There’s an old saying in sports that when things turn rotten you fire the manager (or coach) because you can’t fire the team.
We White Sox fans say, “Why not?”
Oh sure, we wish the manager had been fired long ago, that the general manager had never been hired, that the managing partner would, well, uh, not be there any longer. But, you know what? There’s not much reason not to fire the team, too. At least except for Luis Robert Jr.
Let us first look at some numbers
(We’ll use Baseball-Reference numbers throughout this piece, for simplicity and continuity.)
Before moving on to WAR casualties, let’s delve into a few of the things that go into the algorithms. We all already know that White Sox defense is consistently abysmal, always near the worst in the majors, and because the only current player more than just marginally on the plus side in dWAR is Luis Robert Jr. at 1.1 (Seby Zavala had been next at 0.6, but he is off to play for a real team) we’ll glide on by that and look at offense.
The computers have already done most of the work for us. They show just three White Sox players (Jake Burger also having gone off to play for a real team) with an OPS+ better than the median of 100. Two of those don’t even really count, as Andrew Vaughn at 101 is well below average for first basemen and Eloy Jiménez at 105 is sub-par for a DH.
That leaves Robert, at an outstanding 135.
On the bottom side, we have newcomer Korey Lee at just 8 despite a three-run homer on Tuesday, Trayce Thompson and Lenyn Sosa at 45, Oscar Colás at 54, Tim Anderson at 59 ... you get the picture. The team average is an 86, good for 28th place, just ahead of the Tigers and Rockies (yes, that means behind Oakland and Pittsburgh).
Then there are the pitchers
Here, of course, the number the computers come up with is ERA+, and the White Sox actually have, or had, quite a few go over 100 on that measurement.
Naturally, most of the pitchers with good numbers are no longer around, having been cast out at the trade deadline ... Lucas Giolito (pre-trade and subsequent crash), Kendall Graveman, Keynan Middleton, Reynaldo López. Left on the right side of 100 are relievers Gregory Santos, Sammy Peralta, Lane Ramsay (very small sample size) and the injured Garrett Crochet, plus a starter they couldn’t unload on waivers but who assuredly will not be back next year. We hope.
Dylan Cease has fallen from the greatness of a 179 last year to a below-average 86. Yikes.
The team average, even counting those now gone, is 90, good for 27th place, ahead of only Oakland Washington, and Kansas City.
Which now has us going to WAR
In figuring how to rate total WAR, you begin with 48 wins for a season, what the estimate is if you used all minor leaguers, and add on what all your players have scored, according to the computers. For the White Sox, on the position side, this year, with about three weeks to go, adds up to 2.9.
That’s right, 2.9. And Robert by himself scored 5.1, so the whole rest of the team is negative, even more so when you consider Burger had been second at 1.4.
The only other current Sox batter with as much as 1.0 WAR is Vaughn, but first baseman are supposed to hit, so he only rates 20th among regulars at that spot. Next are Elvis Andrus at 0.7 in limited play, and Andrew Benintendi at 0.6.
What does that mean? Well, the basic grid for WAR says you need to be at least at 2.0 to be at the level of a major league regular. Anything less and you’re only good as a scrub. And if you’re negative — as is the case for Anderson, Colás, Sosa and Gavin Sheets — you should be down in Triple-A. Or not even playing baseball.
So the White Sox have one position player who rates a starting major league job, although, he — Robert, of course — rates as an All-Star.
As for pitcher WAR, there have only been two over that 2.0 this season, and Giolito is gone and the other shortly will be, we hope. Next is Santos at 1.4, with not enough time left to possibly climb to 2.0.
The pitchers, here and gone, add up to 7.8. That makes the team total, even including the good players no longer around, 10.7. Add it to the 48 wins you started with and you come up with the expectation of a 59-103 season. Sounds about right.
So what does this mean?
Just what it looks like — other than Robert, not a single White Sox player coming back next year rates as a real major league starter in 2023. If you want another perspective, by position rather than player, consider that in wins above average, the Sox come in 28th, led to the bottom by the whole position player side at 30th, dead last along with catchers, shortstops, and right fielders.
The only position above average is center field, coming in second thanks to Robert. Starting pitchers, two of whom are now gone, came in average, the only other category above 20th place.
Dumping them all is a trifle drastic, but why not? Sure would get rid of whatever the “culture” problems are.
Naturally, you’d try first to trade them, but they’re mostly untradeable, Cease being a possible exception. So dump ’em. Jerry Reinsdorf shouldn’t mind covering their pay, since he approved it all in the first place anyway, besides which promoting Chris Getz clearly shows he has a great sense of humor.
You’d want to keep Robert, but he’s so good maybe you could get a whole new team for him, so you should keep open to the idea.
Of course, this would be a better plan if the Sox didn’t have one of the worst minor league systems in baseball, but the farm must be a lot better than it looks or Getz wouldn’t have been promoted. Sure, it looks to us amateurs like Getz has been a complete incompetent at every level, but what do we know?
That Project Birmingham thing that didn’t work well was Getz’s idea, so he should be perfect for upgrading it a bit — here it comes:
Can’t be much worse than what’s there now. Once you’ve topped 100 losses, you might as well go for the record.