The Podsednik Paradox: Part III: 2007


Scott Podsednik’s winning percentage in 2007 isn’t nearly as gaudy as it was in the previous two seasons, but the fact that the Sox stayed above .500 with Podsednik in the lineup during a miserable year is a phenomenon in and of itself — especially since Podsednik was, by and large, quite bad when he did play.
Let’s see if we can find some answers.
Replacements: Podsednik missed huge chunks of the season in 2007, so much so that it would take too much time to try to itemize his replacements.  Instead, we’ll just break it down via the left fielders’ stats as a whole during the periods Podsednik was broken down.

AB
H
XBH
RBI
BA
OBP
SLG
W-L
Apr. 18 – June 22
196
45
12
25
.230
.324
.342
24-35
July 2- July 24
79
24
6
11
.304
.371
.405
8-12
Aug. 22 – Sept. 1
41
10
2
6
.244
.267
.341
1-10
Other dates
67
20
12
14
..299
.382
.627
8-8
Total
373
98
32
56
.263
.344
.413
41-65
Podsednik
214
52
19
11
.243
.299
.369
31-25

Once again, there’s a significant divide in team performance despite the fact that the replacement left fielders outperformed Podsednik in just about every facet of the game.  The “other dates” record was boosted by Josh Fields’ .333/.416/.714 line in Podsednik’s place after September 1, during which the Sox went 7-5.
Pitching: As was the case in 2006, the Sox fared better with Podsednik in the lineup against lefties:

  • Sox against lefties, w/o Pods: 9-20
  • Sox against lefties, w/ Pods: 7-8

However, unlike 2006, there’s a reason: Pods was actually pretty good against southpaws, as he experienced a reverse split in 2007:

  • Pods against LHP: .279/.380/.393
  • Pods against RHP: .229/.263/.359

His chief replacement, Rob Mackowiak, couldn’t hit lefties.  With no complement to lefties Jerry Owens and Darin Erstad, the outfield as a whole was exposed with a lefty on the mound.
Pods also happened to miss most of the worst days for his pitchers.  The Sox staff allowed 10 runs or more in 20 games — and Pods didn’t start in 16 of them.  He missed the entire Boston Massacre and the doubleheader from hell against Minnesota, for example.  On the other hand, he didn’t start the two games the Sox allowed 10 runs and won, but 2-14 still helps create a stark difference.
Streaks? Slumps? Injuries? The only month without any perceptible difference in performance was September.  Incidentally, that was the same month Fields and Jim Thome pounded the ever-loving crap out of the ball, and Owens did a nice job getting on base at the top of the order.

Month
w/ Pods
w/o Pods
April
5-3
7-8
May
0-0
12-14
June
6-3
4-15
July
6-3
8-12
August
7-9
2-11
Sept.
8-7
7-5

The other month with a slight disparity — April, AKA the only month the Sox had a bullpen.  Pods actually boasted a .378 before landing on the DL midway through the month, and with pitchers on both sides dominating, one guy getting on base can be worth a win here and there.  That seemed to be the story of 2005.
The Sox handled three teams with relative ease in 2007: the Tigers, Royals and Devil Rays.  Incidentally, those teams were the opposition in 24 of Podsednik’s 56 starts.
On the other hand, Pods missed all the games against Boston, against whom the White Sox lost seven of eight games.  He missed all but two interleague games, as the Sox struggled mightly without a designated hitter en route to a 4-14 record against National League teams.
So what do we know? Podsednik’s importance in 2007 falls in between his impact in the two previous seasons.  In 2005, when he and his above-average OBP weren’t around, the Sox didn’t have anybody to pick up the slack.  In 2006, he managed to miss the right games — there was little rhyme or reason to it, even when factoring in the Sox’s struggles against left-handed pitching.
In 2007, Pods did make a difference against lefties, as well in the first half-month of the season, when he was only one of a couple Sox capable of hitting in the cold.
Still, amazing timing came into play.  How else can anybody explain Pods missing 80 percent of the Sox’s worst pitching performances?  Or that he nearly played as many games against the Devil Rays (four of seven) as he did versus the other AL East teams the Sox struggled against (five of 33)?
Pods also had the benefit of a small sample size, playing in less than half the games of a doomed season.  In the end, Pods was likely more lucky than good, but at the same time, his absence repeatedly underscored the OBP issues the Sox had without him.
To me, one of the low points of the 2007 season was when Kenny Williams urged his team to be more like Thome in its plate approach.  The message was sound in theory, but reeked of smashing a square peg into a round hole.  Podsednik definitely had a purpose on the team, but he couldn’t stay healthy enough to fulfill it.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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