Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 Outlook: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are coming off of a disappointing 79-83 season. Their pitching staff was one of the best in all of baseball, but their offense was one of the worst. All of the White Sox starting pitchers had at least 2.5 WAR. On the offensive side new comer Adam Dunn was expected to give the White Sox a huge boost on offense. Unfortunately, he did just the opposite.

Last season Adam Dunn was flat out terrible.  His .159/.292/.277 (59 wRC+) line is about as bad as it gets. He struck out a career high 35.7% of the time and his power flat out disappeared. As a result he managed a career worst -2.9 WAR. The White Sox need his offensive production to come back, if they want a productive offense. Paul Konerko was much better though. He had one of his better seasons as a pro, posting a 139 wRC+. Assuming his power doesn't fall off, he should have another really good season in Chicago. Brent Morel is expected to play third. Offensively, he doesn't project to be that good. He doesn't offer a lot of power, and his wRC+ numbers have been well below average. He still could develop, but for now, what you see is what you get. Pierzynski is expected to take up most of the time behind the plate. In terms of league average for catchers he's slightly above average. Tyler Flowers could take over if he shows any signs of struggle.

Alexei Ramirez is one of the most underrated shortstops in baseball. He has a great eye at the plate, he limits strike outs while getting walks. He's not a great offense player, but on defense he's one of the best. The past two seasons he's had a UZR above 10, in 2012 he should continue right where he left off. Since 2009, Gordon Beckham has been a huge disappointment. He showed a good eye at the plate and decent power. Ever since then, his power has decreased, as has his BB%. He has seen a slow increase in his K% as well. If those trends continue, he may see himself get replaced.

In left, Alejandro de Aza is expected to take over. de Aza isn't a great offensive contributor, but he has the potential to be an average defender. Alex Rios is two seasons removed from a 3.7 WAR season. Last year Rios had one of the worst seasons in baseball. He was a victim to a horribly low BABIP (.237), so he should bounce back this season. He may not be a 3 WAR player, but a 2-2.5 win player is definitely someone who can help your team. 23 year old Dayan Viciedo is expected to play right field. Viciedo has intriguing power, and could be someone who offers a good source of offense. There's not a lot of information regarding his defense, so that remains to be seen. If anyone struggles, Brent Lillibridge will step in and take over.

Their pitching is really good.  John Danks is the ace of the staff, he doesn't strike out a ton of guys, but doesn't walk any either. His ERA was 4.33 but his 3.79 xFIP and 3.81 SIERA tell us that his ERA should improve. Gavin Floyd is also a really good pitcher and could be the ace for this staff as well. Like Danks. he doesn't strike out a ton either, but he also limits walks. His peripherals also suggest his ERA should improve. Philip Humber was the surprise out of all the pitchers. His 3.75 ERA was backed up by his xFIP and SIERA. His .275 BABIP wasn't that far off of his .285 career BABIP, but some regression should be expected. 2010 first round pick Chris Sale is expected to move from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Sale posted some really good numbers in the pen, he limited walks and has shown that he can throw strikes, so he should be able to go deep into ball games. In limited time, Peavy showed that he may have gotten some of his old self back. His peripherals show that he can be even better than his ERA. He walks hardly anyone, while striking out a good amount.    Overall, the White Sox have a great rotation on their hands.

The bullpen is also quite good. Thorton wasn't as bad as his ERA showed, but Jesse Crain should regress. Sergio Santos got traded to the Blue Jays, and losing Chris Sale to the rotation also takes away some depth. Addison Reed pitched in only 6 games, but he has some interesting potential.

If the White Sox can get their offense together they should be able to fight for a wild card spot in the playoffs. Their pitching is as good as it gets, so that isn't a concern. Adam Dunn is the X factor for this offense. If he returns to his old ways this team could be really good.

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