Organizational Rankings: #24 – Chicago White Sox

And now, we come to the fundamental problem with lists. Because of the linear growth from #30 to #1, the White Sox are going to appear right next to the Pirates in this rankings series, but there’s actually a pretty massive gap between the #25 and #24 teams on this list. The first six teams we covered all have some pretty serious problems and are unlikely to win now or in the future. Starting now, however, we enter the big blob of teams that make up the middle ground – organizations that could win if things break right, but have enough question marks that they need some luck to have success.

The White Sox are a perfect example of this kind of team (of which there are quite a few). Their pitching staff is very good, led by a rotation that is among the best in baseball. If all of their starters stay healthy, and Jake Peavy can figure out how to keep the ball in the yard in that ballpark, they can make a run at the AL Central title. But while this is not a bad team, neither is it a good team, and the future doesn’t look especially bright.

Their position players leave quite a bit to be desired. Gordon Beckham is a good young player, Carlos Quentin can hit when he’s healthy, Alexei Ramirez is decent, and I still have a little hope for Alex Rios, but there’s not much after those four. And that’s not really a championship core capable of carrying mediocre teammates for long stretches of time. The pale hose are counting on too many mediocrities, guys like Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen who are solid reserves but simply shouldn’t be starting on a team that wants to win.

Unfortunately, their acquisitions were deemed necessary because the farm system just isn’t up to par. As Bryan noted, a string of bad drafts led to shallow minor league teams, and so when the White Sox need a role player, they end up paying market value to bring them in from the outside. In fact, there aren’t too many bargains on the roster, as most of the talent is now making something approximating their overall value. The White Sox have a solid payroll, but not enough to build a winner by paying market rates for everyone, and that’s why they have spent nearly $100 million on a team that is projected to be around .500.

Kenny Williams took some risks in picking up the tab for the remaining contracts for Peavy and Rios, but then saw the market to continue to contract and he had to watch as players who could have helped his team signed elsewhere for peanuts. They already have $66 million in commitments for 2011, and that’s before giving raises to Quentin and John Danks, who are going to be eligible for arbitration. There isn’t a lot of payroll flexibility going forward, and there are still quite a few spots that need upgrading.

Williams is going to have to swing a few quality trades, where he gets more than he gives up. He’s certainly not shy about making deals, so maybe he’ll do it, but it’s not a great position to be in. With the Twins moving into a new park that should increase their revenues, the division will only get more challenging, and the White Sox are in danger of getting left behind. 2010 is going to be a critical year this team. With some breaks, they could challenge for a playoff spot, but they also need to continue to add young talent to the organization. Trying to do both at the same time is not easy.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

17 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: #24 – Chicago White Sox”

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  1. Byron says:

    We’re fairly numbers savvy here, so if you don’t like the linearity of rankings, add a point system with a higher number, so that, say, Pittsburgh can be 12/100 and the White Sox can be 25/100, even if there are no teams between them.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Not a bad idea. Perhaps we’ll implement something like that next year.

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      • Cosmo says:

        Seems like a complicated answer to a simple(ish) problem. Why don’t you just tier the rankings around obvious gaps, like between the White Sox and Pirates. Call the bottom group the Contest Division or something like that.

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      • Omar says:

        Can you bring back the review from last year too? I recall last year’s articles at the tops had rankings for the previous, e.g. the 24th team had links to 25,26,27,28,29,30…can you guys bring that back? I’m too lazy to flip through the previous pages.

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      • neuter_your_dogma says:

        Mohs Scale of Organizations is fine with me. If you implement a scoring system of points/100 or something similar, then you’d need to explain how those numbers were derived, including the 100. Seems like too much work for a piece like this. Your explanation in the article addressing the gap is adequate.

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      • Byron says:

        My idea was to state clearly that the numbers were in no way scientifically derived, they were just there to demonstrate how close together or far apart teams are.

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  2. MikeS says:

    Pretty accurate. For the future, Danks, Flowers and Viciedo all have to succeed in order for the offense to be acceptable. That will still leave some holes to fill – especially since Viciedo and Flowers can’t both play 1B. Hopefully, the recent reviews of Flowers behind the plate are accurate and he can stick there. Viciedo at 3B looks like a fantasy at this point. So with those three guys, Quentin, Beckham, Ramirez and Rios (assuming they are all healthy and good) you only need a 3B and some bench players. But boy, that’s a lot of “if’s.” Being wrong at LF, RF, 1B or DH is OK, not hard to fill that hole. Being wrong at several of them could cause problems and is entirely possible.

    The pitching looks OK for the near future and it had better be.

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  3. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    Interestingly Dave,
    Do you regret your process on Rios? You took a very decisive (and contrarian) stance that he was absolutely worth the contract.

    From my perspective the sox are already out 2 million, and returned significant negative equity to date. With the further collapse in prices in Wins above replacement, this contract is looking really bad, and while it’s not to say that 2 months isn’t a small sample (it is), but for this contract to work out to fair value there will need to be some major outperformance, especially as the season where the whitesox needed him most (2009!) he delivered the least.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      CHONE projects Rios as a +2 win player in 2010. Even in this market, that’s worth ~$8 million per year. I disagree that the contract looks “really bad”. At this point, he’s slightly overpaid, and if he returns to prior form, he could be a bargain.

      I still support Williams’ decision to claim Rios. It was a worthwhile gamble.

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  4. Matt says:

    This is gonna be way off. Makes zero sense but hey, keep doing what your doing. Love the site. This is just wrong though as far as ranking goes.

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    • TerryMc says:

      I’m not sure which way to go here…

      Dave posits his position and explains how he reached his conclusion and brings up facts about contract status and payroll while all discussing expect performance levels of the players.

      Matt says Dave makes zero sense.

      I’m tempted to go with Matt here based solely on the strength of his arguments but I’d like to know how Matt has done in the past with his baseless claims. Does anyone have Matt’s CARC numbers (Comments Above Replacement Commenter) for the past three years?

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      • Matt says:

        Trust me, my friend. The fact is that this is so off I don’t even have to analyze it or “show my work”. The White Sox are consistently underrated and just as consistently exceed expectations. Not saying the stuff he wrote was wrong, Dave makes valid points. It’s the number and the equations that led to that number that are flawed.

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      • Matt says:

        And for the love of all things holy get a better sense of humor.

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  5. Jr. says:

    Brilliant analysis.

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  6. erik says:

    I regret getting down on a level of name calling, for that I’m sorry. I’m not excusing anybody’s behavior, but next time I’ll just do what I always do and just ignore the insults. I don’t get it, but whatever…

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  7. Newcomer says:

    I feel like Kenny Williams is a league average GM. He had a career year in 05, was really clutch when we needed it in 08.. some obvious strengths, some obvious weaknesses.. but looking forward, you expect him to do a good enough job to bat 5th or 6th and provide average defense in a corner position.. I feel like he is capable of keeping the White Sox mostly in the 85 win range, where they seem good but aren’t great. Thus he’ll keep his job and we won’t see what an elite GM would do with the club and budget. But hey, there’s value in league average. And part of me is always sure this is the year he breaks out. He swings out of the zone a lot, but he’ll hit his share of home runs.

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  8. Terry says:

    Personally I think its ridiculous to have the White Sox this low but I do understand the nature of such lists. To Matt’s point above the White Sox are consistently underrated and I disagree with the statement about a lack of bargains on the roster. Arb eligible players certainly count towards that goal and having player like Danks and Quentin in addition to the contracts of Alexei and Floyd certainly make it possible to afford the likes of a Peavy.

    I’d guess an evaulation of these type of lists in the past decade and the White Sox actual performance is in stark contrast. Hell it wasn’t long ago (2007) how I read consistently they wouldn’t compete again for the foreseeable future and they won the division in 08. I suspect all these middle of the road projections will reach a similar fate.

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