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More Thoughts On The DH

Not that larry needs the ego boost, but I'm going to quote him from the comments of a previous post:

in a division where each of the last two seasons there has been a one game playoff to determine the champion

it’s a questionable strategy to wait.

It's especially true when it comes to the market for possible DHs.  By definition the Sox' front office isn't going to compete for an elite hitter (say a ~ 4 WAR DH that could hit .300/.400/.500) in the free agent market.  Highly desirable assets go to teams for whom the marginal cost is the least and it's a long way off until the White Sox are in Yankees/Red Sox/Angels territory.  Fortunately, this isn't much of a hindrance, thanks to usually limited demand: there are only 14 DH teams.  So far, Hideki Matsui has taken a 1 year, $6.5MM deal going to the Angels and Nick Johnson got 1 year from the Yankees for $5.5MM.  Adding a DH is going to cost $3-4MM per WAR.  The prospective White Sox DH is one player, in sum considerably cheaper than the myriad additions to the bench* many of whom made Jayson Nix' skill set redundant. 

Meanwhile, adding that 2 wins only matters if you can get its full extent.  Going back to larry's quote, if you're adding a DH of the like available this free agent season, a half season of that kind of production is 1 win, easily canceled out by bad luck.  The fact is that the Twins are primed to compete with the White Sox for the AL Central in 2010 and Kenny may have less than a coin flip's chance without a DH.  Since Johann Santana left, the Twins have averaged 17 wins above replacement from their rotation and relievers combined.  Here's what I've gathered so far from the Fans, CHONE, ZiPS.  The former is straight from fangraphs, using the fans' own impressions for defense ratings (and it includes catcher defense) and for the latter two, I used a defensive projection using a 5/4/3 3 year weighted UZR regressed with Tango's Fan Scouting Report and added these for catcher defense projections.  Averaging the Fans, CHONE and ZiPS, the Twins' position players are expected to garner 23 wins above replacement.  That plus their 3 year average for pitching gets them to 88 wins (recall that 48 wins in a season is replacement level).  Anything better and we're talking 90 wins for those heathens.

The Sox themselves average 17-18 wins by the Fans/CHONE/ZiPS average.  That means they've got to get an entirely doable 23 wins from the pitchers to get to 88.  They've averaged 22.5 wins above replacement since '05.  Any edge to gain has to be in the realm of an actually average player or better to make a dent in those playoff odds.  I haven't yet done anything more than eyeball CHONE and ZiPS for the rest of the ALC, but it looks like they're out of the sweet spot at this point.  It's White Sox vs. Twins barring something unforeseen and the wild card isn't going to save either side.

It's this that makes me wonder about making the big splash with a Flowers and/or Hudson package.  If Kenny could get a real impact player (better than average) in his prime (i.e. guaranteeing the production more or less), sealing off the Twins in '10 and finding a stopgap catcher for '11 and beyond would start to make sense.  But the thing is, once you're in the playoffs, you're only ever going to have about a 13 percent chance to win it all.  Going to the playoffs repeatedly is the ultimate fiscal aim for a team in contention.  So how good does Kenny think Flowers and Hudson are going to be?

*namely Kotsay, Vizquel and Jones, but it's not like Pierre or Teahen are way more talented as far as the projection systems are concerned