The 2023 White Sox NEED Home Runs like I need AIR TO BREATHE
I’m still on a bit of a high from our most recent FromThe108 podcast where Jeff Passan joined us and talked baseball and 108 things. The first 10 minutes or so of us just cutting it up is CLASSIC 108 podcast. I rarely say anything we do is a MUST WATCH, but this is a MUST WATCH!!
It was the type of guest you spend years cultivating the relationship to hopefully some day book and then when they join your show they slide in like they have been running the pick and roll with you for years. It was magic.
However, the show MUST GO ON….and like Danny Ocean, I can’t turn my brain off when thinking about the White Sox…the next thing up Home Run Optimism…
Everyone is Writing about Home Run Optimism
The last week or so of White Sox twitter content has been honing in on the optimism of the new coaching staff. Mostly focused on how they could possibly unlock the potential for this roster to mash. Whether it be the godfather of White Sox blogs, Jim Margalus (READ HIS PIECE HERE), who’s work I love or James Fegan (READ HIS PIECE HERE) whom I love to poke fun at. The discussion is everywhere. I’m personally not so sure about it.
The 2022 White Sox couldn’t hit no dongers
Any discussion about what the 2023 White Sox are going to look like needs to start with how the 2022 White Sox fared. I don’t make the rules. But, when your off-season amounts to letting the 2020 MVP and your most valuable position player in 2022 walk and you replace him with a league average left fielder Andrew Benintendi, you are subject to this sort of analysis. Below is a quick table showing the participants that lead to the White Sox ranking tied for 22nd in Home Runs in 2022, with 149.
That’s ghastly. The aformentioned Benintendi effectively replacing Jose Abreu here moves those 15 home runs (the average White Sox fans biggest complaint about the 2020 MVP) down to 5…yes, 5 home runs. That’s what Benintendi hit in 2022. Ugh.
However, the pragmatist in me knows that sort of comparison isn’t a full analysis. It’s fair to use as a start, but let’s really dig in on what COULD happen with the 2023 White Sox if EVERYTHING GOES RIGHT!! If we are leaning on a new coaching staff, a new philosophy to change things. If we think we have a panacea to leading our young (not anymore) and talented (less than we had hoped) CORE to fame and riches, then let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. But EVERYTHING GOING RIGHT?
Yes, I said EVERYTHING. The analysis below is yours truly taking each of the prominent rostered White Sox player and using the greater of either, their career high in home runs in any single season they have played OR their 2023 Steamer projection. LFG!!
The MOST OPTIMISTIC 2023 White Sox HOME RUN TOTAL!
It’s extremely odd that the total plate appearances line up pretty nicely for a full season when I am mixing and matching from many sources. A fun analysis. For those keeping score at home, 243 home runs would’ve tied the White Sox for 2nd in MLB last year with the Atlanta Braves. Odd, that is where White Sox hitting coach Jose Castro came from.
That’s pretty good right? I don’t think so. You’d think if you were taking max outputs from everyone on the roster and eliminating AAAA players that will end up with some of these plate appearances that you would get some enormous number that would break the MLB record. This analysis reminds us of one White Sox cliche’….
And for my money, adds a new one to the pile…
So where does this leave us? Should White Sox fans not have the hope that is abound when a new coaching staff rolls into town telling you how they’ll do things the right way? I offer you a few thoughts..
Is KenWo Right?
This tweet struck me quite a bit when thinking about this problem and overlaying it with the obscene analysis I completed above. Maybe you just don’t have the horses to be a traditional White Sox slugging team. The 2021 team was an exception to the rule for White Sox teams. Usually to be a contender in this stadium you need to hit 200 home runs (they hit 190, just below the league average of 198). It’s possible that although the brain trust is striving and pushing for this squad to hit for more power they are in lock step with KenWo in that they just don’t have that kinda squad. Hmmm…
Chris Liss is Right about Baselines and Projections
Bennett Karoll’s buddy Chris Liss, formerly of Rotowire and now currently out on his own, has some differing thoughts on projections and baselines. One of his excellent articles on this topic (from his Rotowire days) is HERE. Some of his twitter takes and blog takes might not be your cup of tea, but I live by the philosophy that 15-20% of what you ingest should disagree with your priors.
In general, his thoughts are that for the more stabilized of assets (let’s say a player several years into their career with a bunch of homogenous environments to sample his play) projections are great and very helpful. But, the further out from optimal conditions you get, the less effective those methods can be. I remember an old Rotowire clip where he basically noted how Mike Trout or Juan Soto once had baseline projections much lower than they do now, because they had to go out and actually do things and those real life things moved the baseline.
How does that effect the White Sox? Take a look back at the analysis I provided above. You know the unrealistic one with everyone’s career highs. All the people who we are using a red Steamer projection for are at the parts of their careers where moving their baseline from where it is now is highly probable. Now that is good news and bad news for the White Sox because while that might mean Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Oscar Colas, Andrew Vaughn, Lenyn Sosa and Romy Gonzalez all might have higher ceilings and baselines after 2023 than they do now, the opposite is also true. The 2023 White Sox are highly volatile.
These Guys Slug like a Run Prevention First Team
This off-season, this analysis and the many hours I have had to ponder the last month on either airplanes or bellied up to a video poker machine has me thinking that the front office is trying to shift this roster to a more Run Prevention First unit.
The main 2023 acquisition was a league average defender in left field. The main additions from the farm are going to be a (allegedly) above league average right fielder and the top second base candidate with the most speed / range. The White Sox project right now to be basically league average or better at every position, but first base (I’m doing this in my head, I don’t have access to defensive projections).
I think, they see the problem and are attacking it this way. When you think about it from this perspective you start understanding more why they were catcher hunting this off-season. They know they need to hit more home runs, but I don’t think they see the 2023 White Sox being the 2008 version, this is more the 2021 version, light.
Nobody can tell me the Sox don’t have untapped power potential among the young guys on the team:
And that’s several MPH less than his max exit velocity in every single year so far. Maybe coaches who actually believe in home runs will help.