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Quantity of third basemen not the problem for White Sox

It's quality, and Todd Frazier is the boldest attempt at solving it

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

While we've spent most of the last month fixating on what the White Sox haven't done, it shouldn't take any of the shine off their new infield.

At, AJ Cassavell called the Sox' addition of Todd Frazier the No. 1 upgrade made by any team this winter, as he's projected to add 3.5 wins over the most projectable former starter:

How badly did the White Sox need someone new to man the hot corner? Well, since 2011 -- Frazier's first season in the Majors -- Chicago third basemen have been worse than replacement level, posting a -0.5 WAR which is easily the lowest in the Majors. Frazier, meanwhile, owns a 15.5 career WAR, good enough for ninth in the big leagues among third basemen in that time. It's certainly debatable whether the White Sox busy offseason makes them contenders right away. But there's no denying the upgrade Frazier represents.

Frazier figures to make Robin Ventura's job a lot easier when it comes to that slot on the lineup card, as he's the latest and greatest attempt to solve a position that's been the franchise's untameable bull.

I've seen this stat circulated in a few stories as a way to sum it up:

That sounds ugly on its surface. In other words, it's one short of the number of Bears starting quarterbacks during Brett Favre's iron man streak, so let's make it really bleed:

  • Kevin Youkilis is Erik Kramer
  • Tyler Saladino is Kordell Stewart
  • Gordon Beckham is Rex Grossman
  • Conor Gillaspie is Kyle Orton
  • Omar Vizquel is Chris Chandler
  • Jeff Keppinger is Rick Mirer
  • Mark Teahen is Brian Griese
  • Orlando Hudson is Henry Burris
  • Brent Morel is Craig Krenzel
  • Josh Fields is Cade McNown (although Fields might've been the better quarterback)

From that point, everybody else is either Jonathan Quinn or Moses Moreno, and please stop crying, people are starting to stare.

Anyway, as I came back to that number of third basemen, I started wondering just how bad it was. I mean, 20something starting third basemen over seven years sounds like an excessive amount ... but when you account for routine turnover, then add injuries, spot starts and September call-ups, is it?

After going through every team's depth charts over the last seven years ... 22 starting third basemen isn't excessive. It's average.

I simplified it a little by starting in 2009, since it's the start of the post-Joe Crede era. Whether or not you add the extra month, the White Sox are in the middle of the pack when it comes to different starting third basemen:

Rank Team Rank Team Rank Team
1. Mets, 15 11. Cardinals, 20 Rangers, 23
2. Giants, 16 12. WHITE SOX, 21 Blue Jays, 23
3. Nationals, 17 Braves, 21 Padres, 23
4. Mariners, 18 14. Indians, 22 24. Marlins, 25
Rays, 18 Brewers, 22 25. Royals, 26
5. Tigers, 19 Phillies, 22 26. Diamondbacks, 27
Astros, 19 Pirates, 22 27. Red Sox, 28
Twins, 19 18. Orioles, 23 28. Yankees, 29
Reds, 19 Angels, 23 Cubs, 29
Rockies, 19 Athletics, 23 Dodgers, 29

The average team has started 22 third basemen since the start of 2009, so when assessing only the sheer quantity of third basemen, the White Sox are slightly more stable than the mean.

But "stable" is the word we'd least use to describe the hot corner for the White Sox, whether we're talking about seven years or 70. It certainly seems like the Sox have held way too many auditions at third base for them, so how would we see that?

Count the number of auditions, dummy.

While tallying the number of different starting third basemen, I also tracked the number of different third basemen who started 10 games at that position in a given season. It's not a perfect representation of trial runs, but I chose 10 because it was easy to note double-digit totals in the "games started" column over the course of viewing 210 pages. Cut me some slack, I was doing it by hand:

Anyway, here's what the board looks like when filtering out the randos:

Rank Team Rank Team Rank Team
1. Tigers, 5 Reds, 10 Athletics, 13
2. Rangers, 6 Brewers, 10 Indians, 13
3. Pirates, 7 Cardinals, 10 23. Red Sox, 14
4. Royals, 8 Padres, 10 Twins, 14
Rays, 8 15. Astros, 11 Dodgers, 14
Giants, 8 16. Angels, 12 Phillies, 14
Nationals, 8 Cubs, 12 27. WHITE SOX, 15
8. Mariners, 9 Rockies, 12 Marlins, 15
Mets, 9 19. Orioles, 13 29. Blue Jays, 16
10 Braves, 10 Yankees, 13 30. Diamondbacks, 18

That's more representative of the churn -- besides the ones named above, this also includes Mike Olt, Marcus Semien, Eduardo Escobar, Jayson Nix and Dayan Viciedo.

(And what makes these lists even sadder is that Matt Davidson is on neither.)

Only three teams have given more third basemen extended play, and the Blue Jays don't mind that they fell behind the White Sox by adding Josh Donaldson to their list. Now it's the White Sox' turn to jockey with them -- they'll add Frazier for sure, and maybe Brett Lawrie if he's the primary backup there. Throw in a random spot start for Carlos Sanchez, and they could add three more new names to this roster and be happy to do so.

Quantity shouldn't be an issue, which only leaves the matter of quality. It's less a problem of "flux," and more a problem of "sucks." Focus on the 21 or the 15, and you end up with the worst performance by third basemen just the same. Here's FanGraphs' cumulative WAR totals for teams' third basemen over the last seven years:

  • 26. Phillies, 8.3
  • 27. Rockies, 5.2
  • 28. Astros, 2.0
  • 29. Marlins, 0.9
  • 30. White Sox, -0.8

The top team on this list? The Reds, at 41.1. Frazier has been a big part of that, so it's quite possible that he can give the Sox a Donaldson-like boost. But even if he comes up short of that level -- receiving MVP votes, basically -- it's well within his ability to become the White Sox third baseman equivalent of Jay Cutler. If that makes you cringe, just picture the White Sox third baseman equivalent of Jimmy Clausen.