Why the WhiteSox Should buy the Free Agents you HATE!
Good day #WhiteSox fans it’s you old pal BeefLoaf, it feels good to get through the Holidays with only minimal additional plaque build up on my coronary arteries and with some excellent interactions with both family and friends, especially those friends that joined us at the Section 108 / SoxMachine joint holiday party. #108ing and all that shit……but at some point in every vacation, mostly every week, I wake up during the night unable to sleep because some idea that I have in my head needs to get out into our little eco-system. An idea that I can’t express in 280 characters. An idea that may not penetrate many of you at all, but if it calms my anxiety and let’s me sleep a few more nights, then it’s worth the inevitable backlash or blank stares of confusion I receive.
A vast majority of the folks in the WhiteSox twitterverse are in on this pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. I am too, ldo, but even if the White Sox don’t ink one of the two best free agents of the decade, they should still spend money in free agency in 2019. Better yet, they should still spend money in free agency on the free agents that you might not like that much. The free agents that would make you say, “Another mutherfucking Kenny Williams signing, goddamnit, I thought we were over those!!”. Look, I am doing this for your own good, but yes, they should even spend money on THOSE kind of signings.
The truth of the matter is, even your friendly neighborhood baseball analyst and sabrmetricians aren’t telling you the entire truth. This isn’t shade, they mean well, and they think they are explaining things right, but they are missing some details….IMPORTANT ONES.
WAIT! Before we get going, let me just say that I LOVE PROJECTIONS! They are great tools for prediction / explanation / analysis. I use them to hoist a many fantasy championships (along with the greenbacks that comes with the glory), however, the problem is, unless you read the fine print at a Baseball Prospectus or Fangraphs or wherever, you’ll be a little mislead by exactly what they mean. You prolly at home (if you haven’t stopped reading due to boredom) sayin’ “Beef, wtf are you talking about?” I heard Ben Lindbergh from the excellent podcast “Effectively Wild” say something like, and I am paraphrasing “I’m not sure why the Reds would add players to become a 75 win team“….again, I am paraphrasing, but this was in regards to their recent trade with the Dodgers (pronounced Doyers). He continued, again paraphrasing “I guess there is something to say for being watchable“……there is that, but that’s not it either. I don’t blame Ben for this, he’s great, and I don’t blame other analysts that make giant assumptions as to what the listening / reading audience may or may not understand. I just work to help the listening audience understand.
75 WIN TEAM!!!!
What Ben means, what other baseball analysts and sabr folks mean is the median projection of a teams wins. What is a median projection? Re: Baseball Win totals, it means the most likely occurrence of wins for a team of a particular level of talent. You’ll see some variability based on different projection systems or different allocation of playing time and maybe system A gets 75 wins, system B gets 73 wins and system C gets 77 wins. Let’s just assume that 75 wins is the best projection. Now let us zoom in on what the calculated % of the time is that a 75 win team will land on 75 wins….if you will, this is using the binomial distribution (I apologize for such terms, but this is a simple fans best method of illustrating this, also, I linked the Wiki definition, which is basically Greek to a gent like me, so I suggest YouTube for a better understanding of how it works). A projected 75 win team lands on 75 wins 6.28% of the time. WHAT!?!?!?!?
That’s right, where am I going with this? What a 75 win team looks like is a distribution of different win totals in and around 75, going out quite a bit of wins. They can expect to win exactly 80 games ~4.59% of the time and exactly 68 wins ~3.44% of the time……..win exactly 87 games ~1.06% of the time….you get the idea…here’s the distribution of the 10 wins directly in and around 75 wins. Once again, this is using a binomial distribution, which isn’t exactly perfect, but is a decent approximation.
Is that clear as mud? That’s what I thought.
How does this effect the WhiteSox? Don’t worry, we are getting there, until then, enjoy this excellent picture, take another sip of your favorite #108ing concoction and read on….
The median wild card win total in the two wild card era (which started in 2012) in the AL is ~90 wins, BUT, the lowest win total to win a wild card in that time frame is 85 wins. That’s a valuable number, especially with an 89 win team from 2018 (Mariners) going for a rebuild and the 2nd wild card team from last year, the A’s not looking like the 97 win team they were last year on paper.
85 WINS, let’s just take a look at that
The White Sox were a 62 win team last year (most of you have the battle scars from a 100 loss season, I can tell from your #108ing tweets), let’s see…
How often does a projected 62 win team, win 85 games or more?
~0.02% of the time
That was last year though, I think everyone (including those down on the rebuild) can see some natural growth in this roster for the 2019 season. Fuck, even if that growth is just adding Eloy Jimenez (aka Sabado Gigante) and not allowing Trayce Thompson or Bruce Rondon to play and be terrible, I think the natural growth has to be like a 70 win team.
Let’s just say the White Sox don’t make any additional moves that aren’t 100% warranted (like say possibly adding a dumpster dive at Starting Pitcher) and are a projected 70 win team….
How many times does a team projected for 70 wins, actually win 85 or more games?
~1.10% of the time
Well, that doesn’t seem too goot either. But guess what?? Now is where we get to adding some free agents, hopefully ones that turn your fucking stomach, just so that we drive the point home. It is easy to add the guy that you LOVE in free agency, but it’s not as easy to add the guy who you fucking hate and see how they improve the teams chances at something more than “watchability”. Just to show you that I have skin in this game too, I’ll add a couple of free agents that I don’t think are the Cat’s Meow. Let’s try Dallas Keuchel and Adam Jones. Adding those two dudes to the White Sox should add about 5 projected wins.
Let’s NOW say that the White Sox are a projected 75 win team with these two sort of smelly, less than perfect additions.
How many times does a team projected to win 75 games, actually win 85 or more games?
~6.74% of the time
This is slightly more frequently than the Cleveland Browns won in the 2016 season (sorry Sleepy Harold)
Now we are getting somewhere…..
Now let’s go ahead and add AJ Pollock’s injured bones. I know, you won’t like all of these adds, you won’t like them at all. This is the exercise though, showing you how some of these things improve the White Sox probability of binking 85 wins. That addition probably gets the 2019 White Sox to about 78 projected wins.
How often do the White Sox, projected for 78 wins, go ahead and win 85 games or more?
~15.34% of the time
This is roughly 1 in 6, or how often you have to buy a round on a busy night in Section 108.
That’s not bad at all, and truth be told, the mix of the players could, COULD actually be a mix of players you like. Let’s add one more. Yasmani Grandal. That probably gets the 2019 White Sox to 81 projected wins.
How often do the White Sox, projected for 81 wins, go ahead and win 85 or more games?
~29.12% of the time or about as often as Jose Abreu gets a hit in his career. That’s pretty often.
Now we are cooking, as you start getting into the projected high 70’s low 80’s win totals, you have a punter’s chance at some real success. This is what you don’t hear from analysts regarding probability. They focus all their energy on how teams should be building a “projected” 90 win team, and that’s great and definitely still the path we hope our White Sox are on, but there’s nothing wrong with supplementing the roster with available cash that isn’t likely to find itself back into future payrolls. Teams generally don’t take savings from one year and push them to a future year. That cash is considered PROFITS and the next year is generally separate (not always). I’d like the White Sox to utilize this years cash and sign, even the ugliest muthafuckin’ free agents that I hate and you love, that fill the appropriate spots on the roster, that don’t materially block anyone, to make IMMEDIATE. MEASURABLE. IMPROVEMENTS.
I know what you are saying……”Beef, is that all?”
A couple more TINGS….
The binomial distribution I provided as fodder for this discussion doesn’t consider the inherent variance of the roster in question. It just considers normal luck. What is Variance? It’s the likelihood that the actual result varies from the predicted result. Think about “variance” from the perspective of going out #108ing. A good chunk of the time, you’ll get your median projection, which is you go out, get a good buzz, have some fun and go home, but sometimes “variance” shows itself and you get other results.
Positive variance – You have a GREAT conversation with someone or you meet someone that helps your career from your interaction or you possibly even harness a romantic relationship (no matter how brief) from your #108ing evening.
Negative variance – You go out, mouth off to a friend and tell her that her sister is (insert disparaging remark or lewd comment) or possibly you go all Kobayashi and have a “reversal of fortune”. Those are bad #108ing evenings.
Guess what, the White Sox roster is likely to have a larger amount of variance than that of an average roster. Why? They have a lot more young talent currently here and more to come that projection systems as a whole have a hard goddamn time predicting. Now, the naysayer will note, that includes negative variance (which I detail above).
We get to cash checks, pop champagne, do the hustle or whatever the fuck positive shit you do to celebrate when they win and that Positive variance comes a knockin’. Meaning, we take the Positive variance only….if they are worse, so what, it’s what we have watched for years, but if they happen to get it right……If Carlos Rodon becomes the 6 bWAR ace we expect and Yoan Moncada becomes that monster up the middle player, we’ll have adequate role players, character actors if you will to make this thing a goddamn cult classic. A WINNER!!! We should gamble because it’s good for us. We just don’t know when this young bullpen lead by Jace Fry will stop giving up runs and become one of the best in baseball, let’s be prepared in case it happens before we expect it.
I know what you are saying……”Okay, Beef, you are done now, right!?!?!”
Last things, first…..I want our fearless leader Rick Hahn to get some…..practice or something like that.
Remember the first time you ___________ ??
Yea, you weren’t good, nobody is, you need reps. Same with Hahn, his free agent grabs in his young GM career have been materially ghastly. A bad 80’s hip hop video collage. It’s been ugly friends. Guess what, if we know the White Sox, we are stuck with him for better or worse for awhile, so why not let him….FORCE HIM to do this work before it REALLY COUNTS, but when it could sneakily count. I want Hahn to succeed, you want Hahn to succeed, right?
He needs to learn how to do this, the baseball world is becoming infinitely more transactional, especially for middle market teams. If you can’t find 2 WAR players outta nowhere like the Brewers, A’s and Rays, you gonna be in trouble. We need to give Hahn more attempts. He found us Palka, for which we are infinitely grateful, but we need to give him more shots, more attempts, in a semi-competitive environment, before the prospect machine is all revved up and spitting out all the remaining quality players and there is nowhere to hide.
I don’t want to be writing the post mortem on the 2019 White Sox and be writing about a team where Yoan Moncada had his career year and Carlos Rodon became an ace and the White Sox won 73 games. Starting now, being ready to compete, if we run good should be on the table.