Chicago White Sox
Three teams in the American League lost 100 games last season. MLB has averaged one 100-loss team each of the last six years. There hadn’t been three in the same league since 2002 when the Royals, Tigers, and Devil Rays managed to lose 100, 106, and 106 games, respectively.
The hype about the White Sox early in the offseason came as a mystery to me. Now, with Eloy Jimenez not making the Opening Day roster and Manny Machado out in San Diego, the hype and optimism have been replaced with despair and pessimism. It certainly looks like another long year on the South Side.
The White Sox went 62-100 last season and lost five straight and eight of nine to end the year. Per BaseRuns, the White Sox were a 95-loss team, but Pythagorean Win-Loss had them right where they should be. As one of three doormats in the AL Central, and with another top-heavy year on the horizon in the American League, the White Sox will be a tough team to back most days.
Money Line Spots
Even though bullpens have increased in importance, betting odds are still based on starting pitchers. There aren’t any in this rotation I’d be interested in consistently backing. Reynaldo Lopez does have some intrigue. His 3.91 ERA, 4.63 FIP, and 5.22 xFIP will make him a fade candidate for most of the market, but we may be able to go against the grain at times. He induces a lot of fly balls. xFIP assumes a league average HR/FB%. He won’t post one of those. Interestingly, Lopez was better last season against lefties than righties, though some of that was noise-related because of BABIP.
Lopez has limited righties to wOBAs of .293 and .314 the last two years. When he pitches in a fly ball-friendly ballpark against a right-handed-heavy lineup, I’ll have some interest. Lefties posted a .338 wOBA and a .495 SLG in 2017, but a .306 wOBA and a .393 SLG in 2018. Maybe he’s worthwhile in big parks overall or against teams with low slugging percentages.
The lineup will be a little bit better with Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso, so the White Sox could find themselves in some coin flip situations against pitchers as bad as their own.
White Sox totals are tough. The team was 75-77-10 to the under last year. The White Sox were outscored by 190 runs. They allowed 848 and scored only 656. Chicago had the highest K% in baseball last season. They shouldn’t this year with Jay and Alonso, but strikeout pitchers carve them up. Those are still going to be under spots.
Against pitch-to-contact guys, though, the White Sox might have some more success. We know that their pitching staff is going to allow a lot of runs. If the White Sox offense can put balls in play, they might score some runs of their own. Usually teams that strike out a lot also walk a fair amount. Chicago did not. That’s why we need pitch-to-contact guys for this to work. Against “Finesse” Pitchers, as defined by Baseball-Reference as guys in the bottom third of the league in strikeouts plus walks, the White Sox posted a .271/.329/.458 slash. That .787 OPS actually ranked eighth. The seven teams above the White Sox all made the playoffs.
If they’re going to be overpowered, they’re not going to score. If they’re going to put balls in play, they should be able to score a bit and this also creates some additional money line spots.
Individual Players to Watch
Ervin Santana – I’ll be interested to see how Ervin Santana progresses and how he is lined. Santana posted a 3.38/3.81/4.21 pitcher slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) in 2016. He posted a 3.28/4.46/4.77 in 2017. He only made five starts last year and they weren’t good. He might be the most polished turd in this rotation if he’s healthy, which is scary. Even the worst teams win 60 games, though, so somebody has to pitch the White Sox to some wins. Maybe it’ll be Santana?
Yoan Moncada – This offense would look a lot better if Yoan Moncada figured it out. He’ll turn 24 in late May and already has 901 plate appearances at the MLB level. This is the year when you’d like to see him step forward. He hit 17 homers and stole 12 bases, but also struck out 33.4 percent of the time. He did walk more than 10 percent of the time, making him one of the few in this lineup that can draw a free pass. He makes some good contact and he increased his BB% in the second half, but also lost virtually all of his power. I’ll be watching him closely from a totals standpoint since the White Sox are putting him high up in the order.