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Pitchers and Catchers Report: A #Soxtober2016 Preview

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This has been such a weird off season. It started off with a bang when the Sox drastically improved two, maybe three positions with the acquisitions of Brett Lawrie to play 2B, Todd Frazier to man the hot corner and Avila/Navarro to platoon at catcher. These pickups have been discussed ad nauseum and everyone is in concurrence that they were fantastic, necessary moves. But even with the upgrades the Sox have made this winter, fans have had a serious case of blue balls. They’ve been tied to just about every free agent available this winter. From Cespedes, Upton and Gordon to Desmond and Fowler, the Sox have been “in” on these guys. Yet they haven’t made that one last big splash that can put them over the edge. Fowler and Desmond have yet to sign, and there’s still plenty of time to make a trade, but for whatever reason a major signing never came to fruition. That said, the Sox are within striking distance more so than they’ve been since 2008, and with a division that is completely up for grabs, let’s take a quick look at what the Sox need to do to separate themselves from the pack that is the rest of the AL Central.

 

WIN DIVISION GAMES

– Last year, the Sox went 32-44 against the AL Central. BOLD STATEMENT: This is not good. The Royals are obviously coming off a championship and back-to-back pennants, but they are expected to regress to the mean a bit in 2016. If any team is still a year or two away, it’s Minnesota, but both Cleveland and Detroit will both be making a major push at the Central title. Cleveland has power arms, Detroit has power bats, and the Sox have a will see these guys for just under 50% of the season. Winning divisional games has been the bane of the White Sox existence in recent years, and if they don’t perform to at least a .500 record in these ~75 games this year, they might as well start the fire sale.

 

UPGRADE RF RIGHT NOW

– No, like right fucking now. After Avi’s hot start to 2015, I thought we were watching a future stud. That said, his BABIP in April was ridiculously high and come May he plummeted back down to earth. As of now, he’s slated to be the Sox opening day RF again. The thing about Avisail Garcia is this: he’s not a good “baseball” player. Baseball is in quotes because though he possesses world class athletic measurables, those things don’t translate on the field. He’s 6’4’’, 240 pounds but only had 32 extra base hits in ’15. He runs like a deer, yet he looks completely lost in the OF and on the bases. He has an above average arm, yet concedes force outs by missing cuts. The list goes on and on. Among players with at least 1200 swings, no hitter in baseball chased as many pitches as Avisail Garcia with 503 in 1203 pitches seen. He doesn’t have good baseball acumen, and it’s extremely hard, if not impossible to learn that at the age of 24- 25. At that point a player either has it or he doesn’t. If the Sox were to sign say, a Dexter Fowler, the increase from a below replacement level player to a 2-3WAR player is extremely significant, which is what makes this offseason so puzzling. Hopefully Garcia flips a switch and proves 99% of baseball minds wrong. But what pisses me off the most about this offseason this might have been the best buyer’s market for top of the line corner outfielders ever, yet the Sox still haven’t addressed the need for an upgrade here, even though every quality upgrade available was available for substantially less than what they were presumed to be at the conclusion of the 2015 season. It’s MIND BOTTLING. So again, I ask, what was the purpose of the Lawrie/Frazier acquisitions if they weren’t going to shove all their chips to the middle? Those moves should have made them pot committed, but until they upgrade RF, they’re just stuck in organizational limbo. Seriously infuriating.

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Carlos Rodon Has To Turn Into The Stud He Was Drafted To Be

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– Rodon showed glimpses of why he was selected 3rd overall in 2014 last year. He averaged a strikeout/ inning, had a great .71 HR/9 rate and was worth 2.1 WAR in just ~140IP. That said, he struggled with fastball command (as expected) early in the season and finished the year with a 4.6BB/9 rate. Not good, but what was incredibly encouraging about Rodon’s 2015 was his work down the stretch. In his last 8 starts, he had 54.2IP, a 1.81 ERA and he cut his walk rate to 3.48. No one is expecting him to match that production over the course of an entire season, but with another year of Coop’s tutelage, it’s not farfetched to say that Rodon will blossom into an upper-echelon big league starter in 2016. Teaming him up with Sale and Quintana at the top of the rotation will equate to a lot of wins. ‘Nuff said.

 

Matt Latos Is The Team’s X Factor

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– Before the Latos signing, I would have said Erik Johnson was the 2016 X-factor. Now unless Latos shits the bed in spring and Johnson performs lights out Latos assumes that role. Simply put, Latos is extremely low risk ($3MM/ 1 year) high reward (averaged 4WAR from 2010-2014). Yes, by all accounts he’s a complete asshole, his fastball velo has dropped and he’s been injured, but if he can muster a 2ish fWAR season for just $3MM from the 5 spot in the rotation, this signing was an absolute steal. The Sox are projected to have one of the best 1-3 starters in terms of fWAR in the league, but they projected to be dead last from their 4-5th starters until the Latos signing. Herm Schneider has the best track record in baseball of keeping pitchers healthy, and until Latos got hurt in 2015 he already amassed 116IP, a 3.69FIP and 1.5 fWAR. If he can give the Sox those exact numbers extrapolated over the course of 160+ innings, the Sox can and will be in a good position to make the playoffs.

 

2016 Knee-Jerk Predictions

– Chris Sale wins the Cy Young Award

– The Sox acquire Ian Desmond in the coming days, and their infield of Abreu, Lawrie, Desmond

and Frazier leads all of baseball in HRs

– Adam Eaton is an All Star

– Carson Fulmer dominates in Charlotte, is a June call up

– Laroche rebounds and his .220/.330 with 20 bombs

– ^^^ no chance in fucking hell this happens

– Tim Anderson dominates in Charlotte, is a June call up

– Robin Ventura gets the team to play above their expectations

– ^^^ LOL

 

 

2016 Deep-Thought and Final Standings Predictions

– Everyone and their mother knows that as it sits, the White Sox are about a .500 team right now. The thing is, the rest of the division isn’t much worse or better than .500 right now either. It’s completely there for the taking, they just need to make one more move of significance. I have no doubt gun-slinging Kenny and the more methodical Hahn have something up their sleeve. They know just as well as anyone else that they are close to the light, but not quite there. What form that move comes in remains to be seen, but it has to happen.

– Here’s me talking about how the Sox need to upgrade one more position to win the division:

 

– If they sign or trade for a 2-3 win player? 86-76

– If they don’t sign or trade for a 2-3 win player? 82-80 It’s right there for the taking. The AL Central might be the hardest division in all of baseball to predict. Each team can swing a good 8 or so games in each direction from their predicted PECOTA records. All things considered, not if, but when they upgrade SS or RF, the Sox have the most well rounded team in the division; a very solid 3-4-5 with a great leadoff hitter and decent glue guys, the best 1-3 starting pitchers in the Central coupled with a more than solid bullpen, and a few promising prospects in Anderson and Fulmer who may be a spark to the team come June or so.

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AL Central Division:

1. White Sox 86-76

2. Tigers 84-78

3. Royals 83-79

4. Indians 82-80

5. Twins 78-84

If the Sox shit the bed this year, it’s time to start the firesale, but that’s not gonna happen. Not this

year. Gimme some post season White Sox baseball.