Off Day in Detroit

Crede_6

Tuesday, April 11, 2006, 1:45 pm

Reading Posts

I enjoyed the give and take of your posts in response to yesterday’s blog (although I also appreciate how many times your online conversation has nothing to do with my posts, per se).  I enjoy it when the conversation goes in whatever direction you prefer.

At risk of continuing the debate around two arguments that really can never probably be "won," I wanted to wade in with some facts and opinions on two topics you were discussing … ticket prices and bullpen use.

First the bullpen use …

You certainly can argue that our bullpen last season overachieved or was lucky.  That is a fair opinion.

It is pretty tough to argue that Ozzie did a poor job with our relief corps.  The evidence is too overwhelming.  The team won 99 games, plus 11 of 12 in the postseason.  No matter what statistics you choose to use — wins, saves, holds, inherited runners, opposing BA, etc. — our bullpen ranked among the top three in the American League.  We won the Rolaids Relief Man Team Bullpen Award for all of baseball in 2005.  Finally, when ranked by a proprietary statistic created by Dan Fabian, our in-house expert, to evaluate the performance of players and bullpens according to season-long situational analysis, we again come out with one of the top three bullpens in the AL (along with Cleveland and Minnesota).  Pick your metric, we did pretty well in 2005.

Ozzie_7You can say we were lucky.  You can say we overperformed.  But the argument that Ozzie Guillen mismanaged the bullpen in 2005 is a tough one to make.  Over the past two seasons, Ozzie has seemed to spend April defining roles for individual pitchers.  This, at times, comes with some trial and error.  Take last year for example.  We began the season with Shingo Takatsu as our closer, switched to Dustin Hermanson until his back gave way, and then were blessed when Bobby Jenks arrived from Class AA Birmingham throwing heat.  He ended the year celebrating on the mound in Houston.  How many teams have won a World Series title with three different closers during the season?  I would argue this was a strong accomplishment for our bullpen, Don Cooper, Art Kusyner and Ozzie Guillen last year.

I think there is an understandable tendency to focus on specific in-game situations — usually failures like Boone Logan vs. Travis Hafner — and criticize bullpen decisions.  But the fact is that all bullpens fail to hold leads at times during the season.  If you look at the 2005 season in its entirety, our bullpen performed extremely well.  Some of this credit has to go to Ozzie Guillen.

I have mentioned before that in my experience, most "questionable" moves with the bullpen are based upon availability.

When you watch a game and say to yourself, "why isn’t Bobby Thigpen pitching now?", there is usually an issue with his availability … either over health (his arm, knee or back might be sore) or recent use (how much has he pitched recently in terms of games, consecutive games, innings and even pitches, or how much do you think you might need him over the coming days).  Teams rarely advertise these issues (obviously, we don’t want the other team or manager to know our closer or specialty left-hander are not available for that game), but availability does matter … sometimes a lot.

Just my opinion.  Not worth much.

And on to price of a Major League Baseball game …

Team Marketing Report just issued its annual evaluation of the cost for a family of four to go to a Major League game.  Sports teams typically question the validity of some of the data, but since the report often receives coverage in the media, let’s assume — for argument’s sake — the numbers are correct.

On average, MLB ticket prices are up 5.4 %, according to the TMR report.  The MLB average ticket price is $22.21.  The NFL averaged $58.95 most recently, while the NBA $45.92 and NHL $41.19.  MLB President Bob DuPuy says, "From the standpoint of family entertainment, baseball remains very affordable compared against comparable entertainment."

According to TMR, the average ticket price for the White Sox is $26.19, an increase of 2.5 percent from last year, while the Fan Cost Index (family of four with food, parking, etc.) is $191.26 (2.4 percent higher than last year), $70 more than the KC Royals ($120.35) and $96 less than the Red Sox ($287.84).  Both figures rank ninth among baseball’s 30 teams (behind Boston, the Cubs, Yankees, Cardinals, Mets, Giants, Phillies and Astros) and fifth lowest among the eight playoff teams from 2005.  Our increases from 2005 are the third-lowest among the 2005 postseason clubs (only San Diego and Atlanta were lower).

As a franchise, we try very hard to keep our games affordable for all fans.  Historically, we rank among or near the middle third of all MLB teams.  Because of our focus on kids and families, we have decided annually to maintain promotions like Half Price Mondays and $1 Kids Days.  We also offer discounts for seniors citizens and large groups.

Several years ago (I am sure many of you remember), Kenny Williams took a lot of heat for his comments about how our team’s payroll is tied to attendance.  He was truthful.  But our payroll is not just tied to attendance, it also is tied to all of our other revenue streams … sponsorship sales, broadcasting, mlb.com, etc.  Any profits generated by the White Sox in a given year go directly back into the team.  You have seen the impact of 2005′s successes (and the projections for 2006) this offseason as our payroll has gone from the high $70 million to mid $90 million.  Our revenues are not going to Jerry Reinsdorf, to the club’s investors or to anyone else not wearing pinstripes (upon review, this was a very weak attempt at a pun).  Our revenues are going back into improving the team, primarily in player payroll but also in scouting and player development.

I tend to agree with you all that everything seems to be more and more expensive with each passing year (I took my kids to the movies and to the Bulls game this weekend and suffered some degree of sticker shock both nights).  But it seems that way because it is true.  At the White Sox, we try to follow a model of steady annual increases as opposed to big jumps in any given year, and I assure you we spend a great deal of time making sure we never alienate our future … kids and families.  You are too important to us and to who we are as a franchise.

Our goal is to provide fans with options, whether it is a Scout seat behind home plate like in the photo below, a first-class suite, a bleacher seat or a spot in the upper deck on a warm Monday night.  We want everyone to be able to afford to be a baseball fan, and more importantly, a White Sox fan.

Feel free to weigh in.  This is a nice topic for an off day.  Some fans offered their own cost-cutting recommendations, which was great.  Tomorrow, we tackle the Tigers again.

By the way, the movie I went to see with my kids was BenchwarmersI am no Ebert and Roeper, but wait for the DVD.  And as for the Bulls Saturday night, ouch!  Let’s hope they get one tonight.

Scoutseat

9 Comments

Well spoken… far too often we as fans have NO idea what is going on behind the scene when it comes to our bullpen.

Winning is always fun… but I don’t think I want to ever get to the point to where I don’t enjoy the beauty of this game. Win or lose… it is a work of art!

Since I have been primarily responsible for the argument that Ozzie mismanages the pitching staff (not JUST the bullpen), I would like to address Scott’s above comments.

There is no question that the Sox have a fine pitching staff, bullpen included. And yes, the statistics are there.

But statistics beg the question: namely, how often do Ozzie’s managerial decisions–i.e. actual “moves” made in games–contribute to a win or loss? It’s a question that CANNOT be decided by pointing to the team’s overall record (great as it was), or how often a new closer is named, or by simply saying “Hey, we won the World Series: no criticism, please!”

The only way to decide such a question is, in fact, to look at SPECIFIC GAMES and see how a decision affected the outcome. Sometimes, of course, there is no real decision involved: when Freddy Garcia got pasted in his first start, for example, Ozzie’s “moves” had minimal effect on the outcome. And during other games, other factors contribute to a win/loss, such as when the team is/is not getting any hitting.

But the fact is that managerial decision making can affect outcomes, ESPECIALLY in close games, and from listening/watching every game this season and last (as well as from ten years of high school coaching experience), I believe that Ozzie is a poor decision maker. Why? Because in place of good judgment about a pitcher’s effectiveness–JUDGEMENT that is the hallmark of experienced managers– he substitutes two simple “principles.”

Principle one: a starter’s confidence will be built on the number of his wins. Therefore, even if his starter is getting pasted, he will leave him in at LEAST 5 innings or until he is ahead. It’s a principle supported by the simple fact that Ozzie RARELY pulls a starter before the 5th UNLESS his pitch count is high. And it’s a principle that costs the Sox games. Garland’s first loss this year is one of MANY examples I can cite.

Principle number two is that in late innings, no matter how well a pitcher is pitching, replace him with a lefty (or righty) if a left handed (or right handed) batter is batting. Over and over again–last year and so far this year–Ozzie will do this. On occasion last year, he did this matchup routine SO often that he found himself with no pitchers remaining in the bullpen during extra inning games! The other day, Logan replaced McCarthy NOT because McCarthy was tired or throwing poorly: following his “principle,” Ozzie wanted a lefty to face Hafner (also a lefty)! It was a decision that COST THE SOX THE GAME. And by the way, Scott, (like so many moves last year), it was hardly a matter of bullpen “availability,” with Jenks, Politte and others waiting to go. (In fact, the only time “availability” HAS mattered is when Ozzie’s matching routine has DEPLETED the bullpen).

You might ask: if Ozzie’s decision making is so poor, how did the Sox do so well last year? The answer is simple: players, not managers, win most games. During the playoffs, our starters were simply brilliant. Complete game after complete game made Ozzie’s decision making mostly irrelevant. And as a diehard Sox fan, I hope and pray that we continue to get these performances so that we don’t have our Achilles heel exposed.

But if we don’t get these performances, we’re in for trouble, unless Ozzie stops clinging to his two principles and replaces them with good judgement based on one question: Is the pitcher throwing well and getting hitters out? If so, let’s leave him in. If not, let’s pull him.

Just to take this discussion off the topic (as per Scott’s comment), I just finished watching the Indians game. Guys, got to tell ya, I am nervous! They are looking and playing hungry! (Kinda like a team I followed last year.)

Tom Q, Tom, Q, etc. (everything but Mr. Quaid!) – I will not panic until you give me the go-ahead, but we could quickly be 5-6 games out if we don’t start picking up steam and the Tribe doesn’t fall into a funk. Sorry to mention this now after our 2 game win streak, but I am just not used to being in the position of looking up, instead of looking down, at our competition. I just hope our guys aren’t deflated by Cleveland’s play of late.

Go Sox!!

Kolsens, have you ever thought that maybe Ozzie put Logan in to face Hafner because Logan had retired Hafner the game before in a tight situation? Maybe Ozzie was thinking more into it than just lefty vs. lefty. Hmmmmmm….

I wanted to agree with Scott about ticket prices. We all know things go up, look at gas at 3.00$ a gallon that may recah 3.40$. I’m not saying I like the gas because think that should go down. But back to tickets, he is correct about baseball trying to be fan friendly. Try getting Bears tickets, and wait until the Blackhawks do good again those tickets will increase in price. The White Sox have always been a great organization with tickets that are just right. I don’t know many other ball clubs that do as many promotions for there fans. Talk to a Yankee, Red Sox, or Cubs fan and ask if they get dollar dog Tuesdays, or if they get fireworks, calanders, bobbleheads, and others more then just once in a blue moon. Scott is right, we are the fans and the White Sox are one of the few clubs that gives back to the fans more then any other club that I can think of. The Devil Rays just recently switched to free parking to get their fan base up.
Also fans, don’t hit the panic button yet, remember the Indians last year had a horrible start and then made us sweat it out in the end. We just have to gel….GO SOX

P.S Scott can you post those lineups early so I can check my fantasy team and bench the Sox players I have that aren’t playing :) lol

Can everyone just relax a little bit about the Indians, geez. I am sick of hearing about them. Who cares what they are doing. They won’t win every game. Also, they have bullpen issues like we do. And possibly starting pitching issues. They could easily cool down once the season really gets underway. Remember when the White Sox started out so hot and got such a big lead over every team in the Central? The Indians came back. If they can come back, we can too. The difference is that we won’t choke at the end of the season. Stop talking about the Indians for now. The Sox need to concentrate on whichever team they are currently playing. Things will fall into line eventually.

Spank those Tigers today! Go Go White Sox!

I don’t have a problem with Ozzie’s handling of our pitchers. In fact, I’d say his ability to allow our starters to work their way out of jams has been one of his strengths as a manager. It’s unfortunate Garland could not work his way out of the Ozuna-created jam last outing, but I’d rather allow him the opportunity to pitch out of it, then pull him at the first sign of a shaky inning.

However, I disagree with how often Ozzie inserts his bench players into the starting lineup, and his insistence on using players who consistently underperform at the expense of others. Case in point, we are 3-0 with our starting lineup this year, 1-4 without.

Cintron, Mackowiak, and Ozuna are great options off the bench. But they shouldn’t be playing almost everyday, which is what we’ve seen so far this season. And with all 3 of them struggling offensively so far, why hasn’t Ross Gload seen playing time, if Ozzie is insistent on giving our regulars a 3-day workweek?

Anyway, great outing from Contreras today – let’s go for our first series sweep tomorrow.

Scott, THIS is exactly why I love this blog. You truly read what we have to say, and provide a differnet view point. I appreciate all the cost cutting ideas from my on line buddies. As luck would have it…a friend of mine won a pair of tickets to Monday’s game against the Royals. Being a fan of the other team in town, she gave them up to true Sox fans. Can’t wait for my first game of the year…Hope the temperature cooperates! =) -Dawn

As for as the Scout Seats (auctions), do you think maybe they could list them in pairs instead of/in addition to the sets of 4? I know that I would not need 4 seats, but yet would love to bid and sit in those seats once.

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