Bill James and the 2011 White Sox

I picked up my Bill James 2011 Handbook the other day and went through and looked at the White Sox regulars.  We can all agree that the White Sox sucked last year, but looking at the projections that James made for the 2011 team, too many key players were much, much worse than advertised (All in, indeed).  Instead of just looking at this in the privacy of my own home and silently lamenting the woeful display that was the 2011 White Sox, I will instead use the internet as it was intended and share my angst, observations and snark with all of you.

First on the chopping block is Adam Dunn.  Sweet Jesus did he suck last year!  But don’t just take my word for it and every sportswriter in Chicago, look at these numbers:

Averages Actual: .159 BA .292 OBP .277 SLG .569 OPS

Batting Actual: 66 H 16 2B 0 3B 11 HR

That bat went farther than most of his hits

There are, of course, more numbers to look at but since I’m comparing Bill James’ projections, I’ll stick with these.  Basically Bill did not do very well with his projection on Adam Dunn, Oy!

Averages Projected: .247 BA .373 OBP .511 SLG .884 OPS

Batting Projected: 140 H 31 2B 1 3B 39 HR

Luckily for Dunn, he did not register enough at bats for this to become a historically bad season.  Unluckily for Dunn, so many people will never forget, including me.  Just looking at the difference between the projections and the actual all I can do is wonder how could it go so wrong?  Well, the change in leagues can account for some of it, but clearly not all.  There is no way the American League is that much of a superior league than the National.  His age? I suppose that might account for some of it too, but the drop off seems pretty drastic from 31 to 32.  If Dunn were even 35 to 36 it would make more sense, but even then the drop off was so incredible, so extraordinary that it ultimately defies description.  I hate to say, James 0 for 1.

Going by the level of disappointment produced by each player, Alex Rios is next on the list.  Some even argue he was a bigger disappointment than Dunn, but I just like to think they both really sucked and leave it at that.  Anyway here are all the numbers actual and projected:

Averages Actual:  .227 BA / .265 OBP / .348 SLG / .613 OPS

Averages Projected:  .280 BA /. .333OBP / .453 SLG / .787 OPS

Batting Actual: 122 H / 22 2B / 2 3B / 13 HR

Batting Projected: 159 H / 36 2B / 4 3B / 18 HR

The bat is not to blame.

Just looking at those lines depresses me.  What makes it worse is that he produced more than Dunn, if only by a smidge.  If I get more bored at work, I should look and see how many times they were on base together.  I would wager when combining Rios’ ineptitude with Dunn’s inability to move that was a rare occurrence.  Basically if Dunn got on base when hitting in front of Rios it was rare if he made it past second base and it was rare for Rios to get on in front of Dunn.  If he did, Dunn either struck out or walked.  On the subject of Rios and James’ predictions, however, I have to say while not as bad as the Dunn predictions, Bill still missed, 0 for 2.

Now the curious case of Gordon Beckham.  Bill James gave Gordo a lot of love at the beginning of 2011 as did many Sox fans and media types.  I can’t say that I was that optimistic.  I realize that James uses past performance to make his projections, while factoring in age, injury history and the like.  A big factor, I think, in Gordo getting a decent projection is that he has a pretty small sample size, two MLB seasons one of which was only 103 games.  I’ll be really interested in where Beckham is at in next year’s Handbook:

Averages Projected: .273 BA / .343 OBP / .436 SLG / .779 OPS

Averages Actual: .230 BA / .296 OBP / .337 SLG / .633 OPS

Batting Projected: 151 H / 41 2B / 2 3B / 15 HR

Batting Actual: 115 H / 23 2B / 0 / 10 HR

The hair is still marvelous.

All things considered, this isn’t as bad as it could have been, say if the season would have ended at the All-Star Break.  Beckham did not have nearly the bounce in the second half as he did in 2010.  James was pretty accurate on home runs, but was pretty far off on everything else.  I was considering giving Bill a tie on this one, but looking at the disparity between his average numbers I think it’s more 0 for 3.

I felt that if Brent Morel batted about .250 and played a decent third base that the White Sox could survive with his growing pains.  Of course I did not foresee the Armageddon that was Adam Dunn and the ineptitude of Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham.  Given those circumstances Morel’s lack of…well, everything at the plate did not help the White Sox much at all.  Bill James makes the point in his introduction to the projection section that minor league statistics are useful in making projections for rookie players.  Unfortunately, Morel’s cup of coffee in 2010 was a better indicator of how he would perform in 2011, small sample size be damned.

Averages Projected:  .291 BA / .327 OBP / .448 SLG / .775 OPS

Averages Actual:  .245 BA / .287 OBP / .366 SLG / .653 OPS

2010 Cup of Joe:  .231 BA / .271 OBP / .415 SLG / .687 OPS

Batting Projected: 150 H / 36 2B / 3 3B/ 13 HR

Batting Actual:  101 H / 18 2B / 1 3B / 10 HR

2010 Cup of Joe:  15 H / 3 2B / 0 3B / 3 HR

Maybe next year?

All of which is to say, James was too optimistic for young Brent, but I definitely think he can improve and if he puts up 2012 numbers closer to his 2011 projections that will be quite a boon for the White Sox.  Even so, can’t say this was a good prediction so 0 for 4.

I think we have covered all of the black holes in the line-up, but the second level of suckiness needs to be looked at.  I don’t think these next three guys were horrible last year, but they weren’t particularly good either.  They might have been good pieces to an already strong line-up, but not all three.  Where to go from here as far as level of disappointment? I have to go with Carlos Quentin.  I’m not including defense in this little soiree, but he is a butcher in right field.  He is paid for offense though, not his defense.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t great this year, but he definitely wasn’t the problem either:

Averages Projected: .261 BA / .354 OBP / .499 SLG / .853 OPS

Averages Actual: .254 BA / .340 OBP / .499 SLG / .838 OPS

Batting Projected: 132 H / 32 2B / 2 3B / 28 HR

Batting Actual: 107 H / 31 2B / 0 3B / 24 HR

All things considered Bill did a good job on Quentin, especially when one considers that James projected 137 games for the Q and he only played in 118.  Which leads to his position on the disappointment chart; Quentin has only played in 130 or more games (131 whoo-hoo) twice in his White Sox career.  When he goes out, it leaves the Sox with the likes of Brent Lillibridge and Alejandro De Aza.  Sorry but I just can’t get that excited about a 27 year old rookie, unlike most Sox fans.  Also, I love Lilly, but he isn’t exactly what is needed from Quentin’s replacement.  Either way, I have to say Bill James did pretty good, 1-4.

The other end, Carlos.

Speaking of bad defense, AJ Pierzynski is pretty much what everyone thought he was going to be, including Bill James, so it’s hard to be too disappointed with his performance.  Like the Quentin injury situation, however, the lack of foresight on the part of Sox management about AJ and an eventual replacement is disheartening.  When he was re-signed before 2011 it was as if the Sox were saying, “Well everybody we got in the minors sucks, so this is as good as it gets, suckers.”  So even with AJ performing to expectations, it sucks because it feels like organization wasn’t trying, again relying on Dunn and others to produce and hide the mediocre catcher:

Average Projections: .276 BA / .315 OBP / .403 SLG / .718 OPS

Average Actual:  .287 BA / .323 OBP / .405 SLG / .728 OPS

Batting Projected:  137 H / 27 2B / 0 3B / 12 HR

Batting Actual: 133 H / 29 2B / 1 3B / 8 HR

Like I said, James was pretty much dead on with AJ, but when the above numbers are one of the best individual performances on your team, it is going to be a long year, 2-4.

What was he doing here?

Much like AJ, but in left field is Juan Pierre, the guy, if you believe Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times, was kept on the White Sox because he was one of Ozzie’s favorite players.  When Kenny broached the topic of getting rid of Juan or at least sitting him in the early part of 2011, Ozzie reportedly said, “then you have to explain it to the rest of the team.”  I’m sure Juan works hard and is a great guy, kind to animals and children, but if this is the guy you’re drawing a line in the sand for, then maybe you deserve to get fired:

Averages Projected:  .283 BA / .337 OBP / .338 SLG / .675 OPS

Averages Actual: .279 BA / .329 OBP / .357 SLG / .657 OPS

Batting Projected: 180 H / 22 2B / 5 3B / 1 HR

Batting Actual:  178 H / 17 2B / 4 3B / 4 HR

Looking at these numbers, I’m convinced Ozzie is crazy when he says he would like a team of 25 Juan Pierre’s.  Bill James 3-4.

Lord Helmet

Rounding out the starting line-up are the two most solid players on the White Sox roster, especially over the last few years.  First up is the Cuban Missile (easily the worst nickname to come around in recent years) Alexei Ramirez.  He performed pretty much right to expectations, right on James’ projections and if you thought he was going to do better than that, well technically you were wrong, but not by much.  Even so Alexei had a good year and I hope he’s at shortstop for the foreseeable future:

Averages Projected: .280 BA / .325 OBP / .426 SLG / .750 OPS

Averages Actual: .269 BA / .328 OBP / .399 SLG / .727 OPS

Batting Projected: 162 H / 26 2B / 2 3B / 18 HR

Batting Actual: 165 H / 31 2B / 2 3B / 15 HR

Like I said, James was pretty close and the difference could be attributed to James projected 155 games played and he actually played 158.  Even so James, as I’m sure is no surprise, pulls even, 4-4.


The final person to look at in this annus horribilis is the first baseman, Paul Konerko.  Where would the White Sox be without Paul Konerko?  A scary proposition to be sure.  What is even scarier to me is that this ride has to come to an end sometime and with each passing year, I look to the next season with a bit of dread.  Even so Paulie was just solid:

Averages Projected: .273 BA / .361 OBP / .496 SLG / .857 OPS

Averages Actual: .300 BA / 388 OBP / .517 SLG / .906 OPS

Batting Projected: 152 H / 28 2B / 0 3B / 32 HR

Batting Actual: 163 H / 25 2B / 0 3B / 31 HR

James was a little low on Konerko, but not terribly so.  I’m guessing that the 2012 projection will reflect a certain bearishness as well.  Hard to argue with that thinking; Konerko will be 36 at the beginning of the season and he’s coming off of two very solid years.  An adjustment of sorts is due I’m afraid.  What would make it worse is if the underperforming players continue downward instead of bouncing back.  If that’s the case, 2012 will be even harder to bear than 2011.  James hit Konerko pretty much on the nose, so 5-4 James.  What is telling from these numbers, however, is that where the White Sox missed projections, they REALLY missed (Dunn, Beckham, Rios and Morel).  The players who met or exceeded expectations just weren’t enough to carry the White Sox.  I suppose in an effort to approach completeness I could look at players like Brent Lillibridge and Alejandro De Aza.  However, if the season came down to relying on those two (and it did) then it would just be further evidence of what was stated at the very beginning of this post, the 2011 Chicago White Sox sucked.  After Christmas, the pitchers; I don’t want to depress people anymore before the holidays.

The Captain

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