A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Six: Chicago White Sox
Number six is our fifth American League team and the third of the four playoff teams from that league. The inclusion of the strength of schedule factor makes the biggest impact here as the White Sox, by virtue of having the sixth most difficult schedule in baseball during 2008 vault four spots up the list after adjusting for it.
When evaluating the White Sox relative strengths and weaknesses it is important to remember that their home park is a veritable launching pad and thus while BaseRuns might make you think the White Sox’s offense (8th ranked) was more key to their success than their defense (13th), but those are not park adjusted numbers. Once you factor in the park, it becomes clear just how important the White Sox pitching was this season while the offense was rather pedestrian.
The White Sox offense was driven by Carlos Quentin with solid assistance from Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome and a surprising Alexei Ramirez. Aside from those three however there wasn’t much to write home about. Notably there were huge issues with getting runners on base and, perhaps atypical to Ozzie Guillen‘s reputation built on the White Sox World Series run from a few years ago, the White Sox this season were very much a station to station team ranking last in the league in triples and second to last in stolen bases, but leading in home runs.
The star of this team was the rotation which boasted almost universally above average performances and fronted by Javier Vazquez, John Danks and Mark Buehrle. Gavin Floyd provided a solid innings-eater performance in addition. On the relief side there were numerous more good pitchers. Bobby Jenks and the saves obvious get the lion’s share of attention, but Matt Thornton‘s blossoming into a useful left-handed reliever was just as, if not more, important. Scott Linebrink even rediscovered his good San Diego-era performance level. All in all, just a fantastic all around pitching staff.
The good news for Chicago is that their pitching staff shouldn’t see too much turnover into 2009, though one would be wise to remain cautious on the bullpen performance as those are always tough to count on. The offense needs help though. They should get some in Nick Swisher regressing from his poor luck (20.9% line drive rate, .251 BABIP), but they’ll need more than that.
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