Are the 2020 White Sox better than Cleveland?

Good day friends, it’s your old pal BeefLoaf and thank goodness we have made it to baseball’s natural refractory period, the All-Star Break.  I’m not sure about you, but I welcome the week where I don’t watch basically any baseball games and catch up on my favorite leisure activity of doing nothing.  In the spirit of that tradition, I figured I would do some brain dumps and write a few posts that have been rattling around in my skull, this is the first one.

FIRST….a Poll

Sox v Injuns

Apparently, yous guys (and gals) are pretty fucking excited about this team and think, by a giant margin, that the 2020 White Sox are going to project to be better than the 2020 Indians.  I was shocked by this result….

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So I figured I’ll take a ham-fisted look at what might need to be take place for this shits to occur.  I’ll be using ZIPS and Fangraphs and that stat erryone hates called WAR oh and lots and lots of assumptions, so hold on to your keyster and let’s go on a Fantastic Voyage…..

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Here were the projections going into the 2019 season for the AL Central (holy fuck is that a lot of ground to make up).

ZiPS standings

Oof!! That’s a 28 game difference, but let’s dig in and see what’s happening……here are the breakdowns by team (also per Fangraphs, ZIPS), you’ll notice that the Indians individually don’t work that great, they chose to dump some salary (Alonso), trade Encarnacion for Carlos Santana and deal Yandy Diaz to the Rays where he was destined to be better in Tampa than he ever was in Cleveland.

Here’s a breakdown in table form, because it will make it easier for me to replace people and make comparisons on performance for 2020.

2019 Sox Injuns

As noted previously, this is “close enough” for Cleveland as they made some adjustments to their roster AFTER Fangraphs released its ZIPS projections (by the great Dan Szymborski who is quite possibly the most “cat forward” person in baseball twitter that I have come across).  Now let’s take a look at the 2020 versions of each team with some commentary.

The 2020 Cleveland baseball club (87 wins)

2020 Indians

I held the Bullpen basically constant even though they have kicked a whole bunch of ass so far in 2019 (3.2 fWAR already).  I’ll just assume that most of the components are similar and they don’t add or lose much from here on in.  The starting pitchers were kind of goofy to me.  I adjusted down Kluber quite a bit from the 2019 projection do to his injury this year and his age.  His 2020 ZIPS projection sits at 4.5, so I am even more conservative than that.  I reduced Carrasco down a lot, because I have no idea how or if he’ll fully recover from Leukemia.  The rest of the SP’s I kept the similar adjusting Bauer down and Bieber up, but basically keeping the back 3 starters total value being about the same.

With the hitters, Lindor is Lindor, Carlos Santana is still going to be solid and between his framing and sudden rush of power, Roberto Perez is likely to hold some value into next year.  The rest is sort of a mess.  Jose Ramirez went from an 8 fWAR player in 2018, to a replacement level player in 2019 (so far).  I put him at 3.0, because, well, I expect a bounceback of some sort, but not back to the stud he was.  I think I heard the folks on the Effectively Wild podcast tackle the Jose Ramirez situation and they basically came to the conclusion that they’d value him at 3.5 fWAR in the future, so I am a little conservative even on that.  The outfield is a hot mess, even though Oscar Mercado has come up and played well (0.6 fWAR in 43 games), I gave him only a single fWAR next year, blended in with only 1 other total win in the OF.  I also assumed the Indians don’t pick up Kipnis’ option and go with the younger Yu Chang.  He’s got a 50 FV grade for the Fangraphs propsect rankings, so I think it’s probably reasonable to give him 1 fWAR of value.  My conclusion is that Cleveland will be worse than last year, but still a very solid team.  This excludes potential outside editions.

The 2020 White Sox (80.5 Wins)

2020 White Sox

I decided to leave the bullpen’s projection materially the same as 2019, even though they are under performing the projection by quite a bit thus far (current fWAR 1.1).  I just assumed that even though Colome’s peripherals are trending in the wrong direction that 1 or 2 of the live arms stockpiled will find it (serendipity) and that Herrera and Fry will give a dead cat bounce.  We’ll see.  I added Kopech and Cease to the projection. I gave Cease 2 fWAR even though his ZIPS projection for 2020 is only 1.2 fWAR….I’m bullish.  I gave Kopech 2.5 due to innings limit (it’s inline with his 2020 ZIPS projection).  I gave Giolito 3.0, which is possibly light, but considering the rollercoaster of performance the last 2 seasons, it seems conservative.  I’m filling out the rest with Lopez, Covey & Rodon.  I don’t know how much Rodon we’ll actually end up with, but I think he’ll come back and be okay.

The hitters, I pumped up Moncada, Anderson, McCann and Jimenez over last year’s projections by quite a bit.  I assumed they’ll continue on their improved paths and have higher baselines of performance than were predicted before the 2019 season.  I added both Robert and Madrigal as 2 fWAR players in 2020.  It is entirely possible that one or both of them is much better than this when they get to Chicago, but it’s also very possible that they are worse, so I think lobbing in 4 fWAR into a projection for these two seems reasonable.  I decided to keep Abreu and basically give him projected Abreu production.  Lastly, I assumed positive value for Zack Collins at both catcher and dh.  This might be bullish given his early performance, but if ZIPS is comfortable with 1.0 fWAR for 2020, then so am I.

In conclusion, I think as currently constructed Cleveland is still a better baseball team than the White Sox, however, a key variable to this analysis is that I am assuming that Cleveland doesn’t blow up their team in the off-season.  This has at least some probability of happening, with Bauer, Santana and Hand all coming to the end of their deals after 2020.  If Cleveland takes that path, then the White Sox will surpass them without a doubt.  However, if that doesn’t occur, from my point of view, the White Sox will need to add talent via free agency or trade to pass them up.

-BeefLoaf

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