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2020 Final Value Survey: Pitchers

For another year, Lucas Giolito was the value leader on the mound — and this summer, the competition wasn’t close

American League Wild Card Game 1: Chicago White Sox v. Oakland Athletics
For another year, Lucas Giolito was the White Sox value leader on the mound.
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Friday saw the offense getting some Value Survey treatment, and it was a pretty positive report, given how poor the offense has been on the South Side over the past few seasons.

Today, let’s take a look at the pitchers. I deleted my spoilers from yesterday’s story to keep a bit of intrigue, but the wide-angle here is: not so great.

Page back to Friday’s story for the refresher course on how the Value Survey works; the same rules apply to pitchers as hitters. Another basic reminder: When you run the numbers through the BB Supercomputer™, the value of 1.0 WAR in 2020 is $4,646,185.

Traditional super-value pick Lucas Giolito did not disappoint in 2020, destroying the field of White Sox pitchers by some $3.5 million, and any other starter by $4.5 million. He also joins José Abreu and Tim Anderson as the value champions for the 2020 White Sox, with the trio essentially tying for best team value this year.

The offense was top-heavy with big value surpluses and saw just Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnación as huge drags, resulting in almost $21 million in surplus value (SV). But the story was rather ugly on the pitching side.

The pitching overall was a negative value, costing the White Sox a little more than $2 million in lost SV. And, no surprise, the rotation that was the culprit. Among the opening week starters, only Giolito and Dallas Keuchel finished as value winners, providing approximately $7.5 million SV; Reynaldo López, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón combined to cost the White Sox $7.9 million in SV, leaving the rotation in the red.

To be fair, the WAR measurements were all over the place for the two White Sox aces, so if Baseball-Reference had been kinder to Lucas and/or Baseball Prospectus gentler with Dallas, the pair would have pulled the rotation above water.

But as it stood, Giolito ran away with this season’s surplus value crown.

Other observations:

  • It wasn’t a horrid split between good and bad values among the pitchers, with 12 plus-value, 15 minus. But what killed the White Sox was how heavy the drags were from the worst of the worst: eight different pitchers cost the team at least $1.1 million in lost SV. On the upper end the White Sox had five pitchers providing in excess of $1.9 million SV, but it wasn’t enough.
  • Giolito provided more than twice as much surplus value than the next-best pitcher, Evan Marshall ($3 million).
  • The spot starters just killed the club as well, with the bad values of Gio González and Jonathan Stiever failing to offset the very impressive surplus value of Dane Dunning (almost $2 million over just seven starts).
  • But what about that bullpen! Three of the top four, and eight of the best 12 pitchers overall came in relief. The killer trio of Marshall, Matt Foster and Codi Heuer alone provided $8.3 million SV.
  • And what about Garrett Crochet! The rookie pitched in the last week of the season, six innings in five games overall, and gave the White Sox almost a million dollars in surplus value.
  • Perhaps no White Sox pitcher has a case to be angry with one WAR measure than Jimmy Cordero, and for once it’s not the notoriously-stingy WARP that is to blame; the mechanical man got modest marks of 0.2 WAR from both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, while B-R killed him for a -0.9 WAR, worst on the staff! That was the difference between a respectable $700,000 SV vs. his final figure, a surplus value almost a million in the red.
  • Just two White Sox, Giolito and Keuchel, topped 1.0 WAR, and no one else came close.
  • Baseball Prospectus was downright cruel to Cease, hitting him with a team-worst -1.1 WARP, almost twice as bad as that of López, who was mostly hopeless in 2020.
  • Kelvin Herrera pitched in two games — in other words, just one more than Yolmer Sánchez — and cost the White Sox about $3.5 million in surplus value. (To be fair, that’s not due only to how bad he was in two games, but the club being on the hook for his entire prorated 2020 salary.)

Service time/salary figures, in this odd season of all seasons, are my best estimates and are perhaps a shade charitable to players who shuttled between Schaumburg and Chicago. All WAR figures are per the respective B-R, FanGraphs and BP sites.