The 2022 White Sox Hitters will be Better….RIGHT???
I know other blogs and podcasts are dying for content right now, but us 108ers ain’t even got enough time to get out on these twitter streets all the stuff we got in our holster. That’s above and beyond the fact that we got the #108Tourney coming in hot and heavy in March (more details to come). Today, I have to talk about the 2022 White Sox Hitters. I gots to!
On a recent appearance on the Sons of Hahnarchy podcast (which was really fucking fun), Steve-O and Hawt Take Tommy asked us an interesting question. Are the White Sox better right now, then they were on October 3rd 2022 when the playoffs started?
The episode is above. I was lucky I could even find that link. Also dumbasses got a pic of Wally$ instead of me, I guess we all look alike. Anywho, I answered that I thought the White Sox were better today than at the start of the playoffs. Fully formed versions of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, hopefully completely healed from injury, as well as an Andrew Vaughn that has matured from a year of seasoning. I had a lot of Goose Island beer, but I felt good about my answer, so let’s take a look at some projections and see what they think.
Are the 2022 White Sox Hitters projected to be better?
I took to these twitter streets and grabbed up projections from ZiPS, Steamer and The Bat. You can find all of those projections, nice at tidy, at Fangraphs.com to do with what you please. In this instance, I took wOBA (weighted On Base Average) and used it to calculate another nerd stat wRAA (weighted Runs Above Average) for each of the White Sox key hitters.
If you are an avid baseball fan, I’d suggest you DON’T click on the links for those nerd stats. You’ll get mad at me for your aversion to statistics and dismiss this premise. In fact, I’d skip the next paragraphs where I explain them in layman’s terms. But just in case you are curious and don’t want the nerd metric guys to understand stuff you don’t, then check it out.
Let me quickly explain the two stats, in less than a paragraph, so we can use them to dream on our 2022 White Sox. wOBA is a stat that approximately measures the values of offensive performance and anchors it to what we standardly know as OBP. This stat has a Single being worth more than a Walk (that makes all my “Average isn’t dead people” happy), a Double is worth more than that, a Triple is more valuable than a Double and a Home Run being more valuable than all of them. Makes sense.
wRAA is basically the amount of Runs above the average dude that a player will produce. Pretty simple. However, something like wRAA is just a proxy. In 2021, the White Sox produced 74.5 wRAA, while only scoring 62 more runs than league average (White Sox runs scored 796, average MLB team runs scored 734). Not precise like your tax return, but close enough to have a fun discussion about player production.
All right, that’s enough for now, let’s get into it.
The Chart!!! A few quick notes on methodology. I used the baselines from 2021 to calculate this, so for the nerds in the room that know wtf I am talking about, I used a wOBA baseline of .314 and wOBA Scale of 1.209. Now that we got all of that shit outta the way, let’s dig in.
As you can see in column “2021 Actuals” Yasmani Grandal was the most productive hitter on the 2021 White Sox, no real shock there, followed up by Jose Abreu and then Luis Robert, so on and so on. I included both Eloy Jimenez in this chart, as well as Andrew Vaughn. Their offensive contributions in 2021 were subpar. However, they are expected to be big parts of the 2022 White Sox offense.
Regression is Coming!!
Across the board the projection modules have the White Sox two top hitters from 2021 regressing substantially. For Yasmani Grandal, that isn’t hard to believe, given that he had a career year, was injured twice during it and will step on the field next year as a 33 year old primary catcher without a reliable back up. I wrote recently about how catchers age and that could be a problem.
Jose Abreu’s “regression” case has been on the table since after the 2019 season when he inked a new deal with the club. At that time, I wrote about how all the people predicting regression were fucking idiots. Since then, he won the 2020 AL MVP and in 2021 was the 2nd most productive hitter (by wRAA, as you can see in the chart above) on a division winning club. So in a way I don’t buy the regression of ZiPS or Steamer. I think what ends up happening and I detail it in the aforementioned article is you get a more binary situation.
Either, you’ll see very slight regression, like The Bat denotes above, or you’ll get a larger collapse. I personally think Abreu holds his value fine. He had a career high walk rate and was hit by a career high amount of pitches in 2021 and that appears to be most of what is regressed back. I think the walk rate improvement is real given he’ll have a real offense around him, even if I hope the hit by pitch rate collapses, for his sake.
Eloy Jimenez is really fucking important to the 2022 Team
The 2022 White Sox hitters are across the projection board expected to be better. Materially all of the difference in being better is tied to a fully functional and returned to form Eloy Jimenez. I doubt this will quell the debates for needing to make him a regular Designated Hitter to protect his health. Hell you might even get me more on board after seeing this.
To think, a big chunk of this fan base wanted him trade for god knows what starting pitcher. Per the chart above he’s expected to be worth approximately 14-18 runs in improvement to the 2022 squad over 2021. That’s monstrous. If the White Sox can’t adequately upgrade Right Field in what’s left of the off-season, I would love to see a move of Big Baby to Right Field. We could keep him safe if he’s close to Section 108.
Luis Robert’s projections are WEIRD
2021 was an interesting season for Luis Robert. He was great, then hurt, then came back after several months and was great again. Then great in the playoffs. Robert in 2021 regular season hit .338 / .378 / .567, for wRAA as noted in the table of 20.8, all of that in only 296 Plate Appearances. All three projections modules are expecting approximately the same level of production in 2022 as he had in 2021, except over 644, 636 and 598 Plate Appearances, respectively.
That’s wild to me. Robert had a noted swing change that brought on the increased production, ALLEGEDLY. Robert was also a highly touted, all-world pedigree prospect that normally thrifty teams were lining up to empty the wallet to acquire his services. If I were to be able to bet OVER on anyone’s wRAA in the table above, it’s Luis.
Andrew Vaughn needs to give me more
Vaughn’s 2022 projections although above average, are quite pedestrian for his prospect shine. To put it into perspective, Gavin Sheets came up in 2021 and in 179 Plate Appearances provided 5.6 wRAA. I’d like to think our consensus Top 10 prospect in baseball just a year ago is going to put up numbers more on par with the big shooters listed above.
As I discussed in our #108Day podcast, I think Vaughn is the X Factor for the 2022 squad. The one that could lift them up to a top team in baseball and make raising a banner on 35th street a real possibility. I guess he’ll have to prove it on the field, because the spreadsheets don’t believe it.
In closing, the 2022 White Sox hitters are going to be a lot of fun to watch. I can’t wait to lay my eyes on them in the flesh when this machine gets rollin’.