It’s been a minute since I wrote anything in this space about the White Sox. My note pad is actually currently filled with various esoteric White Sox / baseball related topics, but to this point I just haven’t been able to consummate those relationships. Maybe it’s the #ShelterInPlace taking baseball from us that has me not feeling like writing, maybe it’s the rigors of a job (which I am very thankful to still have) beating down my neck in an unprecedented way, but regardless (NOT IRREGARDLESS) I haven’t put proverbial pen to proverbial paper, until now.
Last week, Eric Longenhagen from Fangraphs put out his top White Sox prospects for 2020 (bout’ time). I loved the list as I love most of what he does related to prospects, including THE BOARD, which to me is the most comprehensive and FREE piece of prospect reference material on Al Gore’s interwebs. A few things made me delighted in my happies with Eric’s list.
One – He pushed up teens Benyamin Bailey and Jose Rodriguez up with or past White Sox prospect disappointments Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets.
Two – He said, FUCK IT and dropped Codi Heuer in the top 10
Three – And last but not least, he put White Sox Twitter’s new crush, a men amongst boys, a #108thicc king Yermin Mercedes in the top 10, and not just in the top 10, ass to ass with former first round pick Zack Collins…..the gushing didn’t stop there.
The second to last sentence of that paragraph is what has me intrigued.
That seems likely to be true, but is it true? I am not sure….like I understand that NL teams in general hit worse because of the fact that a pitcher takes up a spot, but does that really mean that a 5’11” probably less than 300 lb pile of hitting man meat would be a more prized possession? Let’s take a look.
I decided to take AL & NL playoff teams from the last 3 seasons (2017-2019) and rank them by OPS+, which is a hitting metric easily found at Baseball Reference. Then I took the median OPS+ for each league’s playoff teams through those 3 seasons and I got.
AL median playoff team OPS+108
NL median playoff team OPS+ 99
So effectively, the NL teams when searching out a DH for competing are going to need to improve by about 9%. Now, luckily for them, they get to dump those crappy hitting pitchers (we’ll get to that). MLB teams average somewhere in the ballpark for 6,275 plate appearances per year, so we’ll start there.
Pitchers gobbled up a little over 5,000 plate appearances in 2019 for a blistering triple slash of .128/.159/.163, which was good for an OPS+ of -13. (Side note: when I was doing this research I was looking at Fangraphs as well and it was quite frightening to see that the SF Giants pitchers batted 292 times with a 55% strike out rate, yikes).
Using a rough estimate, we’ll say pitchers hit for NL teams, right now, approx 320 times a season. Now an everyday player gets approximately 600 plate appearances in a season (more, but let’s just use this number because I am lazy) and so we need to fill in 280 plate appearances for this example. I’ll use the data on Pinch Hitters. In 2019, Pinch Hitters logged a little less than 6,000 plate appearances in 2019 for an OPS+ of 88. So let’s blob this together to get our theoretical median NL playoff team with an OPS+ of 99.
Now, what does our theoretical NEW NL playoff team DH need to hit in order for this 99 OPS+ team to get to the AL playoff team median OPS+ (you know, the ones that been using the DH all along)?
That’s right, 122 OPS+…..which is actually much higher than I would’ve thought. In the Lord’s Year of 2019, only 47 qualified hitters made it to an OPS+ of 122 or higher, that’s about 1.5 per team folks. A rare bird indeed.
In an environment where adding A LOT of punch at the plate is in immediate need, I’d have to agree with Mr. Longenhagen, that good long looks at beautiful babies like our sweet Yermin will indeed be top of mind, if and when an Universal DH makes its way to the big leagues.