Monday, November 15, 2010

Wrapping up the 2010 White Sox.

Major League Wrap Up

2010 was a pendulum-swing kind of season for White Sox. They opened poorly and there was talk of a fire-sale before they had even reached the trading deadline as there were rumors of AJ Pierzynski being on the block and much hand-wringing about the off season decisions of GM Kenny Williams. Particularly in regard to the teams designated hitters, Mark Kotsay (-0.7 WAR) and Mark Teahan (-0.6 WAR), who turned out to be terribly misguided signings. More on that later. After losing on June 8th, the team was 22-33 and 9.5 games out of first with little sign of a turnaround in their future.

But a turnaround happened to be EXACTLY what was in their future as the team went on a monster run from June 9th through August 7th, going 40-15 and turning a 9.5 game deficit into a 1.5 game lead - a lead that at one point swelled to as much as 3.5 games - while leapfrogging the Tigers and Twins. Despite losing starter Jake Peavy for the season, the White Sox continued to battle the Twins for the division until a decisive spate of games in late August and early September allowed the red-hot Twins to effectively salt the division away.

In between, there were inspired offensive performances from aging veteran and team leader Paul Konerko who had perhaps the best season of his career, posting career best marks in essentially every advanced metric, from OPS (.977), to wOBA (.415) and RC+ (160). Alex Rios also had a nice bounce-back season, posting a .791 OPS after tanking in 2009, and shortstop Alexei Ramirez turned in the best offensive season of any shortstop in what was a poor offensive group of AL shortstops while being hosed for the Gold Glove by one Derek Jeter.

On the mound, the Sox got another strong season from John Danks, who continues to cement himself as one of the better starting pitchers in the game, posting a 117 ERA+ while topping 200 innings for the second straight season, and posting another strong ERA (3.72). Kenny Williams also made an interesting move mid-season to deal off a struggling Daniel Hudson for the enigmatic Edwin Jackson who pitched brilliantly down the stretch for the Sox. In the bullpen Matt Thornton (164 ERA+) and J.J. Putz (154 ERA+) combined to form perhaps the best setup combination in all of baseball, despite late season struggles.

There were also some promising seasons from youngsters Sergio Santos and Chris Sale, both of whom lit the bullpen world on fire with 96mph fastballs and wipeout sliders they'd throw in any count en route to racking up K rates over nine. Sale, fresh out of college and the first player from the 2010 draft to reach the Majors, and Santos, a converted infielder, both struggled with their command to varying extents. But both have the talent to be fixtures in the rotation (Sale) and bullpen (Santos) for years to come. Brent Morel also looks to have some promise at third with strong defense and a solid bat, I'm expecting a very good 2011 for him, more on that another day.

As for the aforementioned DH situation, the decision to bring in the two was largely the byproduct of a General Manager giving in to Manager Ozzie Guillen's misguided desire to add more positional flexibility at a spot where positional flexibility is least worthwhile. One would assume Williams wont be making the same mistake again in 2011. Unfortunately for Williams, the Teahan deal will be the deal that keeps on giving, as he's owed 4.75m in 2011 and 5.5m in 2012. Why Williams felt compelled to offer Teahan, who hadn't had a legitimately productive season since 2007 a three year deal continues to baffle me.

The team also got underwhelming performances from closer Bobby Jenks, supposed staff ace Peavy, and at least to some extent, catcher Pierzynski and outfielder/DH Carlos Quentin.

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