Chicago White Sox Series Preview 8/28-8/30

Hitting:

.331 wOBA. 14th in MLB, 9th in the AL.

Chicago features a pretty pedestrian offensive team. Their main skill is the long ball, but they have hit eighty-five of their 154 home runs at home, so even that will be partially neutralized in the upcoming series. The lineup features a lot of similar offensive performers, hitters that have perfected the low average, medium to high slugging skill set. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is the only regular hitting over .300, and Scott Podsednik is the only other player on the team even close. Jim Thome (.258/.383/.509,) Paul Konerko (.281/.354/.493,) Jermaine Dye (.264/.347/.479,) Carlos Quentin (.234/.326/.456,) and rookie Gordon Beckham (.279/.357/.450) all exemplify the low average decent slugging kind of player. Alex Rios has not done anything since being aquired, though he fits into the mold of the five players above. Alexei Ramirez hits pretty well for a middle infielder; he has thirty-five home runs in a little under 1,000 major league plate appearances. Now that Podsednik isn’t starting, second basemen Chris Getz is the only threat to take a base: he’s eighteen out of twenty on the year.

Fielding:

Team UZR: -19.7. 20th in MLB, 9th in the AL.

A pretty bland unit defensively. Alexei Ramirez has turned in a positive 2.9 UZR at short this year, a pleasant surprise after a lousy year at the keystone in 2008. Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin are lousy defenders in the corners. New York fans will particularly remember that Melky Cabrera’s cycle was largely a creation of Dye misplaying both the double and the triple. Just par for the course for Dye, who has an ugly UZR of -14 this year. Amazingly, it’s his best work in the outfield since 2005.

Pitching:

Team FIP: 10th in MLB, 2nd in AL.

Starters:

Who would have guessed Chicago has the second best FIP in the American League? And who would have thought that of the White Sox regular starters, Mark Buehrle would have the worst FIP at 4.46? Certainly not me. Regardless, New York misses Chicago’s two best starters this year, Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Buehrle goes tonight, and he has been absolutely pulverized since his perfecto on July 23d. In the thirty-seven and two thirds innings he’s thrown since, he’s allowed thirty-one runs, while striking out only twelve men. He’ll never be confused with a strike out artist, but he needs to do a little better than that to have any success going forward. TBD toes the slab tomorrow toting a 1-7 record with an ERA near six on the yaear. Of course, that’s probably a better option than Sergio Mitre. Actually, the Sox haven’t named a starter because they were waiting to see if Jake Peavy would be ready to go. It has been that confirmed that Peavy will be pitching in Triple-A this weekend, so the start likely falls to Carlos Torres. Torres walked nine men in as many innings in two starts earlier this year, so should he get the ball, expect a long game. Freddy Garcia goes for the Sox on Sunday. He’s made sixteen starts in the majors over the last three years, and has in general pitched pretty terribly in most of them. He’s been prone to the long ball throughout his career, so expect a couple big flies from New York early on Sunday.

Relievers:

Bobby Jenks has allowed seven homers this season. Those big flies are primarily the reason his ERA is up over a full tick from the last two seasons. He’s still one of the best closers in the league, just a little prone to the long ball right now. Lefty Matt Thornton may be the best set up man in baseball. He strikes out 10.5 batters per nine innings, doesn’t allow home runs often, and is absolutely brutal on lefties: they’ve struck out thirty-four times in twenty-four innings, and are hitting just a buck ninety. D.J. Carrasco, Scott Linebrink, and Octavio Dotel will all probably be called on at some point in the series.

Conclusion:

New York faces a pretty average team this weekend. The Yankees hitting ought to give them the edge in this series, particularly since they avoid Danks and Floyd. Anything can happen in baseball of course, but this is not a juggernaut club, and it’s not anything like previous division (and world series) winners. The best team in baseball ought to be disappointed with anything less than a series victory.