White Sox: Final Report Card

Way back at the midway point of the season, we took a look at the White Sox from the standpoint of the whole versus the sum of the parts – that is, whether the Sox were getting value added from Ricky Renteria, et al.

Back then, the answer appeared to be “yes.” The Sox were 39-42, not only well above expectations and well above what run differential would suggest (351 runs scored vs. 420 allowed leads to 34-47 or 33-48, depending on whose measurement you use), but well above the some of the parts, as measured by WAR.

Aristotle anticipated advanced baseball stat possibilities.

At the 81-game mark, Baseball-Reference had Sox position players at 5.9 bWAR, several of them dragged down by terrible dWAR. B-R had pitchers at 5.5 bWAR, two-thirds from Lucas Giolito, and most of the staff below zero. FanGraphs had the position players at 5.5 fWAR (24th in MLB), pitchers at 5.1 (21st).

That’s 11.4 bWAR and 11.1 fWAR, very close. WAR in both cases equals 48 wins a season, or 24 at the midpoint, so by WAR, the Sox should have had 35 wins. That made the whole four wins more than the sum of the parts.

That made Ricky Renteria look pretty good, overbunting and batting Yonder Alonzo cleanup notwithstanding (I think Ricky kept Alonzo in the fourth slot just to troll the front office, which, if so, was quite clever and eventually worked).

Now, at season’s end, does the same “whole is better than the sum of its parts” thing apply?

Nah.

The Sox ended the season 72-89.5, saved from 90 losses by Mother Nature wiping out a game last Friday that they were losing. Thus, the break even on the whole and the parts would be at 24 WAR.

The final stats have position players at 13.5 bWAR, led by Yoán Moncada at 4.6, Tim Anderson at 4.0 and James McCann at 3.8. Of the regulars, only Yolmer Sánchez (+1.7), McCann (+1.4) and Adam Engel (+.5) were on the plus side defensively, with, as you’d expect, José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez dragging themselves way down with terrible fielding.

The non-pitchers fare worse under fWAR, coming in at a total of 10.9, more than half of that from Moncada alone. FanGraphs punishes Anderson more for his fielding (has anyone before ever led the majors in both batting average and errors?), and give McCann less credit for his.

On the pitching side, the numbers were closer, with bWAR at 11.8 and fWAR at 12.3. Giolito dominates, of course, at 5.6 and 5.1 respectively, but his numbers aren’t double where he’d been at the midpoint, not surprisingly, since he went from 11-2 to 14-9 and his ERA climbed .69.

So, in the end we have bWAR totaling 25.3, fWAR 23.3. One calls for 73 wins, one for 71, and because the actual number was 72:

The Law of Conservation of Mass strikes the White Sox.

In the final analysis, Renteria deserves neither credit nor blame for the White Sox performance. The real credit goes to the people who developed the various WARs, because it turns out they know their stuff.

As for the Pythagorean side, the probabilities based on run differential, with 708 runs scored (24th in MLB) and 832 allowed (22nd), the Sox should have been 69-92, but since Pythagoras has been dead for 2,500 years he couldn’t know that the White Sox liked to get blown out. Actually, that was mostly the case in the first half of the year, when in games decided by five or more runs the club went 8-16, while they were a more respectable 11-13 in the second half.

Pythagoras really knew his triangles, but in baseball he failed to account for really bad pitching.

The midpoint report card also looked at walks and strikeouts, and darned if the Sox didn’t get even worse at those in the second half, which helps explain why they went from three games under to 17.5. They’d been sixth in the AL in batting average at the end of June, and advanced to fifth at the end of September, at .261, but they stayed 11th in on-base percentage, thanks to being by far the worst in the big leagues at drawing walks, at 378.

I know this is beating a dead horsehide, but with 1,549 strikeouts, that makes the Sox K/BB ratio 4.1/1, so far and away the worst in MLB that second place isn’t even in sight. The average is 2.7/1, with Houston being at 1.8. Houston wins a few games. If the White Sox don’t get that fixed, and fixed soon, you can put off being competitive for a whole lot longer, especially since the Sox don’t refuse walks to knock things out of the park, being only 25th in HRs.

But I digress. Back to the report card. Looks like a gentleman’s C. When it comes to Sox management, in the dugout or out, C is as good as it gets.

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Lonchair
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Lonchair
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The proof is in the numbers that the Sox stink in their hitting philosophy. Oh, this just in… White Sox let go of both hitting coaches. Is this good or bad news?

Mark Liptak
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Mark Liptak
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Great news.

Right Size Wrong Shape
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Right Size Wrong Shape
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It’s a big opportunity to make sweeping changes to their approach throughout the org. But their hires don’t usually live up to my lofty hopes.

WIN05
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WIN05
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Ricky’s luck ran out in the second half. Tougher second half schedule also contributed.