It’s PROJECTION SZN at baseball websites!! I know some of yous have “feelings” about projections. Your boy shan’t dissuade you from them, but I wrote a long-form blog back in 2020 about what projections really are and the context with which you should look at them. Read that blog HERE.
Anywho, I wanted to dig in on a particular set of projections that, for lack of a better word, SHOCKED me. That would be Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projected standings at Fangraphs. The entire AL article is HERE. Read it and tell me what you think. I’m sure the more social media addicted of yous have seen the headline for us White Sox fans. 74-88! WHAT!?!??
White Sox Are Projected for 74 Wins???
I couldn’t believe it either. Look, I know our White Sox had a rough year in 2022. They disappointed us all. That was fueled by underperformance, poor health and low-quality administration. I’m also aware that 2023 started with two of the White Sox top performers (from 2022) leaving for greener pastures. Jose Abreu took his impressive resume down to Houston. The miracle that was Johnny Cueto relocated to South Beach. That’s tough.
The White Sox did solve two of their issues (in theory). They went out and signed Andrew Benintendi, which improves the baseline of outfield defense that was atrocious in 2022. The team also gutted the coaching staff for a brand spanking new one. They even allowed for new positions on the staff to beef up the big league on-field infrastructure. What gives?
I had two choices. 1) I could go throw a tantrum on Twitter and declare to all 10,000 of my followers (not to brag) that projections are stupid, ZiPS is stupid, and the White Sox are about to skull fuck the AL Central or 2) I could dig in on the individual projections and see what the fuck is going on. I reluctantly chose 2.
White Sox ZiPS Hitters
I needed to lay out a real simple table that would help me analyze the hitters. As Dan notes in the article the playing time is a bit YMMV and is different than the original iteration of ZiPS, which you can find HERE. I just want to zone in on wRC+ (League average is 100) and see what kind of offense ZiPS expects. This should help us see where the holes are on the position player side. A table with real simple averages will get us close enough to the truth.
The healthy version of this offense might end up being world beaters. Even the banged up version should be safely above average. If you were so inclined, you could even pump these numbers up a bit by giving Victor Reyes a bench spot (projected 96 wRC+) and giving Lenyn Sosa the 2nd base job (88 wRC+). Anyways, I think the offense looks pretty damn solid with 7 regulars projecting to be 10% above average or better. Hmmm. Let’s dig in on the pitching.
White Sox ZiPS Pitchers
I’m cutting a screenshot, because fangraphs doesn’t have a nice easy single stat to value a pitcher like ERA+ at Baseball Ref. So take a look at my screenshot. Full data is HERE.
Well, ZiPS doesn’t see Cease as an “ACE”. The Giolito glow up sure is nice. Lance Lynn looks Lance Lynn ish. Michael Kope..OH MY GOD! I am not 100% sure if the Innings Pitched projection here are exactly the ones in the projected standings, but if they are…YIKES!! The White Sox are likely dipping into the Davis Martin‘s, Sean Burke‘s and something called Jesse Scholtens (WHO?) a lot earlier and often than recommended. This 74 win projection looks like it is much more about starting pitcher dread risk, than anything else. Interesting. I guess Dan in his own words sort of alludes to it in the article.
This is something we did discuss last night in the 108 Podcast (below, LIKE, SUBSCRIBE, TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS). I also wrote about this problem HERE. The White Sox have a multi-layered issue in that they don’t have a true long man on the 26 man roster. One who can soak up innings on short notice and cover for these spots. They also don’t have starting pitching depth on the 40 man roster that would allow them to bring guys up for spot starts when one of their main guys goes down. Both of these are a function of poor player evaluation and development because they sure have been spending a lot of picks on pitchers and every team can afford Vinny Velo at $3M per year, including the White Sox last year.
So in conclusion, I no longer think one of Dan Szymborski’s cats stepped on the wrong button when he was feeding info into the ZiPS model for the White Sox. I think we are back left with one of our most frequent tropes as a guiding light for the 2023 season, at least with regards to our starting pitchers.
I would def take the over on 74/88. Vegas odds are better. Don’t understand some of the wierd stuff in there. Top 7-8 hitters could be really good and pitching think Giolito and Lynn are better than last year.