January 2007

The Addition of Toby Hall

John Dewan, now with ACTA Sports (actasports.com) is a name many of you will recognize as one of the leaders in baseball statistical analysis.  I came across a piece he wrote recently after we signed Toby Hall and thought you might enjoy reading his insight.  I did receive John’s permission to re-print this on my blog, so read on if you choose (and I apologize now for any formatting quirks):

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How did each team’s catchers bat in 2006?

John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™

December 21, 2006

A favorite offseason activity for a GM might be to find the weakest point of their team and attempt to strengthen it. Replacing a good player with a good player doesn’t move the team forward. Analyzing a team’s weak spots and turning them around can make their offseason.

Over the past weekend, the White Sox signed free agent catcher Toby Hall. With all the free agent madness this offseason, this signing probably looked insignificant. However, our analysis shows White Sox GM Ken Williams might have hit that GM sweet spot.

At first glance, the White Sox catcher position provided about average offense. They were #17 of 30 teams in On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage (OPS).

However, catchers take a beating during the year and that makes it the best position for a platoon. In the last five seasons, no catcher has caught more than 147 games in any single year.

Which leads us to this question: How did the White Sox catchers do against pitchers based on handedness? Here are the top and bottom five teams in catcher OPS vs right-handers:

Top Five Team Catchers vs. RHP

Team, OPS

1. Braves, .935

2. Twins, .860

3. Yankees, .853

4. Padres, .834

5. White Sox, .811

Bottom Five Team Catchers vs. RHP

Team, OPS

26. Rockies, .632

27. Devil Rays, .630

28. Royals, .603

29. Astros, .581

30. Cardinals, .567

Well, the White Sox and primarily A.J. Pierzynski did quite well against RHP. No need to make any change here.

Let’s look at the other side. How did the White Sox catchers do against lefties? Here are the top and bottom five teams in catcher OPS vs left-handers:

Top Five Team Catchers vs. LHP

Team, OPS

1. Dodgers, 1.010

2. Blue Jays, .991

3. Padres, .981

4. Orioles, .927

5. Cubs, .924

Bottom Five Team Catchers vs. LHP

Team, OPS

26. Nationals, .674

27. Red Sox, .669

28. Angels, .665

29. Mariners, .599

30. White Sox, .587

Wow, now we found a glaring weakness. The White Sox catchers were terrible against left-handed pitchers. Even worse, the opponents like using lefties against the White Sox. 40% of the starters facing the Sox last year were lefties — a five-year high for the White Sox. Obviously signing Jim Thome before the season dictated opponent strategies.

Does Toby Hall fit the need?

2006 OPS, Catcher, vs. LHP, vs. RHP

A.J. Pierzynski, .623, .825

Toby Hall, .833, .642

Based on the 2006 season, this seems like the perfect fit. If Hall had been with the Sox in 2006 and did the same thing against lefties instead of the what the White Sox actually got, the Sox would have come in 4th, instead of 17th, in catcher offense for the season among the 30 MLB teams.

One year may be a fluke. However, the three-year numbers, while not quite as strong as 2006, still suggest a very effective platoon for 2006.

Three-Year OPS

Catcher, vs. LHP, vs. RHP

A.J. Pierzynski, .596, .785

Toby Hall, .770, .645

Odds & Ends & Odds

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Lost In Translation

Juan Uribe never ceases to surprise.  Late Friday afternoon, the AP ran a story from the Dominican quoting Juan as stating that he may have to miss the 2007 season because of charges made against him in October.

For those in the media who cover the White Sox (and for those of us who know Juan), he is very quiet by nature, not saying a whole lot in Spanish or via translator.  Everyone was very surprised to see so many quotes from Juan and obviously, to read him questionning his availability for the 2007 season.

But in the Spanish-language version of the story, there are actually four comments from Juan, with the final one saying that he hopes this doesn’t make him late to spring training.  So in that single story, his quotes ranged from missing the 2007 season to being late for spring training.

The next day a story ran with Juan correcting the impression that the 2007 season was in doubt.  We certainly expect him to be in spring training.  His representatives are hopeful that this case can be resolved before spring training or adjustments can be made so that his baseball status is unaffected.  So while things can change over the next six weeks, this appeared to be much ado about nothing.

Each time this happens, it feels like a big game of telephone.

AJ

How intolerable will AJ be in spring training now that "his Gators" are National Champions in basketball and football?  As I write this, he is making the rounds of the Chicago sports radio stations.

HAR-old, HAR-old

Good to see Harold Baines receiving consideration for today’s Hall of Fame announcement.  Let’s see how much support he receives today, and hopefully, his candidacy will continue to grow.

CBCC

Yesterday was the annual Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities luncheon at U.S. Cellular Field.  The CBCC group, led by Bill Pierce, does a fabulous job during the year raising money to support cancer research in Chicago.  Their big event each year is a baseball celebrity golf outing at the All-Star Break.  At yesterday’s luncheon, hundreds of thousands of dollars were presented to Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Hospital to support their programs.  Ron Kittle, who donates money to CBCC from his annual Golf outing, and folks from the Windy City Sox fans also attended and contribute to CBCC.

Pierce first became involved in CBCC years ago after retiring.  I can’t imagine how many millions of dollars he has helped raise to fight cancer.  A great pitcher, he is an even better person.  He is in my Hall of Fame.

Trade Fallout

This from Mike Berardino’s column in The Sporting News (1/8/07):

" … a rival executive says White Sox GM Kenny Williams got good value in LHP John Danks and RHP Nick Masset, even though neither has thrown a pitch in the majors (Reifert note:  Masset actually did pitch for the Rangers in 2006).  ‘You’ll be hearing about those guys in another year or so,’ the executive says.  ‘I really like Danks.  His fastball is 90 to 92 mph and he can sneak it by you.  If the other kid materializes, it could be a great deal.’"

Happy New Year

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Welcome Back

After a few month sabbatical and a couple of weeks off for the holidays, the time just seemed right to begin blogging again.  I hope everyone enjoyed a great holiday season, regardless of what holiday you celebrate.  Thanks to all the patient readers, who I hope will come back to this site after my "vacation."

We supposedly had something like 126,000 unique visitors in 2006, which speaks to the devotion of Sox fans, bloggers and/or both.

A few things coming up this month of note:

Jan. 6 — Scout Foundation dinner in Los Angeles.  See Scott Merkin’s article about the Scout’s Foundation on the main website, but three members of the White Sox front office, Dennis Gilbert, Dave Yoakam and Roland Hemond, played key roles in creating this foundation, which annually supports scouts and families of scouts in need.  A great cause and a great evening in LA featuring many of the game’s biggest stars.

Jan. 9 — Individual day tickets to SoxFest go on sale at whitesox.com or via phone (see release on main site).  Tickets are limited and we expect them to go quickly, so be ready to click or call right at 10 am next Tuesday.

Jan. 13 — Tickets go on sale for spring training games.  For those of you who like to spend March bathed in sunshine, call or click on Saturday.

I think the Bears play a football game in here somewhere … Go Bears.

Jan. 20 — Jim Thome hosts the Joyce Thome Memorial Dinner in Peoria for a great cause.  Several of us are headed that way to support Jim and his annual fund-raising efforts.

Jan. 26-28 — SoxFest at the beautiful Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago.  A weekend of White Sox fun, action and autographs.

Jan. 28 — Annual Pitch & Hit Club dinner at Rosemont (you can bet Roland will be there).

Feb. 5 — Our trunks leave fo Tucson.

Feb. 15 — I leave for Tucson.

Busy next six weeks.

Bullpen

Lost in some of the reaction to our two offseason trades has been the improvement of our bullpen.  Entering this offseason, improving the bullpen was a big goal.  As much as our starting pitching struggled in 2006 to replicate 2005, last year we also missed the lights-out Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts of 2005.  Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn re-built the bullpen on the fly during the year … adding David Riske and Mike MacDougal (who could close for many teams).  This offseason, we have added hard throwers in David Aardsma, Andrew Sisco (potentially a starter as well) and Nick Masset to a pen that already included Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton.  We will bring some heat from out of the pen.

Ho Ho Ho

Living in Chicago this offseason has given Jenks a chance to enjoy the holidays.  He and his two kids were the celebrity tree lighters at The Sears Tower in late November, and Jenks, Brandon McCarthy and Jim Thome played "Santa" to hundreds of area kids who came by the ballpark to celebrate our annual Holiday Party in early December.

The players delivered food to the kids with Jenks firing hot dogs across the room to waiting children.  Some flew right out of the tin foil.

AJ

Think he has a career in wrestling once his MLB career is done?

Gavin Floyd

I realize it’s tough to get excited about a player when all you really know about him at this point are statistics.

Just after our trade with the Phillies was announced at the Winter Meetings, we were eating lunch in the hotel’s restaurant when an old scout tapped Kenny on the elbow.

"You made a great trade," he said.  "I’ve been watching that kid, and he is ready to turn the corner.  He just needed a change of scenery and a chance."

Don’t Wait … Buy A Brick

Sales of our commemorative bricks are brisk so don’t delay in ordering now.  To refresh memories, we are building a brick plaza outside Gate 4 (scheduled Opening Day 2008) that will surround a monument to the 2005 Championship team.  You can purchase a brick on-line.  As part of your order, you do receive a replica brick for your home or office.  Prices vary depending on location and brick size.  Proceeds support Chicago White Sox Charities.

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