Cleaning Up Kenny Williams’ Mess

In spite of a questionable off-season approach to their designated hitter situation and a deadline deal that didn’t fill that vortex of suck, the Chicago White Sox are in first place on the backs of Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko, and most of the pitching staff. After facing Baltimore for one more tonight, they will be going into a critical 3 game series against division rival Minnesota. It doesn’t get us anywhere to look at the past, so the question is what can the White Sox do to maximize the value of the players they have going forward?

The most glaring weakness is still the DH spot. Mark Kotsay has received the majority of the playing time here, and he has also been the team’s least valuable hitter. Kotsay has posted a slash line of .228/.305/.378, with a wOBA of .299. Kotsay’s –0.7 WAR is not only the worst on the team, but tied for fourth worst in the MLB among players with 280 or more PAs. It’s clear that Kotsay isn’t getting the job done, but who is the most viable choice to replace him?

Young Cuban slugger Dayan Viciedo is an interesting option. He’s posting a .361 wOBA (.310/.310/.521) in his first 71 PAs. On the surface, that looks great, but his .333 BABIP is unsustainable for someone as… um… husky as Viciedo. Also, his walk rate of 0% is going to be exploited soon enough (Viciedo’s already swinging at 39.8% of balls outside of the strike zone). It’s clear that even with his incredible power, he’s just not ready for the Majors, and would likely be eaten alive in the playoffs.

Mark Teahen is nearing the completion of his rehab stint in Charlotte, and could be back with the club in the next week. The .255/.340/.387 (.317 wOBA) line he put up while starting at third base isn’t the most stunning, but against RHP he’s hitting .287/.376/.444 (.363 wOBA).

Andruw Jones has played in the DH role some, while also serving as the fourth outfielder. Andruw’s .204/.312/.444 line gives him a .336 wOBA, placing him in the neighborhood of being a league average hitter. Jones benefits from facing lefties, against whom he posts a line of .235/.350/.515 (.376 wOBA).

So based on those numbers, the answer to the DH scenario appears to be a Teahen/Jones platoon, right?

Wrong.

Well, half right. The White Sox currently have a right fielder who, while being a good hitter, is just terrible defensively. I’m of course referring to Jermaine Dye Carlos Quentin. Quentin’s line of .232/.328/.488 (.352 wOBA) is solid in it’s own right, but Quentin’s a great candidate to improve that line, thanks to the impending regression of his .213 BABIP. Quentin’s defense in the past two seasons has been quantifiably terrible. Back to back UZR/150s of –25.2 and –34.2 (the former in LF) have shown that Quentin can’t get the job done, and that he’s a DH (or maybe a first baseman, but that’s a discussion for 2011).

Teahen, meanwhile, has a UZR/150 of just –2.0 in 261 games in right. Jones, in 42 games this year, has a UZR/150 of 8.6. A platoon of these two players also would help the oft-injured Quentin stay healthy, keeping his dangerous bat in the lineup.

The White Sox are in a position that most didn’t think they could be in after the first two months of the season. The team has had some breaks, but if they’re going to compete with a very good Twins team, they have to utilize their players effectively. Getting Quentin out of the outfield and Mark Kotsay out of the lineup? Well, that’s just smart baseball.




Print This Post



12 Responses to “Cleaning Up Kenny Williams’ Mess”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. I must have forgot to add this, but you can find more of my writing at http://lightsabermetrics.blogspot.com/

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. MikeS says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Why does Ozzie insist on playing Quentin in Right and DH’ing Kotsay or Jones? He is accentuating their negatives and playing down the positives. He also puts Quentin at risk for injury which is not insignificant for a guy who has trouble staying in the lineup. Quentin tries hard out there and he’s got a strong, accurate arm but every time he dives for a ball that Jones would have caught easily I cringe and hope he comes through the experience with all his parts intact.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. I like your concept here, and I also like the way it was written. You did a good job in illustrating the problem, offering a passable solution, and then an even more interesting solution.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Matt Walsh says:

    Tough not to agree with your conclusion, but I don’t think the title is fair to Kenny (especially considering your opening sentence- “the Chicago White Sox are in first place on the backs of Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko”). Getting Alex Rios certainly deserves some credit.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. @Matt. Kenny gets credit for that waiver pickup, but he went into the year with no legitimate plan at the DH spot, which could have been easily filled with Jim Thome or Vlad Guerrero. I don’t think the whole team is a mess, but the 3B and LF situations aren’t optimal, and the DH spot is disastrous.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. CircleChange11 says:

    I don’t see what the hell the title has to do with anything. TCQ is Kenny Williams mess?

    Kotsay is a disaster, but the article doesn’t stop there. You bring up obvious points, Kotsay can’t DH and TCQ needs to get out of the field. The real problem is a lack of options. Reportedly, the CWS acquired EJax in order to get Dunn to fix the problem. WAS changed their mind on the deal, and the CWS got left high and dry.

    The line of “has been in the neighborhood of league average hitter” cracks me up. Is it too much to give KW credit for signing Jones and having him put up a 1 WAR season for 500K, for $4M+ in value? He’s been a league average hitter. Just say it. It’s healthy.

    Alex Rios was supposed to be the nail in KW’s coffin …. 10M a year for a player on the severe decline of his career. Surely, this would be KW’s worst mistake ever, and they’d be forced to fire him. Then, Rios goes out and is having a 4 WAR season for $10M, another ~6M+ in value.

    Hell, he may end up being the 4th biggest steal by KW behind Danks, Floyd, and Jenks.

    But, I’m wasting my breath …

    Not re-signing Jim Thome is hurting the CWS, IMO. I still can’t understand the logic behind that one.

    I don;t think the CWS have a ton of options, nor the minor league talent to execute some of the desirable ones.

    I don;t know all of the details behind the Dunn trade not going through. But Adam Dunn fixes the problem, and from all accounts, the CWS GM did what he was indicated to do in order to make it happen.

    I don’t see the big mess created by the GM …unless we just ignore all the positives and look at the negative. But, logically, there’s no reason to do that.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. @CC11 I think you’re not quite understanding what the title is referring to. The ‘mess’ isn’t the team as a whole, but the DH position. Kenny Williams makes good and bad moves, just like any other GM, and just like any other GM, moves like the Rios claim and the Putz and Jones deals don’t exonerate him from the mistake he made in going with the ‘rotating’ DH. The article is about maximizing value going forward, not judging the transactions that got the White Sox here.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. CircleChange11 says:

    I get it, but let’s dig deeper.

    [1] Just as one is required to say that Philly should have kept Lee, CWS should have kept Thome. Now, that’s out of the way …

    [2] Kotsay is a little below average (.322 wOBA) as a LHB v. RHP, which is how they’ve used him, except for 22 ABs (in which he’s HORRIBLE against LHPs).

    [3] Jones has been much better against LHP’s, but in a much smaller sample.

    [4] Whether Teahen DH’s or plays 3B is probably a wash. The slight gain you get with Omar in fielding is lost with Omar a a hitter.

    [5] Viceido has DH potential, but he’s so “hit or miss” (literally) I’m not sure you want him in there every day … or even every 2 outta 3 days. It’s debatable who is the lesser fielder, he or Teahen.

    [6] To me, the article overlooks the other choice at DH, Ramon Castro. .406 wOBA in 85 AB’s, including a .263 ISO. While it’s a SSS, it’s better production then the other options, since none of the fielders are a huge upgrade over TCQ … who due to his nature … intense, hyperactive, overly self0critical, might have the exact wrong makeup for a DH.

    There are just no really good options here. But, Kotsay ( .322 wOBA v. RHP) is about the same as Teahen (.326 v RHP) … so it’s hardly a “mess” to have Kotsay DH v. RHP instead of Teahen.

    We knew DH would be an issue from day 1.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. CircleChange11 says:

    Kotsay’s -0.7 WAR, in comparison to the others, is more of a reflection of positional replacement levels than it is batting production.

    Here’s the guys we’re looking at in terms of wOBA splits …

    TOT/vLHP/vRHP
    —————–
    Teahen — 319/167/366
    Kotsay — 300/064/322
    Jones — 330/358/310
    Castro — 406/507/367
    Viceido — 313/376/239
    Quentin — 360/358/361
    Vizquel — 318/282/328

    Castro getting a shot at DH makes the most sense to me. One could come up with varoius platoon arrangements for 3B/RF/DH, but none would guarantee continued performance with partial playing time.

    But, Kotsay at DH isn’t really a whole lot different than Teahen at DH, provided that Kotsay doesn’t hit against lefties.

    One could say …

    Against LHP
    —————
    Vizquel/Viceido 3B
    Jones RF
    Quentin DH

    Then Castro is left out.

    Against RHP
    ————–
    Teahen/Vizquel 3B
    Quentin RF
    Kotsay/Teahen DH

    Castro out again, but really we’re splitting hairs since none of the guys are really significantly better than the others.

    The desire would be for TCQ to be able to DH without killing himself between bad at bats, and the CWS to obtain a league average or so RF.

    But, my overall points were …

    [1] KW did do everything that he was to do in order to obtain Dunn, until WSN changed their mind (according to reports).
    [2] Why not Ramon Castro at DH?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Actually, your Castro point is interesting, but I think that the White Sox would get more value out of using him at catcher over A.J. Pierzynski and his .271 wOBA.

    As for Quentin, I understand that he’s very intense, but his defense is so bad that he’s only been a 0.1 WAR player this season. The White Sox have to try something else in RF because Quentin’s contributions are being wasted.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. CircleChange11 says:

    TCQ does have to get out of the OF. I would consider it a priority, because he can be a league average DH, which is a GOOD hitter. But losing 2 wins in the of due to his poor play is horrific … and well, doesn’t make sense when pitching is your strong point.

    For some reason AJ has a great reputation for “handling pitchers”. My personal opinion is that he’s the laziest, most half-assed, catcher I see. MOF, when I work with catchers and they half-hearted backhand a ball in the dirt instead of shifting over and blocking it, I ALWAYS say “C’mon AJ” and they know exactly what I mean.

    I’m certainly not suggesting that Castro is a .400 wOBA hitter, and I would thrilled is he were just league average … but he’s earned a shot at the job, since everyone else is throwing up .320 WOBAs.

    CWS should be in the market for a solid RF this off-season. I think you sit TCQ down in the office and say “Here’s the deal … can you handle it?” and then you have a DH or a trade piece.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Sox2727 says:

    Obviously in hindsight, the decision to not bring back Thome and use this “rotating” DH has failed miserably. It literally causes me great pain to see Mark Kotsay’s name in the lineup when I arrive at the ballpark. However, Kenny left this decision up to Ozzie who “needed” Kotsay because he’s a “good clubhouse guy.” You know what goes great in a clubhouse, a .350-.375 wOBA from your DH. I really feel that Kenny needed to step in and override Ozzie on this one, so I believe they’re equally to blame for this particular problem. How you can justify Kotsay being on a roster is beyond me. CQ should not be allowed to even own a glove and that has been clearly shown throughout his career. I’ve said it since the Sox fought to get back in this race, any time there is a pivotal series (i.e tonight starting in Minnesota) leave CQ’s glove at the airport and put Jones in right (despite his defensive mishaps that took place Sunday). I always want my best defensive lineup out there against the team from Canada South.

    Vote -1 Vote +1