A Betting Man's Guide: Chicago White Sox Preview
Chicago White Sox - Over/Under 74
A lot of turmoil surrounded the White Sox organization last season, and they still won 79 games. Ozzie being Ozzie had finally run its course, and a change at manager seemed to be a given. Often when a manager/coach like Ozzie gets fired, the team goes for a leader who is the polar opposite in demeanor and style. As a result, the players play a little more loose and the team has some measure of success. And for some of the White Sox main players, that would be a welcome addition.
Offense and Positive Regression
Adam Dunn had a historically bad season at the plate last season, and considering all he does is bat, that was a tough pill to swallow. While not historically bad, Alex Rios was awful too. Both players had very low BABIP's, so regression to the mean should propel their numbers upward, regardless of whether or not they actually play better. Both Rios and Dunn, have proven career numbers that suggest their talents will return to form. With these guys getting their swag back, the White Sox should be able to improve on their 18th ranked offense. And if you think about how poor Dunn and Rios were, it is moderately impressive that they scored over 4 runs per game. Even a league average performance from those guys would improve the offense a good bit.
As for the rotation, Buehrle is gone. While a steadying presence on the team, he probably was the fourth or fifth most talented pitcher in the rotation. Danks and Floyd are entering their primes, and provide a solid, if not spectacular, duo at the top of the rotation. Phil Humber had a good showing last year with numbers that suggest he can continue his progression as a late bloomer, and post-hype prospect. The real wild cards come at the back end of the rotation with the oft-injured Jake Peavy, and the young and strong-armed Chris Sale. Peavy has the stuff to be a high upside pitcher, but can't be counted on for more than 15 or so starts. Chris Sale produced a .203 BAA in 71 bullpen innings last year. He has the stuff to get major league batters out at a high rate. His transition to the rotation and his moderate control problems (as with many 23 year old pitchers) are potential stumbling blocks. The rotation has enough dependable arms and talented upside to more than hold its own in a mediocre division.
Like the back end of the rotation, the bullpen has questions as well. GM Kenny Williams traded away his closer, and diamond in the rough, Sergio Santos, and it would seem that Matt Thornton has been regifted the closer's job. He has live stuff and is left-handed (always a plus), and was very strong as a set-up man in 2009 and 2010. I like him to put together a strong season this year as the closer. Jesse Crain is really the only other proven bullpen piece. The former Twin is a solid pitcher and should perform capably as the set-up man. Aside from those two, the bullpen seems to be a first-come, first served type of deal. Those who have the best springs will fill the most important roles. Bullpens are generally the easiest places to find high-end production, like the guy the White Sox just traded away, Sergio Santos, a former shortstop. So, while the bullpen looks pretty poor on paper, the White Sox have found guys, like Thornton and Santos, to fill the most important roles without much hype.
I think the offense increases its production, the top three rotation pieces produce above average results (as expected), the back end of the rotation has some high upside, and end up producing enough results to provide value. The bullpen gives off the biggest concern, but the White Sox have had bullpen guys come in produce out of nowhere before. Aside from Detroit, the division is pretty weak, with 4 of the 5 teams finishing with a losing record. I think with the expected offensive improvement and enough pitching the White Sox get to, or maybe slightly exceed the .500 mark, eclipsing the predicted 74.
Final record - 82-80