Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cubs Playoff Odds Expand By 17%

Per Colin Wyers at BP, the Adam Wainright injury has further tightened the NL Central. The Cards' playoff odds have dropped from 58 to 44%. The Brewers and Reds each jumped four points to 39% and 23%, respectively. (How the Brewers are not favored to win this division, I don't know.)

Most importantly, the Cubbies playoff odds have expanded a whopping 17%, exploding from 11.1% all the way to 13%.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(East Side = Third Place)

Does it make me a bad person if when reading the news regarding Adam Wainwright's elbow I heard this in the back of my head?

In all seriousness, this is serious. Wainwright is easily one of the top six or seven pitchers in the National League, and he's been a steady anchor for their rotation for years. When you add in Chris Carpenter's general inability to stay healthy, that equals a whole mountain of expectation and pressure on the young Jaime Garcia to repeat his rookie success.

This is sad news to fans of dominant pitching, and yet another swift kick to the nuts of the self-appointed "Greatest Fans in Baseball." There's no word yet on how severe the injury is, but the Albert Pujols Farewell Train might have just derailed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Baseball Prospectus Projects a ".500 Kind of Summer" in Chicago

Baseball Prospectus's annual PECOTA Projections for the entire league were fully released today and the Worldwide Leader in Sabremetrics wasn't particularly impressed with either the Sox or Cubs, projecting them to finish 82-80 and 80-82 respectively.

I'm going to pick up my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2011 sometime next week so I can start to look over their analysis of the Sox's roster.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chris Sale to the Bullpen

All it took was one semi-rambling post from me for the Sox to finally make a decision about Sale.

Assuming that Jake Peavy will not be ready Opening Day (and they have a plan for that, as they could go to a 4-man rotation for most of April and only need a 5th starter twice), the pitching staff should shore up something like this:

Rotation: Buehrle, Danks, Floyd, Jackson, Philip Humber/Lucas Harrell
Bullpen: Sale, Thornton, Ohman (yes, Cub fans, that's who you think it is) from the left; Santos, Pena, Crain, Gregory Infante from the right

Happy White Sox Day!

It seems coincidentally fitting that on the same day Chicago is getting a break from a cold winter with a wave of Spring-like warmth, the Sox open camp today in Arizona. Yes, winter is on its last legs. Soon, spring and summer will be here.

Last year, the Sox won 88 games in an emotionally ravaging roller coaster of a season that saw the Sox fall as far as 9 games under .500, rattle off an 11- and 9-game win streak in June, lead the division at the All-Star Break, and unravel in September. At age 34, Paul Konerko had his best season at the plate, hitting .312/.393/.584 with 39 homers and 111 RBI en route to finishing 5th in the AL MVP voting, while Bobby Jenks' swan song with the White Sox saw him post career-worsts in IP, H/9 IP, and BB/9 IP before getting called out by Ozzie's son via Twitter on the way out the door.

In between all that mess, Jake Peavy suffered an injury so rare there is no established timetable for his return, the Sox posted the best record in the American League from June 9 on (when they hit their nadir of 9 games under .500), Alexei Ramirez turned into arguably the premier shortstop in the A.L., and oh hey, we replaced the Mark Kotsay/Andruw Jones Blackhole of DH Ineptitude with Adam Dunn.

There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis of this team as the spring rolls on, but for now we can just review some of the banner headlines for the (very) early 2011 season.

What to Do with Chris Sale
This time last year, Chris Sale was a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University. Now, the 13th overall pick of the 2010 Draft is at the Major League camp, working alongside the Sox starting pitching rotation. To date, Sale has 33.2 innings of professional baseball experience under his belt so to say his road to this stage has been extraordinary might be an understatement.

To be fair, one of the major reasons Sale's name is even in the discussion as the Sox's 5th starter is the uncertainty of Jake Peavy's status. Though his surgery and rehab (to this point) have been deemed successful, there's not much known about a detached latissimus dorsi muscle, so his return date is still pretty speculative.

Still, there's reason to worry about Sale's rush to the Majors. One of the main reasons cited for him falling to the Sox at 13 in last year's Draft was some concerns about his mechanics and frame. At 6'5''/170 it's not a stretch to compare him to another lanky, rail-thin starter, Brandon McCarthy, who also pitches out of the maligned Inverted W (Sale, McCarthy). Since bursting onto the scene with the Sox in 2005, McCarthy has had nothing but arm troubles.

Farm System Completely Barren
Last year's deadline deal that sent Dan Hudson to Arizona for Edwin Jackson has been called both a savvy acquisition and a desperate move, mostly depending on your opinion of Kenny Williams. Regardless though, it is fact that the Sox farm system is one of, if not the weakest in the game. The Sox simply do not have much in terms of tradeable assets, either in terms of young players or salary wiggle room. The departure of Hudson and the promotion of Beckham leaves the Sox with 1 blue chip prospect, Sale, who will likley be spending most of his summer in Chicago. Add the fact that signing Adam Dunn cost the Sox their 1st round pick in compensation to the Nationals and the White Sox don't pick until the Sandwich Round, 47th overall, this June.

Down on the farm, Dayan Viciedo proved to the world he could hit Major League pitching during his time in Chicago. The young Cuban slugged .519 in 106 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he also demonstrated he has no eye for the strike zone yet, striking out 25 times while drawing just 2 walks. Former top prospect Tyler Flowers crashed and burned in 2010, hitting .220/.334/.434 as a 24-year-old in a AAA bandbox. The supposed crown jewel of the Javier Vazquez deal seems to have played himself out of serious contention for playing time with the Sox. The only other interesting player of note is Jared Mitchell, whose 2010 season was lost during the last week of his impressive Spring performance when he broke his ankle making a play on a ball at the wall. Mitchell did return for the Arizona Fall League, but looked rusty and rushed as he hit a meager .163/.239/.200 in 24 games for the Saguaros.