As the world's longest offseason nears its end, FanGraphs gives us the opportunity to harp on one of our favorite themes one more time.
A year ago, the White Sox tried to go for it despite a flawed roster, and ended up struggling due to the vast amount of at-bats wasted on replacement-level scrubs. This winter, the White Sox have again attempted to push their chips to contend in the short-term, but those hopes got a nice boost when they somehow managed to convince the Reds to give them Todd Frazier for a package of talent that won’t cripple the organization. Frazier’s second-half swoon may have dragged his value down below a reasonable level, since teams saw him hit just .220/.274/.390 in the second half, but kudos to Rick Hahn for taking advantage and turning some spare parts into a +3 to +4 win third baseman. With Frazier at third base, the team has turned a black hole into a real strength, and while they could still use some additional improvements, the Frazier acquisition should go a long way to getting the White Sox back into the AL Central race.
That last sentence basically underscores the reason we've been following the hunt for an outfielder so intently. The Frazier trade does a lot of the heavy lifting to make the Sox projectable, but they still have a little more to go -- especially since the trade cost them Trayce Thompson, who was the only internal threat to Avisail Garcia.
Thompson is a big loss, even if more contextually than independently, but it was still a trade the Sox had to make. If there were any remorse over the decision, well, Frankie Montas is going to miss two to four months after having a rib removed due to a stress reaction, and Micah Johnson was one of a handful of players to receive a "0" in a Fan Scouting Report column for his defense (his hands, of course).
Speaking of offseason summaries, Daryl Van Schouwen hit pretty much all the points for his audience: John Danks is "overpaid yet adequate," the rotation is set, the bullpen is fine, the infield is deeper, but it's the outfield that comes up short offensively and defensively. Even old standby Veteran AL Scout backed it up:
‘‘These guys are tough to scout, mid-20s and on the fence,’’ a veteran AL scout said. ‘‘We have seen guys like this flip the switch and instantly tap their ability. We have also seen them never get one lick better. At 24, [Garcia] still has another couple of years to prove it, but the Sox need at least average every-day production right now. They can’t afford to wait a year or two.’’
While Dexter Fowler's defensive metrics moved in the right direction last season, it still left him well below average on the whole, at least in center field. It's just not enough to make him a more impressive option than Adam Eaton, and that'd give Robin Ventura an outfield alignment where his three starters all should probably be in left field. Beggars can't be choosers, but besides the draft pick, that's my best guess as to their biggest reservation.
- The rise of FanGraphs: Stats side gives fans, front offices view to baseball's evolution - Washington Post
Since this is a FanGraphs-heavy post, we may as well add to it with this profile of the operation by Barry Svrluga, who delves into the backstory with creator David Appelman:
In 2008, with help from several other sources, Appelman and Cameron used that kind of thinking to put a new stat, Wins Above Replacement, on the site. WAR, as it is commonly known, is designed to be an all-encompassing valuation of a player, taking into account offense, defense and base running for position players. The number WAR’s formula spits out represents the number of wins a certain player provides above what could be expected from a player that would be called up from the minors.
Baseball-reference.com has its own version of WAR, and Baseball Prospectus’s version is called WARP (with the "p" standing for player). Whatever the source, though, the evaluation gained credibility even as fans and front offices picked apart the criteria. Appelman foundusers were drawn to it. In 2009, the site grew by about 250 percent, he said.
"Adding wins above replacement, that turned out to be a very big thing," he said.
And closing it out ...
sorry phone pic.twitter.com/fgXecE6Fet— Tim Anderson Jr. (@TimAnderson7) February 15, 2016
... Tim Anderson must've had FanGraphs' top 10 White Sox prospect list on his phone at the time of this swing. That'll teach 'em to put Spencer Adams at the top.