I'm not talking October 2005. But February of 2005.
I wasn't really following White Sox baseball (other than "I'm a south sider and I like the White Sox"), during the 2004-2005 off season.
There are a lot of parallels between this offseason and 2004/05. Power hitters like Lee and Magglio were gone, replaced by a slap hitter and a guy with a questionable injury history.
PECOTA had the Sox at 80-82 that year, in third place behind Cleveland and Minnesota. Detroit was pegged as the team most likely to break out.
Here's what Nate Silver had to say about Kenny's moves:
Perhaps Kenny Williams has some form of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, and needs to ruin the team in order to save it? Perhaps it's something in the White Sox' ill-conceived lease with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which doesn't require the White Sox to pay rent until the 1.5 millionth customer has passed through the U.S. Cellular turnstiles? In any event, this was looking like the year in which the Sox might finally have done poorly enough to trigger some necessary, long-overdue front office changes, but the flurry of constructive late-winter signings ought to be just enough to pull them back into their self-built purgatory.
Jay Mariotti wrote in the Sun Times:
Oh, this makes loads of sense, building a slap-and-tickle team to play 81 games in the most power-friendly ballpark in the majors..... Ken Williams is trading mashers for midgets....Amazingly enough, a team that hit a major-league-best 242 homers in 2004 has lost four prime power hitters, including Jose Valentin. And the only attempt to fill the void was Williams' cheapskate signing of injury-hobbled Jermaine Dye, who will make $4 million next year ($10 million less than Ordonez made last season) and is a career .208 hitter with two out and runners in scoring position.....Don't be fooled by (Scott) Podsednik's 2003 National League Rookie of the Year award or his 70 stolen bases last year. This is a leadoff hitter who has trouble leading off, hitting only .244 last season with a lame .313 on-base percentage....
Of course this sounds familiar, because this is what we have been saying for the last three weeks. It must have been much worse then, because Lee and Magglio were still in their prime.
As we all know, everyone went on to live happily ever after.
That brings us to this year. The pitching staff, in my estimation, is much better than five years ago. These guys are good. You don't have to wonder if someone's going to pull a phenomenal season out of their ass.
You might want to check my math on this - but I'm willing to say that heading into this year, the offense is better than five years ago. Even without Thome and Dye (yet).
Here's what I'm looking for this year
1- The hot start. Five years ago, the Sox jumped out of the gate so fast that everyone kind of forgot that the Indians were the best team in that division (at least until September). Throw in a couple of extended winning streaks, and I can enjoy a Tums free summer.
2- The question marks. Not ours, theirs. Everyone talks about the problems with the White Sox, but what if the Orlando Hudson that shows up in Minnesota is the Slow-Dog who lost his job in LA to Ronnie Belliard? What if JJ Hardy is the player that bounced back and forth between Milwaukee and Nashville? What if Justin Morneau has a hard time recovering after back surgery? There's some stuff lurking in the weeds up north too.
3- The deal. Kenny's not done. He can trade for a bat. He can sign someone.
4- The bouncebacks. The consensus in the stat community is that Rios and Quentin will bounce back. You toss a non-slumping PK, an older Beckham, and Alexei into the mix, you have a team that can hit the ball.
5- Ozzie. With the exception of 2007, he's outperformed PECOTA. He beat the projection system by 19 games in '05, 8 games in '06, 0 games in '07 (but even that team did better than it should have), 12 games in '08, and 8 games in '09. Given Ozzie's track record, the Sox should clock in at 88-89 wins.
6- Surprises. Sometimes, a Kenny gamble pays off. Jermaine Dye, Tadahito Iguchi, and Bobby Jenks in 2005, Jim Thome in 2006, Carlos Quentin in 2008, and Pods 2.0 in 2009 are all examples of question marks who later became cornerstones. Odds are someone's gonna turn some heads.
So there's your daily dose of optimism.