes, seven million dollars can buy quite a lot in the MLB labor market (if spent by anyone other than Brian Cashman).

The Sox spent a bit more wisely than the Yankees. They got Politte for 0.8 million, locked up Garland for another year for 2.5, El Duque for 3.5 and Jermaine Dye for 4 million. While this is a few million more than the difference between Podsednik's and Lee's salary, I think it gives a good idea of what a few million can do for a ballclub. The trade for Garcia left them with a large 8 million dollar a year salary to cover, but the release of Magglio Ordonzez (who had a 2005 salary of 7.2 million, and a 2004 salary of 14 million) made it easier to take that on. In a tight closer market, they signed Dustin Hermanson for 2 million. And who could forget Anthony John Pierzynski, at 2.25.

When you add all of this to what the Sox had, you see a solid rotation, and an offense geared towards contact hitting. The rotation had two distinct types of pitchers.

First, Garcia and Hernandez represented the veterans that other clubs had given up for dead. In the Garcia trade, the Sox gave up a young catcher (Miguel Olivo) who hit below the Mendoza line with Seattle, a minor league outfielder better known for his steroid violations than anything he's done on the field (Michael Morse), and Jeremy Reed a "top prospect" who hasn't done much in his first two years, and would have been crowded out of the outfield in Chicago. So while Garcia actually pitched substantially worse than he did in 2004 with the Mariners, (3.20 vs 4.61 ERA) he came over without too much risk, and there are those (myself included) who feel that a veteran presence can help young players blossom. I think the real reason that the Sox like Garcia is his record, 23 and 12 since he's come over. You see a lot of the same trends with Hernandez and Contreras, who've had their best years with other teams and had good records with the White Sox, although Contreras had his best season in 2005 since his debut with the Yankees. Hernandez had a dismal year, with a 5.12 ERA and .275 BAA, but still was 9 and 9. Both made significant

Garland and Buehrle were the real stars of the rotation, combining for 30 wins and nearly 300 strikeouts. This second type I'll call the young stud. Both of there pitchers improved substantially over their career numbers, which is entirely possible for young players to do.

This team was carefully balanced, and it's important to note that the Red, Athletics, even the lowly Devil Rays scored more runs this season. If you take a look at league BAA by team, you see that the Sox are very close to the top (.249), trailing the Indians (.246), Astros (.247) and Athletics at .241 to lead the league. Just a note to all you White Sox fans, fifth on the list at .250; the Cubs. The same four teams are also the tops in .OPS given up. Now the Pythagorean Win-Loss formula predicts a win total of only 92, so their record in one run games (which most analysts of a Sabermetric bent would call 'luck') really does come into play.

I guess my real point at the end of this article is about the true merits and deficits of the White Sox, the true picture, independent of the prejudices of years past. The truth is, AJ didn't poison the club house. The truth is the Yankee castoffs didn't blow out and revert to 6-plus ERAs. The truth is that they scored just enough runs to win without Magglio and Carlos Lee. The truth is they won the World Series, and they clearly were talented (and lucky, and luck always plays a part in championship runs) enough to do so handily. I can't say that I wish them luck next season, but I don't think I'll be rooting against them quite as hard as I used to, at least not until I have to hear about the 'brilliance' of Ozzie Guillen, which is the only real achilies heel of the team.

It's been a wonderful season, and we at the Confines are going to get back into the habit of regular articles, including a running series profiling the dire needs of every team in the majors. And to the fans of the 31 other teams out there ...

There's always next year.

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