The White Sox won a World Series in 2005 with pitching and defense, but a lackluster offense. The 2006 team increased run production by 127, but allowed 149 more runs to score, dropping nine games in the standings and missing the playoffs. 2007 was a nightmare in which neither the offense nor the defense played well. Suddenly with many holes to fill, plus and little minor league talent to work with, general manager Kenny Williams did what he could to restore the Sox to their former winning ways.
|2007 Standings - AL Central||W||L||PCT||GB||HOME||ROAD||RS||RA||Pyth W||Pyth L|
|Chicago White Sox||72||90||0.444||24||38-43||34-47||693||839||67||95|
|Kansas City Royals||69||93||0.426||27||35-46||34-47||706||778||74||88|
Clearly, he didn't have enough material to fix everything, so most people figured that he would concentrate on pitching and defense, the elements that won him fleeting glory throughout Chicago. In a way, he did. He addressed a bullpen with a 28th-ranked 5.47 ERA by signing Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel. He shored up the infield defense by trading for Orlando Cabrera, a shortstop with an excellent defensive reputation. Unfortunately for the Sox, Cabrera's defense doesn't actually represent an upgrade from Juan Uribe at shortstop, and in trading workhorse Jon Garland to acquire Cabrera, the team now features one of the shallowest starting rotations in the American League.
It's some consolation that the White Sox were able to upgrade on offense, both via Cabrera and in adding Moneyball protagonist Nick Swisher. But as with Cabrera, the price for Swisher was high: arguably the Sox' three best prospects in Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, and Fautino De Los Santos. The fourth best, Chis Carter, was dealt earlier in the winter for another offensive upgrade in Carlos Quentin. Now, for the team to make additions, they either need to throw more money at mediocre free agents or hope that a team is willing to give trade value for Chicago's declining, overpriced veterans.
|2007 Starter||A.J. Pierzynski|
|Projected 2008 Starter||A.J. Pierzynski|
Toby Hall was supposed to serve as Pierzynski's platoon partner last year, but sat out with a shoulder injury most of the year. Ironically, A.J. gave easily his best performance against southpaws for his career: a .716 OPS against them that boosted his career mark to only .637. Unfortunately, he only managed a .710 OPS against righties last year, well below his usual production. His overall offense and defense remain below average for a catcher, but because Pierzynski represents such an upgrade over the White Sox' catcher situation since the days of Carlton Fisk and Officer Ron Karkovice, the Sox are pleased to overpay the controversial catcher.
|2007 Starter||Paul Konerko|
|Projected 2008 Starter||Paul Konerko|
Like every 2007 White Sox player not named Rob Mackowiak, Paul Konerko fell short of his Predicted OPS. Konerko was actually second on the team with an .897 PrOPS, which would have been right in line with what he had accomplished the previous three seasons. Expect an OPS around .900 this year, with a chance at a career high in RBI, depending upon where he hits in relation to on-base maniacs Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin, and Jim Thome.
White Sox Trivia|
What White Sox pitcher besides Ed Walsh has exceeded Javier Vazquez' 2007 total of 213 strikeouts in a single season?
|2007 Starters||Tadahito Iguchi, Danny Richar|
|Projected 2008 Starters||Juan Uribe, Danny Richar|
|2007 Starter||Juan Uribe|
|Projected 2008 Starter||Orlando Cabrera|
So Cabrera isn't an upgrade defensively over Uribe, but will the defense at second improve? Probably so. Moving someone with a shortstop's range to second base can lead to great defense; just ask Craig Counsell or Pokey Reese. If Uribe can't handle the transition for some reason, Richar will be back by May, Alexei Ramirez and Pablo Ozuna aren't terrible options, and nominal prospect Chris Getz is nearly ready.
While Orlando Cabrera's overall numbers from last season look solid, his impotent second half won him the American League's third annual Mark Redman Award. He'll certainly hit a few extra dingers at US Cellular, but that could ultimately net him the Kingman Award-type of offense the Sox are used to getting from Uribe. That's bad news, as the Sox are stocked with Kingman candidates, and are leaning towards hitting Cabrera at the top of the order.
In all, middle infield was an area that should have been easy to upgrade offensively and maintain defensively. Not only did the Sox not accomplish that convincingly, but they gave an untradeable $4.5 million contract to Uribe and dealt away their third best starter in the process of treading water.
|2007 Starters||Josh Fields, Joe Crede|
|Projected 2008 Starters||Joe Crede, Josh Fields|
Speaking of untradeable, that's what Joe Crede is until he proves that he can stay healthy and productive for more than a day or two. Hence, one of the Sox' most exciting young players begins the season in Triple-A, where he has absolutely nothing to prove. Perhaps Crede will have a decent stretch and lure some desperate/incompetent GM to bite on him, but you'd have to think that Brandon Inge has more trade value at this point. Most likely, the Sox are going to eventually need to throw Crede on the DL (whether he's injured or not) and just let Fields develop.
|2007 Starters||Jermaine Dye, Jerry Owens, Scott Podsednik, Darin Erstad|
|Projected 2008 Starters||Jermaine Dye, Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin, Brian Anderson, Jerry Owens|
Ah, centerfield. Most people probably forgot that perennial offensive bust Brian Anderson was still on the team. His hot spring combined with Owens' groin tear makes him the main man in center again. I would need to see him hit a curveball before I believe that he should be anything other than a backup. Owens hit .340 last September, which is promising, but hardly a slam dunk. Swisher played a surprisingly competent centerfield last year, and probably won't be used there this season as often as he should be.
|2007 Starter||Jim Thome|
|Projected 2008 Starter||Jim Thome|
Thome had one hell of the year while the rest of the Sox' offense took three months to warm up. Unfortunately, Thome was only able to start 124 games, and the Sox had a miserable .368 winning percentage when he wasn't in the starting lineup. He'll miss time again this year, but whoever isn't playing the outfield between Quentin, Swisher, and Dye on a given day can take over at DH and give the Sox a fighting chance whenever big Jim needs to rest. That added depth is huge.
|2007 Crew||Rob Mackowiak, Andy Gonzalez, Alex Cintron, Luis Terrero, Toby Hall|
|Projected 2008 Bench||Alexei Ramirez, Pablo Ozuna, Danny Richar Toby Hall|
White Sox Fun Fact|
Paul Konerko has not tripled in 1,165 games, spanning nearly eight seasons. His last three-bagger came May 16, 2000, off El Duque, splitting now-retired outfielders Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill.
Most scouts see Alexei Ramirez as a utility player, although Sox scouts must have been more impressed, and Ramirez has enjoyed a productive spring. He leads a still-uninspired bunch of infielders, but the aforementioned outfield depth should prevent guys like Ramirez and Ozuna from wasting too much time out there.
|2007 Starters||Mark Buehrle, Javier Vasquez, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, John Danks, Gavin Floyd|
|Projected 2008 Starters||Mark Buehrle, Javier Vasquez, Jose Contreras, John Danks, Gavin Floyd|
|2007 Relievers||Bobby Jenks, Mike MacDougal, Matt Thornton, Boone Logan, Ehren Wasserman, Nick Masset, David Aardsma, Ryan Bukvich|
|Projected 2008 Relievers||Bobby Jenks, Scott Linebrink, Octavio Dotel, Mike MacDougal, Matt Thornton, Boone Logan, Ehren Wasserman, Nick Masset|
The bullpen actually helped keep the White Sox above water for the first month of the season. Through May 6th, the unit had allowed just 68 hits, four homers, and 37 walks in 82 innings, leading to a 7-3 record, 3.29 ERA, and .229 BAA. From May 8th through June 24th, they allowed 140 hits, 14 homers, and 66 walks in 98.2 innings, leading to a 2-11 record, 8.12 ERA, and .337 BAA. David Aardsma embodied this split, transforming from baseball's most dominant reliever in April into the most inept one afterwards.
The bullpen is still teeming with as many upper-90s relievers as last year, even with Aardsma in Boston and Andrew Sisco in Charlotte. Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel now join this flame-throwing pen. Dotel has more risk and upside, while Linebrink figures to be a lock for a solid ERA in the 3.50-4.00 range. Wasserman and Haeger could be the real keys here, as the submariner and knuckleballer provide stark changes of pace from the rest of the group. Overall, this bullpen has to be better than last year's and may even become a strength.
Outlook for the Season
Gary Peters fanned 217 batters in 1967. Big Ed Walsh had four seasons with over 250 strikeouts.
The White Sox finished with 80-86 wins between both 1996-1998 and 2001-2004. It's time for them to begin another streak of Not Quite Good Enough.