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Estimating remaining strength of schedule


Well that sucked. The Sox lost more ground to the Twins, and now they have to face them three times in their new house of pain this week. With that in mind, I got to wondering about the team’s remaining schedule. Maybe if we can see that Sox had an easier path than the Twins, things wouldn’t feel so terrible.

I used Bill James’  log5 method and for winning percentages I used the team’s Pythagorean records.  BaseRuns winning percentage, not real runs scored, runs allowed. Old-school pythag is nerd faux pas these days.  I did a .02% adjustment for home/road games.  I’m a mere novice at this geekery, so if you think I screwed it up and your geekery is stronger than mine, let me know.

I have bad news. For starters, the Sox’s opponent’s W% is .500, as compared to the Twins, which is .488. It also doesn’t hurt that the Twins have a better W% using BaseRuns than the Sox do – .562 to the Sox’s .528. Projecting the rest of the season out, the Twins should win 26 more games, the White Sox 23.

I used some projections to adjust for the Twins injury losses and the White Sox, and I get the Twins winning 25 more games, and the Sox 24.

So what I’m saying is it might be time to appeal to some sort of higher power if you want the White Sox to pull this thing out, because the club’s chances are not looking good now.



What’s Ailing AJ?


Like most of you, I want more Blastro. Fans appreciate Pierzynski  for his “whatever it takes” attitude, but if AJ was truly about winning at all costs, he might consider volunteering to ride some pine. Pierzynski’s feckless flailing this year has equaled a .238/.273/.349 line, his worst offensive season to date.   Converted to runs, Pierzynski’s bat has been worth -4 runs below a replacement level player. His only saving grace is that the offensive bar for catchers is so low.  But with Ramon Castro hitting with almost every opportunity he gets, it’s hard to justify AJ continuing to get so much playing time.

So what’s the deal with the AJ? Let’s slice up his production by parts of the plate and see what’s up. First here’s his wOBA on pitches he makes contact with by pitch height.

I’m not totally sure how instructive these graphs are, but it looks like AJ isn’t his normal low-ball swinging self, or high-ball hitting self, either.

Here’s his wOBA on pitches he makes contact with by vertical location.

The postive numbers is AJ’s side of the plate as a lefty hitter, and it seems  he’s struggled with pitches inside, and he isn’t getting much done with pitches on the outer half, either.

Keep in mind this is BABIP influenced, and since we’re on the subject of AJ’s woes, I think we have to talk a little BABIP.

BaconSlayer09 (great moniker) recently took a fantastic look at Mark Kotsay’s bad luck through the lens of xBABIP and found that despite hitting into a few too many “hang wiffems”, Kotsay still is terrible. I thought I’d give AJ the same treatment and see if he’s been just unlucky, or truly terrible.

Pierzynski’s BABIP is a miserable .243. His career BABIP is .301 and based on his batted balls, his xBABIP figures to be .297, much more in line with his career rate. Not including his homers, he’s put 324 balls in play. Multiplying that by 29.7% and we get 96 hits, 15 more hits than AJ has, and after adding back in his 6 homers, we get a .299 batting average. That’s a pretty huge difference. That would bump his on-base percentage to a much more respectable .329, and assuming his rate of doubles remains true, we get a .419 slugging. Hey, that’s the AJ we’re a little more accustomed to.

Converting this all to wins, AJ would be a 1.8 WAR player, up from 0.4. That’s more like it.

I wouldn’t stick a fork in Pierzynski yet, but it will be interesting to see what the Sox decide to with him in the offseason. He is amazingly still on track to be a Type A free agent, but I would think he’d probably jump at the opportunity to accept arbitration of offered. With the Sox’s payroll where it is now, I think a Tyler Flowers/Blastro combo would represent potentially equal output at a fraction of the cost, assuming Castro would be willing to re-sign somewhat cheaply. It would be a considerable upgrade if you think AJ’s weak-hitting ways are the real deal.

Yes, Flowers has taken a step back this year, but is that step really so big? His batting average is way down, but he has a 12.9 BB% rate to go along with a .232 ISO. He’s hitting more line drives – 20% vs. 13.5% in ’09, but his BABIP has dropped .087 from where it was last year. He’ll be fine.

Series Preview : Tigers @ Sox


After a less than inspiring series against the Hated Rival Twins, it’s nice to catch the soft underbelly Tigers pitching staff.  One wonders if this might be a three team race had the Tigers not been hit so hard with the injury bug, but I think even had Ordonez and others stayed healthy, the Tigers’ pitching rotation is so poor beyond Verlander-Scherzer that it might not have mattered.

Here’s how the two clubs stack up on paper. (RAA=Runs Above Average):

Read more…

Graph: Designated to not hit


Jim already hit the nail on the head about Ozzie’s faulty defense of not re-signing Jim Thome, and how it shouldn’t have been Ozzie’s call to begin with.

I just thought I’d once again enter trained monkey mode and present to you a graph showing just how bad the clusterfart DH situation of ours compares to the rest of the American League.

wRAA is runs above average, it’s the batting part of WAR. These numbers are are unadjusted for park.

Before the season started, Dave Cameron asked the question “is the DH dying?”, where he cited the Tigers, Mariners, Yankees and White Sox as teams going with a rotating DH. I can see the wisdom behind the rotating DH idea; it does offer some flexibility, it’s just that there’s not much the charred remains of Jones and Kotsay ever really had to offer. Shocking, I know.  Judging by the graph, the Tigers and, good grief, the Mariners, didn’t do so well with the rotating DH, either. The Yankees traded for Lance Berkman, and we know Kenny Williams had something in place for Berkman before getting the rebuff from Fat Elvis.

The DH is alive and well, methinks. Let’s not repeat this failure again.

Weighing Beckham’s loss


God forbid Gordon Beckham has to go on the DL with this groin injury, but if he does, what does it mean to the White Sox? I think most sane people realize Brent Lillibridge isn’t he better player despite what his batting average currently says. Contrary to some common beliefs, lineup and roster decisions should always be based on the projected mean the players is going to hit, not on slumps or hot streaks.

ZiPS projects Beckham will hit for a .331 wOBA for the rest of the season. Lillibridge projects a mere .289 wOBA. Their defense at the keystone is about the same. Getting down to the nitty gritty, the value of Beckham over Lillibridge is .04 runs per game.  If Beckham hits the DL, that’s 0.6 runs.  Losing Beckham for the rest of the season would hurt. Losing him for a couple of weeks wouldn’t be unbearable.

Twins @ Sox Series Preview


I have nothing good to say about the Baltimore series thus far. Split, dang it. Split!

This Twins-Sox series just might have some playoff implications. And I am a little afraid. The Twins are a really good at baseball and probably should be way ahead in this division.  Getting to the nerdery, according to BaseRuns — a run estimator that gives us the number of runs a team “should” have scored given their component statistics — the Twins should have a .593 winning percentage. The White Sox “should” have .539 winning percentage.  The White Sox have benefited from an easy schedule and have benefited on some luck on both sides of the ball  – pitching and hitting.

Now to enter into trained monkey mode and pass along some stats I collected on the interwebs for your perusal.

Read more…

Graphical looks at Jackson’s fastball effectiveness, or lack thereof


According to FanGraphs, Edwin Jackson throws his fastball 62.2% of the time at an average speed of 94 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast. In fact, only Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Verlander, Josh Johnson and David Price throw harder on average among MLB starters. The strange thing is that over the past three calendar years, Jackson’s heater has cost him 34 runs according to FanGraphs pitch type values. Only the Pirates soft-tossing slop-baller Zach Duke has had worse results with his fastball.

Why this is, I don’t know for sure, but unlike most pitchers, velocity hasn’t corresponded with effectiveness for E-Jax. This is his run values per 100 pitches against his velocity. Negative values here are good, they mean runs saved per 100 pitches. High values are bad. (Big thanks to Steve Sommer for helping me graph this mess.)

Weird. Unlike most pitchers, slower is better. Steve Sommer or Dave Allen I am not when it comes to pitch f/x, so I’m just guessing that the higher run values for the faster stuff is could be a result of him forfeiting control to gain velocity, and the trade off isn’t paying off, not unless he’s pushing 100 MPH. Being “effectively wild” isn’t E-Jax’s bag.

And now for his location –

I couldn’t put a line in for vertical location to break up the strike zone, but between -1 and 1 is the strike zone.

We learn a couple things from the graph. The second graphs shows us that Jackson is a big Weezer fan. We also learn that as in the case with most pitchers, Jackson is more effective when he’s painting corners.

Jackson gets hurt when he tries to go too high in the strike zone, but he’s good when he’s getting pitches over in the lower half of the zone. No big surprises there.

Answers? You wanted answers?!?! I give you nifty graphs, not answers. I have a guess, and I’m going out on a limb here – Jackson doesn’t have the best control of his fastball. He has a great slider and he throws a change-up occasionally, but he’s been mostly a two-pitch pitcher without a real change of pace. Don Cooper seemed to help on that issue right away, Jackson threw 1/4 change-ups in his ChiSox debut against the Tigers and pitched a great game. Maybe that’s all he’s ever really needed to do: change speeds more often.

Backing Bobby


Thursday afternoon Bobby Jenks blew another save. That means it is time to scream, yell, make fat jokes and demand the big man’s job be given to a more deserving candidate. Who is that deserving candidate? Anyone but Jenks, right?

To figure out this mess, we’ll need some help. Help cometh via Sky Kalkman, who inspired by Tom Tango, has done some interesting research on what relievers deserve higher leveraged innings based on their FIP. Here’s a nifty graph Sky put together to give us some visualization in getting the answer to this question.

You can see this from the graph, but to explain a bit – deLI is Deserved Leverage Index. The typical closer pitches in an average of 1.8 LI. Somewhere between a 2.80-2.85 FIP is what you want to get out of your closer. 3.40 is about what you’d like to see out of your set-up reliever. A 3.75 FIP would be you’re guy who would be next in line behind you’re set-up man, 4.10 would be the guy who would pitch in average leverage situations, 4.50 would be your long relievers. You get the idea.

Now let’s head on over to FanGraphs and get our FIP info –

Bobby Jenks 5.13 2.82 2.32 2.56
J.J. Putz 1.79 2.12 -0.34 2.63
Matt Thornton 2.36 1.97 0.39 2.70
Sergio Santos 1.53 2.75 -1.22 3.94
Scott Linebrink 4.21 4.85 -0.64 4.26
Tony Pena 4.88 4.92 -0.04 4.73
Randy Williams 5.40 5.27 0.13 5.93

I sorted by xFIP instead of FIP because one day Sergio Santos will allow a homerun. Really, the bullpen on HR/FB lucky (0.73, the 4th best mark in baseball) considering their home ballpark.

Getting to the good stuff – First off, the Sox have one darn good bullpen. They have four deserving candidates judging by their FIP, including our problem child. I mentioned that Santos will eventually give up a HR. Going by xFIP, we’d take him out of the running for the closer job, but Putz, Thornton and wait for it — Jenks are all deserving of the job. Santos is good, but he’s been walking a few too many batters and his HR/FB rate will normalize eventually.

If Guillen wants to use recent performance or closer experience as the tie-breaker, I have no problem with that. Give Putz the job in that case. There’s nothing wrong with giving Thornton the job, either. Jenks is fine too, he’s just been the victim of some sort of hate crime from the baseball gods. Opponents have a ridiculous .386 BABIP against Jenks and as a result his strand rate is just 62.7%. His xFIP is the best it’s ever been over the course of his entire major league career. Read that last sentence again.

Take heart, Bobby Jenks. This too shall pass.

So you wanna use rest of season projections to sort this out? –

  • Jenks – 3.54 FIP
  • Thornton – 3.21
  • Putz – 2.93

Edge goes to Putz.

Leave Heavy B alone, lunatic fans.  He’ll be fine. Some call it the yips, I think I’ll call it bad luck. I don’t think it matters much who is in what role so long as these four very talented relievers keep getting the important innings late in the game.  Putz is his logical heir, but this isn’t worth all the fretting that’s happening.