The White Sox owe their fans an apology

The White Sox decided to experiment with their DH spot in 2010. Instead of re-signing a prodigious slugger with great on base skills (Jim Thome), general manager Kenny Williams instead decided Mark Kotsay was awesome (he is not) and that the DH should exist for the alternative purposes of resting the fielders (some of whom—specifically Carlos Quentin—should not be playing defense in the first place).

Comically enough, Manager Ozzie Guillen blames Thome for no longer being a White Sox. Quoth Guillen:

Jim Thome made the decision to leave to the Dodgers,” Guillen said initially about the August 2009 deal. “He made that decision to himself, all right.”

Though Guillen has sarcastically accepted the blame for the Thome non-signing, he and Williams owe a genuine apology to White Sox fans. Here is why:

The White Sox, after Tuesday night’s win against Cleveland, sit four games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central standings. Thome, who makes a measly $1.5 million this season, has accrued +2.4 WAR for the Twins while Kotsay, who has the same salary, has produced -0.6 WAR for the White Sox.

In a vacuum, a re-signing of Thome by the White Sox would give the South Siders a +3.0 WAR swing in the AL Central Standings. Note, however, that Thome has only 279 plate appearances this season while splitting DH duties with Jason Kubel. Of course, Thome’s been platooned, which may exaggerate his bottom line, but any potential non-platoon “regression” would surely be offset by the additional playing time he would have seen with the White Sox. Let’s just leave the WAR at +2.4 and call it even.

The White Sox do not play in a vacuum, however. Thome, in not re-signing with the White Sox, signed a deal with the Twins. Hence, in a Thome-on-the-Sox-over-Kotsay theoretical situation, you have to not only add +3.0 WAR to the White Sox 2010 win total, but also subtract 2.4 WAR from the Twins’ 2010 win total. That turns a 4.0 game lead by the Twins in the AL Central into a 1.5 game lead by the White Sox.

Still think it is okay to be sarcastic, Ozzie? It gets worse.

Not only are the White Sox sitting 4.0 games behind the Twins, but they are in need of a hitting DH. (Turns out burning Mark Kotsay’s bat was not enough of a move at the July trade deadline. Maybe the White Sox should have tried burning Kotsay’s contract (and Mark Teahen‘s, while they were at it) instead.

Unable to procure either Adam Dunn or Lance Berkman, the White Sox claimed Manny Ramirez from the Dodgers in exchange for salary relief. Without question, the Manny move is an upgrade for the White Sox. Whereas Ramirez is projected by ZiPS to hit .290/.398/.533 (.399 wOBA) for the rest of the season, Kotsay was pegged at only .244/.313/.384 (.305 wOBA) down the stretch. Dave Cameron sees this difference as worth around +1.0 WAR for the White Sox. Unfortunately for the White Sox, however, they are four games behind the Twins (thus, they have three more wins to make up somehow) and Thome has a wOBA of .413 on the season (with a projected wOBA of .370 down the stretch).

Per MLB Trade Rumors, 31 games of “salary relief” means $3.8 million. That figure is more than 2.5 times what Thome will make all season and almost $1 million more than Kotsay and Thome’s salaries combined.

Then, of course, you need to consider that Manny is Manny and you never know quite what you are going to get with him. He might try to get pregnant again or invoke his alleged “do not play” clause during day games. In another chapter in the “Manny Being Manny” saga, he took the early flight to Cleveland from L.A. Tuesday morning and was at Progressive Field in time to play ball, but was not in the White Sox starting lineup. He told reporters that he felt like he was 25 again, but he could not play because, as TBO speculates, he woke up to early that day. Guillen’s comments after the game seem to confirm this speculation.

To summarize, the White Sox are not in first place this year because they decided that subpar offensive production from the DH position was acceptable so long as they could rest Alex Rios‘ and Juan Pierre‘s knees every so often and find a way to work Mark Kotsay’s mighty bat into the lineup. Had the White Sox just not give Kotsay a bat to burn to begin with, the Sox would be at least a half game closer in the AL Central Standings.

Because the White Sox gave Kotsay said bat, they are now paying 2.5 times the money it would have cost them to keep Thome all season for just 31 games (scratch that, 30 games, as Manny did not play Tuesday) of Mannywood. Talk about “fail.”

I wonder if the White Sox will sell re-branded Manny dreadlock caps left over from his time in L.A.

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Jeffrey Gross is an attorney who periodically moonlights as a (fantasy) baseball analyst. He also responsibly enjoys tasty adult beverages. You can read about those adventures at his blog and/or follow him on Twitter @saBEERmetrics.

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28 Comments on "The White Sox owe their fans an apology"

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Mitch
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Mitch

I genuinely enjoy the snark, but is there truth to what Ozzie says about Thome not wanting to resign? Would the Sox have been able to sign him at his current low rate?

Erik
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Erik

Wait, why is it Thome’s fault that he was traded to the Dodgers in 2009?

Also, wasn’t it more of Guillen wanting to have a rotating carousel at DH than Williams? That is what I have gathered, at least.

LuzinskisBeard
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LuzinskisBeard

It’s amazing how much they really missed Jim Thome when they went 25-5 this season.

LuzinskisBeard
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LuzinskisBeard
If you have actually watched this team rather than read a stat sheet, you’d realize that the White Sox pitching being decimated by injury and inconsistency is way more responsible for their struggles in August than silly Jim Thome debates. I’m also really befuddled that you would use the term “owe their fans an apology” for fielding a contending ballclub that was in first place at the all-star break and is still in contention in September? Apologies are reserved for GM’s like Jim Hendry who commit $150 million dollars for a team that wasn’t over .500 ONCE the ENTIRE YEAR,… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
While I agree Jim Hendry’s been an awful GM and make no apologies for him, I see no reason that one GM is an excuse for another bad GM. The “starting staff” has has no serious injury decimation. Nothing like what the 2009 Cubs experienced. Peavy’s injury hurts, but he was not going to be an elite pitcher at the cell. I predicted a 4.20 ERA preseason for him and his 4.11 xFIP (before park factors/Sox defense considered) was not too far off the mark. Garcia more than made up for Peavy’s absence and posted a sub 4 ERA for… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

@LuzinskisBeard,

Every team goes on some streak in the season. They may not have missed Thome for 30 days of the season, but you can surely guess they’ve missed him the other 102 that have been played. Again, noting that Thome versus Kotsay is a full 3 win difference.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

Heck, Andruw Jones would have been an upgrade over Kotsay. Why not just run him out there?

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
@Erik, I could not tell you why it is Thome’s fault. All he told management was that he’d appreciate the opportunity to get a ring, so they traded him to a contender. However, Thome expressed interest in resigning. I did not realize Thome controlled the whole situation, which he likely did not, which is what makes Guillen’s comment so bizarre. Also, Erik, you are correct that the rotating DH was Guillen’s preference more than Kenny Williams. However, K.W., as GM, was ultimately responsible for letting his manager go with such a poor strategy. If anything, Jones should be in Right… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

Apologies, by the way, if this post seemed excessively abrasive. The issue of Kenny Williams/Ozzie Guillen is one which I tend to get over-fired up about.

Also, @LuzinskisBeard, are you referring to the recent bullpen injuries as the decimation to the pitching staff?

Joel Dobney
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Joel Dobney

This whole conversation is, in the words of Sam Weinberg, smoke-filled coffeehouse crap. No matter what other circumstances are affecting the White Sox record, the fact remains that the would be 5.5 games further ahead in the standings if they had Thome rather than allowing the Twins to have him. Thome would have been a bigger contributor to the success of the Sox than Kotsay. That’s the point of the article. Everything else is just distractions from the main point: the Sox laid an egg when the decided not to sign Thome.

John Dank's Soulpatch
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John Dank's Soulpatch
Ozzie was the one who lobbied for Kotsay, I sat there at Soxfest when Kenny said in front of everyone regarding Thome, “I will leave that up to Ozzie.”  People want to cite the 25-5 run and say that Thome wasn’t missed during that stretch, how about the first 2 months of the season when they wasted AT LEAST 15 quality starts because they were one of the worst offenses in baseball.  If you have a capable DH (it’s called designated HITTER, hence Kotsay should never be associated with it), they are not sitting 4 games behind that evil team… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

@Mitch,

How much do you think it would have taken to sign Thome? Even at $5 million, it’d be better deal than 30 days of manny.

LuzinskisBeard
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LuzinskisBeard
Reading Comprehension is a skill. I wrote that the White Sox pitching has been decimated by “injury AND inconsistency” not just recent injuries, specifically to Putz and Thornton (1.4 WAR and 1.7 WAR, respectively). Danks and Floyd have not been “very effective” lately. They are part of the overall inconsistency of the pitching staff that I’m referring to. John Danks gave up 5 Earned Runs or more in 4 out of his last 9 starts and Gavin Floyd gave up 6 earned runs or more twice in back to back games versus the Twins last month. Is that what you… Read more »
jonnyp
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jonnyp
Jeffrey – you’re engaging in a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking, don’t you think?  You can’t criticize a GM for not making a decision at the end of 2009 for a player’s performance through 80% of the 2010 season.  The correct analysis would be to evaluate the decision faced by Williams after the 2009 season ended.  As you know, Thome’s WAR declined each year he was on the White Sox: 4.7 in 2006, 3.7 in 2007, 2.4 in 2008 and 1.6 in 2009.  Therefore, it was not unreasonable for Williams/Guillen to assume that Thome’s production would follow this trend in… Read more »
Jason B
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Jason B
Joel: “No matter what other circumstances are affecting the White Sox record, the fact remains that the would be 5.5 games further ahead in the standings if they had Thome rather than allowing the Twins to have him.” No.  They would *very* likely be better, yes.  But you can’t simply translate the discrepancy in WAR (with all of its shortcomings) directly to on-the-field wins.  Probably fair to say that they would be a few games better, and right in the thick of the race.  ‘Exactly 5.5 wins’ just puts too fine a point on it. “The Sox laid an egg… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
@jonnyp, Let me elaborate further about hindsight here. I wrote a post back in January addressing the subject, wherein I wrote: “Thome was a +1.5 WAR player in 3-4 months. . . of ABs for the White Sox as [their] DH. . . . . . DH’s generally have limited value in general because they provide one-side of the game contribution and get a -17.5 run reduction (-1.7 WAR) from their batting line. In other words, any DH is inherently less valuable and going to have limited value in comparison to “other baseball players” who play the field. If you… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
I guess what I am trying to say here is that the rotating DH idea was apparent as a bad idea before the experiment began. As I also previously wrote: “Rotating mediocre offensive players, whose total value comes from all-around play, through the DH role is a terrible idea. The DH exists to maximize offense. Omar Visquel, who posted +1.3 WAR in limited action (62 games) last season, will not translate into winning additional games if you play him at DH.” I suppose you might even include Kotsay within the scope of that comment. The point being, more or less,… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
@LuzinskisBeard, My words may be harsh, but I won’t apologize for them. I was going for some shock value with the title, sure, but the content is what matters and I stand behind said content 100%. If you want to blame anything, you should be blaming the White Sox defense for the team’s perpetual problems. Danks is not the Ace the broadcasters make him out to be, but he posted solid FIPs the whole year, August excepted: 2.83, 3.72, 4.00, 2.81 April-July. (4.84 mark in August) Those peripherals look pretty consistent to me. Floyd’s been pretty consistent too. 3.71/4.07 FIP/xFIP… Read more »
scottz
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scottz
As a Twins fan, I love to see the White Sox fans fight.  Please, continue. I have a couple of comments, the first being that it is too easy to just take 3.0 WAR for -Kotsay/+Thome and subtract 2.4 WAR from the Twins for no Thome, and therefore the Sox would actually be winning by 1.5 games. There are too many other variables (like, who would the Twins have signed/used in the DH position and how much of the 2.4 would that have mitigated). The Kotsay signing…I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.  If that’s your… Read more »
LuzinskisBeard
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LuzinskisBeard
“Some” streak, is not even close to being synonymous with “historic” or “something that happens once every baseball generation” which is what the White Sox streak was. I hate to have to tell you that, but again I understand that word selection is clearly not one of your strong suits because you need to go for “shock value”. So wait, now I should blame “the White Sox defense for the teams perpetual problems” and NOT the absence of Jim Thome? Or am I “overgeneralizing” your statements again even though I’m doing nothing but directly quoting you? Again you continue to… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
@LuzinskisBeard, Don’t pretend like you’ve been directly quoting me, as much of your above has paraphrased, hyperbolized and generalized my statements. It is very demagogic and this is the last response I will make towards comments which I consider null in the area of contribution and discourse. First, I know how Kenny Williams operates. I am nonetheless criticizing it. Pirating away former top prospects will only get you so far. Sure, it has worked for the Sox in recent years, but developing impact players is just as important as gambling on the failures of others. The White Sox payroll of… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross

@Scottz,

Let’s pretend then that the Twins signed/employed a +2.5 WAR DH if the Sox resigned Thome. You’d still have a 3 win swing in the Sox-Twins standings differential. A 1-game difference is much less pronounced over the final 30 games than a 4 game disparity. True, the sox-twins have matchups to be had in September, but this race should be closer than it is.

And for the record, I am a Cubs fan, not a Sox fan.

jonnyp
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jonnyp

Actually Jeffrey, the White Sox could not have signed Jermaine Dye, as he refused to sign as a full time DH.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
@Jonnyp, Fair comment. If that is the case, I repeal that statement. My favorite rebuttal here is one that spilled over to another blog wherein the accuse me of ignoring the fact that Thome can’t run or stretch a double into a single and that hence he’s worth less than I and wOBA and WAR proclaim. This is a quick response, using ESQBRR, aka “Equivalent Base Running Runs.” B.P. describes this stat as one which “Measures the number of runs contributed by a player’s advancement on the bases, above what would be expected based on the number and quality of… Read more »
jonnyp
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jonnyp
Rexy,  I’m assuming your harshest personal comments weren’t directed at me.  Either way, I’d like to respond to some of your comments. You said you like facts and conclusive data.  Here are a few, which follow excerpts from your post: “Jim Thome never lost his batting eye or power with the White Sox…” Thome was with the Sox from 2006 – 2009.     wOBA OBP   SLG   BB% 2006 .420 .416 .598 17.5% 2007 .410 .410 .563 17.7% 2008 .370 .362 .503 15.1% 2009 .367 .366 .481 15.9% These are just a few stats.  You can pretty much… Read more »
Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
Decline or not, Thome was still a top DH in terms of BRAR and WAR last season. A .367 wOBA in 2009 and .370 wOBA in 2008 is nothing to sneeze at. That Thome “only walked” 15+% of the time and “only” slugged for a career low ISO of .232 last season is a testament to just how good of a hitter Thome still is. Thome was 25% better than the average hitter in 2008 and 2009, which is much better than the wRC+ Kotsay’s posted since 2004. Of the preseason projectons, Bill James was the highest on Thome, pegging… Read more »
Sexy Rexy
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Sexy Rexy
DISCLAIMER: As a fellow Game Of Inches blog author, you can criticize me all you want for being biased towards Jeff, but when I don’t believe he’s right, I’ll absolutely call him out on it. See here http://gameofinches.blogspot.com/search?q=cleveland+indians, here http://gameofinches.blogspot.com/search?q=alexei+ramirez, and our 25 Board Bets But with that being said, Jeff is 100% completely right on this I am a huge White Sox fan and watch a good chunk of their games. If you want to use the argument “I can see how they play with my eyes” I’ll use that same argument back at you but with a different… Read more »
Sexy Rexy
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Sexy Rexy
……… Back to my main point, did the White Sox inherently need Jim Thome during the first part of the season where the went into the All Star break in first? No they did not. But that’s why there’s 162 games and not 81. The lack of Thome’s offense is rearing it’s ugly head as the season goes on, as the sample size expands, and as we getter a better glimpse of how good teams and healthy teams truly perform. Do the White Sox need to issue an official apology? Absolutely not. If you think that’s what Jeff was getting… Read more »
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