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Why you will learn to hate Matt Thornton

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Here's what we already know about the newly acquired Matt Thornton.

  1. He throws hard.
  2. He's left-handed.
  3. He can't find the strike zone.
  4. He has the propensity to start rallies, and not political ones.
  5. The White Sox think they can fix him.
Conventional wisdom would tell you that numbers 1, 2, & 5, are positives, and 3-4 are negatives. I this case, however, 1, 2, & 5 are the reasons you're going to come to hate Mr. Thornton.

Observe:

Pitcher A: Right-handed, free agent. Fastball tops out at 92, good off-speed pitch. History of success at major league level, mixed in between surgeries. Could be had for a minor league contract.

The White Sox bring in Pitcher A to compete for their mop-up role. One of a few scenarios play out.

  • He pitches poorly in spring, doesn't make the team.
  • He pitches poorly in spring, but eventually improves at AAA, makes club in middle of season.
  • He pitches well in spring, makes club. Pitches poorly during season. Released.
  • He pitches well in spring, makes club. Pitches well in season. Everyone is happy.
Picther B: Left-handed, flamethrower with a talking arm, out of options. History of ineptitude across all levels of professional baseball. Struggles with control. Acquired through trade.

The White Sox bring in Pitcher B to compete for their mop-up role. One of a few scenarios play out.

  • He pitches poorly in spring, put on waivers, gets claimed by another team. (The second part of this will not happen, but I felt compelled to list it as an option)
  • He pitches poorly in spring, but Sox still believe they can fix him. They can't afford to put him on waivers, somebody will claim him. Pitches poorly during regular season. Sox don't demote him for fear of losing him on waivers.
  • He pitches well in spring, makes club. Pitches poorly during season. The Sox don't want to lose him, after all he throws hard and is left-handed, they refuse to put him on waivers. Stays with the club all season, pitching poorly.
  • He pitches well in spring, makes club. Pitches well in season. Everyone is happy.
Because Pitcher B possesses two qualities that all teams covet, (left-handedness and a live arm) and he's out of options, the Sox will be more inclined to hold onto him in the event that he does indeed suck. If pitcher A sucks, no big deal. Get rid of him, find somebody else who won't suck as much.

The Sox are putting themselves in a dangerous position. With such limited time for Cooper to fix Thornton before the season, we are almost assuredly going to keep him on the 25-man roster so that he "can work things out" during the season. And then they will inevitably hold onto Thornton for too long, because they think they can "fix" him, and they don't want to risk losing his "talent" to another team through waivers.

Maybe I should just purse my lips and whistle.

* * * * *
  • The White Sox inquired about Oakland's Juan Cruz, who is said to be on the market. Billy Beane must have been in a jovial mood, because all he was asking for in return was some guy named Brian Anderson.
  • The Hardball Times has begun their excellent 5 Questions series. Here are two from the AL Central: Detroit Tigers | Kansas City Royals
  • The Replacement Level Yankees blog did 1000 simulations of the 2006 season using ZiPS, PECOTA, and Diamond Mind projections. -- Before you get upset about the results, these same projections had the White Sox pegged for 77-78 victories last season. We've gotten substantially better.