30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox Roundtable

White Sox

Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux.

Question 1 – Can Jake Peavy be the same pitcher in US Cellular Field as he was at Petco Park?

Matt: Depends on what you mean by “same pitcher.” Will Peavy be able to post an ERA below 3.00, as he did four times for the Padres? Probably not. Peavy’s main Achilles heel (besides the ankle itself) has always been a tendency to give up homers, and that’s certainly going to be exacerbated by pitching in the American League at the hitters-haven known as Cellular field. However, will he be a tenacious competitor who, assuming he’s fully healthy, gives his team 200 innings and ranks among the top dozen or so pitchers in the AL? Yes, I think that’s a reasonable expectation. Peavy looked fantastic in three starts for the White Sox last September, although, granted, by that point they were meaningless in terms of the standings. I’ll got out on a limb and predict that Peavy stays off the DL and give the ChiSox 15+ wins, around 200 K, and an ERA somewhere between 3.25 and 3.50.

Jeff: But how will he stay in the game mentally without his at-bats?? Just kidding —

Great points, Matt…totally agree, but maybe even 20 wins isn’t out of the question with Peavy — total horse, total competitor — no DL = huge year.

Eugene: I’m not convinced he will. I see his fly ball tendency and his lack of ability to go deep into games. It’ll have a trickle down effect, especially if you see a struggling Bobby Jenks again and how much they will rely on J.J. Putz. Plus, I don’t know if they upgraded their offense enough to give him the needed run support.

Chad: I think he can still be a very good pitcher for the Sox. He still has lights out stuff and the stuff will translate to the AL. Everyone makes a big deal out of the move to the AL, but he is moving to the AL Central. And outside the Twins, there aren’t a lot of scary offenses in the division. Detroit has Cabrera and a bunch of questions, Cleveland has Sizemore and a bunch of questions, Kansas City has Billy Butler and a bunch of questions. Pitching in that division will help as much as pitching in “The Cell” will hurt him. I think Matt’s predictions are pretty good.

Daniels: I’m pretty sure that Peavy is going to have his regular ace stuff. I’m sure his ERA will suffer from both the change in leagues and the move to a hitter’s park, but there’s nothing that indicates Peavy will have any issue with the switch over other than made-up stuff about changing leagues so AL fans feel better about their brand of fake baseball.

Question 2 – Will Bobby Jenks lose the closer role?

Chad: No. He’s going to have a bounce back year. My fantasy team depends on it……

Matt: I know a great deal was made, especially in the Windy City, of Bobby Jenks rough stretch in the middle of 2009, but, realistically, Bobby Jenks is a 28-year-old with 146 saves. He’s only five short of Jonathan Papelbon, who is roughly the same age. Every year I hear predictions that Jenks is “too fat” or “too immature” or “too one-dimensional,” but he remains one of the better closers in baseball. Sure, as he nears his thirties he may need to re-dedicate himself to conditioning, but early reports are that he has and I predict 30-40 saves with no reservations. Will his ERA return to what it was in ’07 and ’08 (2.70)? Maybe, maybe not. Last season’s 3.71 ERA was heavily effected by a bad six-game stretch in July. All relievers have one of these sooner or later, even Mo Rivera. Outside of that brief period, Jenks posted a 2.95 ERA. If I were Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams, I’d be totally comfortable with that.

Jeff: If the question is, would he lose his job to JJ Putz?? Then a capital N-O from me.

Eugene: If Jenks were to lose his job, it would be to Matt Thornton. He’s got a closer arsenal but has been behind Jenks for a while now.

Daniels: Jenks had a bizarre year. His walk rate was about the same and his strike out rate went WAY up. Unfortunately, his HR rate went from 0.4/9 IP to 1.5/9 IP. Not good for a closer to give up lots of long balls, since it seems to have the effect of rattling the team. Jenks’ average seems to be right around his 2008 numbers so, barring some unreported injury, I’d expect him to bounce back there.

Question 3 – Is Ozzie Guillen too much of a distraction for the team?

Matt: Ozzie’s “distractability” is actually one of his finest qualities as a manager. Sure, he’s aggravating sometimes and I fear one day he’s going to put his foot so far in his mouth he actually swallows a toe, but I don’t think there’s any deny that he takes pressure off the players. Those who live in Chicago know that the town is baseball-obsessed for six months out of the year, with multiple news outlets and talk radio stations putting both teams under a none-to-subtle microscope. What Ozzie (and, to some extent, Lou) is great at is saying something funny or controversial exactly at the moment when the press is on the verge of screaming for the head of Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, or Gavin Floyd. Much like Billy Martin, Sparky Anderson, or even Joe Torre, Guillen is the biggest celebrity on the team, and that works to his players’ advantage. White Sox fans just have to keep crossing their fingers that he doesn’t say something so racist, misogynist, or libelous that the organization is forced to fire him. In my opinion, that’s the only way for the Ozzie era to end. I’m totally sold on his on-the-field and in-the-clubhouse capabilities.

Jeff: I agree with Matthew, also adding that the White Sox need Ozzie far more than Ozzie needs the White Sox.

Chad: I’m getting to the point where it’s just “enough.” And I think some of the players might be there as well. This team has changed pretty drastically the last few years and part of the reason may be because Ozzie is a difficult guy to get along with. Not that I know personally, but he seems like someone who would always be brutally honest with people and that can rub people the wrong way and if you’re not that type of player, you’re not going to succeed for the Sox.

Question 4 – Where will the White Sox finish?

Matt: The fact that Baseball Prostpectus’s PECOTA projections have the White Sox, Tigers, and Twins finishing in a three-way tie for first in AL Central, without any team reaching .500, says a lot about the “competitive balance” of this division. You can even see Cleveland getting into the mix if they solve a few of their pitching problems. That said, I think Chicago should be the odds-on favorite. They’ve easily got the best and deepest rotation in the division. The lineup if filled with questions marks, but there’s no denying the “upside.” Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, and Alexei Ramirez are all big-time talents coming off poor ’09 performances. Gordon Beckham looked great as a rookie. Could he be even better this year? If two or three of those guys can have big seasons and join forces with the consistent workman-like mediocrity of Paul Konerko, A. J. Pierzynski, and Juan Pierre, this team may run away with the Central and even be a moderate danger in the playoffs. More likely, however, they’ll be fighting off the Twins and Tigers until game 163. I think the White Sox come out on top, but with less than 85 wins.

Chad: I think they are one of the favorites, but I think they finish second. Rios has been a disaster for 2 years. Quentin and Ramirez are guys who’ve had one good season and a few poor seasons so there’s no reason to think they’re going to turn anything around. Konerko and AJ are consistent players, but they’re starting to get up there in age. The Sox have undergone a complete remake of their team over the last few years; they’re now a light hitting, heavy pitching team in a ballpark that’s built for power hitting. They have the best pitcher in the division but the rest of the rotation is a bunch of guys who can have dominate outings and then can look like chopped liver the next game. I’m not sold on what the White Sox are selling.

Jeff: Quentin and Rios have been hampered by injuries, therefore making them look awful — but when they’re right, they’re REALLY good — I like Ozzie and I think he’ll be able to get just enough out these guys to hold off the Twins — The Tigers, I predict, will be a non-factor — one last point, and I think everyone would agree….if they don’t win the division, you can forget about the playoffs…the wild card will be WAY out of reach.

Daniels: 2nd, right behind the great white juggernaut in Minnesota.

Eugene: I like their chances, but in the end I think they’ll end up 3rd, right behind Minnesota and Detroit. All 3 will be in it until the end.

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