Small expectations, great results, and vice versa

While Kenny Williams’ overall winter strategy may have been sorely lacking, a couple of his minor acquisitions couldn’t be working out better, and both played a huge role in Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ramon Castro had a perfect day at the plate, going 1-for-1 with an RBI double and three walks.  That raised his line to .296/.406/.556, and when you combine it with Donny Lucy’s work, White Sox backup catchers are hitting .310/.420/.619 this season.
That batting average is higher than the slugging percentage of White Sox backups over the last five years.  Maybe A.J. Pierzynski’s culture of fear is coming to a close. Maybe he’s like an old lion on the Serengeti. Other animals that used to live in fear of him now smell the age and fear and are ready to pounce.
Whatever the case, it’s nice to see anything but a white flag in the lineup when Pierzynski needs a day off.  Castro probably won’t keep that up — unless he plays so sparingly that he strings together mostly isolated good games.  But with the way his pitiful performance in 2009 didn’t match up with his career averages, he did have the law in averages in his favor, and it’s treating him mighty kindly.
And then there’s the entertainment value.  If you missed Castro scoring from first on Gordon Beckham’s double, try to find the highlight.  He’s an oddly constructed guy — he seems to add onto his chin every time he starts, and he’s barrel-chested enough to disguise the fact that he’s pretty pudgy, and you don’t see until he runs.  Or at least when he tries to run.
The White Sox are 5-4 when he starts, and unlike other catchers who have stumbled into wins incidentally, he’s actually contributed to the cause in his recent appearances.  The Sox are definitely getting their $1 million worth of this investment.
And they’re definitely getting $3 million out of J.J. Putz.
Putz served as the eighth inning man on Tuesday and went three-up, three-down, which means that he hasn’t been scored upon in more than a month.  He’s thrown 11 2/3 shutout innings over his last 11 appearances, with 13 strikeouts to just seven baserunners over that period.
And have you noticed his 2010 strikeout-to-walk ratio?  It’s better than 7:1, with 29 K’s to just four walks, which is just a nudge better than when he was a lights-out closer for Seattle a few years back.
He isn’t quite the same pitcher, but while he lost a couple ticks off his fastball, he’s turned his splitter into a knockout pitch.  In the process, he’s turned himself into the Sox’s best reliever of the moment, as well as the most tradeable White Sox around.
Investments like Castro and Putz can get lost in these frustrating seasons, but Williams’ minor moves have worked out pretty well.  Along with those two, you have Omar Vizquel keeping Jayson Nix off the field and, of course, Pure Winner Freddy Garcia (he’s not exactly an offseason move, but they did pick up an option).
Their successes continue the main lesson of the winter, which was discussed in the Alex Rios post last weekend.
Williams handicapped his team by betting heavily on uninspiring track records, expecting Mark Teahen, Carlos Quentin and Andruw Jones to hold their own at crucial offensive positions.  Their disappointing seasons have dragged down Juan Pierre’s value as well.  He’s playing as expected, but the lack of power in two corner positions and the DH makes his weaknesses harder to absorb in left field.
Castro, Putz and Vizquel serve as a pleasant contrast.  They were acquired for what they could bring — a decent bat behind Pierzynski, a late-inning arm and a versatile glove.  Putz could have blown up in their faces, but given the Sox’s ability to manage pitcher health and the price tags attached to lesser relievers over the winter (how are the Cubs liking John Grabow?), it was a smart play.  All of these moves could have turned out to be zeroes, but they wouldn’t be bench or bargain-bin players if they could guarantee value.  The Sox mitigated the obvious risk by siding with history and are reaping the dividends.
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Williams joined the Sox for a road trip for the first time all season.  Williams denied that Jerry Reinsdorf discouraged or prevented him from doing so earlier, but Joe Cowley tries reading between the lines:

That storm included Williams bringing up the idea of firing Guillen to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, only to find out that ”manager” is the title Guillen wears, but face of the White Sox is what he is.
Now that he’s aware of the power Guillen can wield, and the fact that Guillen has been on good behavior, saying all the right things the last week rather than burning bridges, Williams looks to be doing all he can to mend their relationship.
That meant all but putting on a flight attendant’s uniform and mixing Guillen’s drink on the plane ride.

It may or may not relate, but when Guillen was asked why D.J. Carrasco, his MVP last year, wasn’t re-signed, Guillen simply said it was Williams’ call.
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Minor league roundup:

  • Syracuse 5, Charlotte 4
    • The “V” is for “Versatility,” as Dayan Viciedo hit a two-run homer and laid down a sac bunt over four at-bats.
    • Jordan Danks went 1-for-4 with a solo shot.
    • Tyler Flowers went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
    • Brent Morel (playing third) went 1-for-4 with a strikeout, and committed his second error at Charlotte.
    • Carlos Torres had control issues, allowing four walks along with five hits over 5 2/3 innings, good for three runs.  He struck out four.
    • Clevelan Santeliz (1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR) was the loser. Mike MacDougal earned the win.
  • Winston-Salem 7, Frederick 6
    • Jon Gilmore went 2-for-5 with two RBI; Eduardo Escobar had two singles, a sac bunt and an HBP over five PAs.
    • Brandon Short went 1-for-4 with a double and an HBP.
    • Terry Doyle suffered his first shelling, allowing six runs on 10 hits and two walks over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two.
    • Santos Rodriguez (2 2/3 IP) and Dan Remenowsky (2 IP) combined to strike out six over 4 2/3 shutout innings.
  • Delmarva 2, Kannapolis 1
    • Brady Shoemaker went 1-for-3; Nick Ciolli went 0-for-3 with a sac fly and two K’s.
    • Miguel Gonzalez had a single over four at-bats.
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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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knoxfire30

Pierre is playing as expected? 260ish with a 315obp…. ugh, I expected more then that.

bigfun

He’s only playing slightly below his actual talent level (about .280 BA/.330 OBP). His current BABIP is .264 and he’s never been below .293 in previous seasons. Unless he’s really lost his out-of-the-box speed this season he’ll average out to his typical numbers before long.

knoxfire30

I do think he has lost maybe a half step, he has hit into double plays most of the year and I just might not be remembering right but I cant come up with too many bunt hits or infield hits I remember him beating out.
I hope he just continues on his current path and gets to 290 and 330 that would be fine I guess, especially since we are locked into this guy next year as well. Personally If Im kenny williams I am calling the reds everyday trying to sell them and dusty on their need for a leadoff guy they didnt get much of anything out of stubbs and now obac this year up top.

bigfun

Out of curiosity I looked it up.
GDP = 5, 2.04% of at-bats, vs. 1.28% career.
Infield hits = 16, 5.78% of plate appearances, vs. 6.67% career.
Bunt hits = just 3, pretty far down from much of his career. He only had 2 last year.
He could improve these numbers as his hitting heats up through the year, but he certainly hasn’t started strong.

danks50

Pedro Alvarez making his major league debut today, wonder how he shakes out after a monster power year in the minors last year.
Smoak, Matusz, Posey, Beckham, Alvarez, Davis already in the majors? 08 has a chance to produce a monster class of major league players.

Shinons

Seeing Castro scoring from first was certainly a sight. But in response to Kenny doing well with his minor acquisitions, he also kinda failed on them. Your point about Kenny putting too much trust in the spotty record likes of Quentin and Teahen, the same is true with Castro and Vizquel. It’s great that they’ve contributed, but what if they haven’t? There’s not much in the way of fall-back options – which is the exact dilemma we’re in with Teahen and Quentin. I like Williams, but hitting on around half of your personnel decisions isn’t a great accomplishment.
And for some reason Vizquel was batting second last night…it’s not his fault for being put in a position where he’s not going to be successful, but seeing Pierre beat out the double play in the sixth with Beckham on first was just painful when remembering that Vizquel was coming up.

tdogg

Are you seriously asking what if a gm didnt hit on his backup catcher and utility infielder? These people are not fall back options for ANY team. Quentin’s performance has crushed the White Sox this year and pretty much everyone- fans and projection systems alike have been wrong about him so far. There is no arguing the minor acquistions have done well this year.
Jim’s right. The problem is a move like Teahan. An avg at best corner bat with a crappy glove for a team that is supposed to be built around pitching and defense.

Shinons

Uh, no. I’m saying that it’s ok to target high risk players, but you need contingency plans.
And Vizquel has been looked at as more than just a utility infielder. He was batting second last night, and entering the season Ozzie said he would use him as a leadoff hitter against tough lefties.

bigfun

Ozzie has only led off with Vizquel twice this season, so that doesn’t seem like a big problem. The fact that he’s playing everyday now reflects the failure of the Teahen acquisition (as well as a general lack of depth), not anything really wrong with acquiring Omar.

Shinons

No, the Vizquel acquisition has worked out. But the same mentality was used toward centerfield and leadoff last year, DH, 3B and our corner outfielders this year. If you’re going to throw shit on the wall and see what sticks, have a back up plan. Colon last year is a good example of what I’m talking about. He worked out for a little bit, but we had a quality prospect in Richard ready to go when he fizzled out. We didn’t have that with the way we planned on using Kotsay, Jones, and Vizquel as DH by committee, so we’re left with everyone having to at least hit expectations or we’re screwed.
In 2008 the opening game lineup at least resembled the 163rd game. That was nice.

bigfun

I generally agree with what your saying; but I also agree with Jim’s point that even if the overall roster construction has failed, lacks depth, and relied too much on wishcasting, the Vizquel, Castro, and Putz acquisitions were fine in and of themselves and could have been part of a winning team if the larger roles were filled correctly.

Shinons

Good points all around.

chisoxt

I have said it here before, but Reinsdorf and Co. have to be pissed as hell at Williams for snookering him into buying into the Jake Peavy trade (and corresponding contract). We all know how much the Chairman hates paying starting pitchers large sums of money, especially those that go bust. Don’t tell me how much better Peavy has been pitching lately, or what his FIP is, the fact remains that Kenny has given away 3/5s of a decent a bloated payroll with underperforming veteran players.
To this end, yes, I think that the scales may be tipping a bit in Ozzie’s favor now.

tdogg

Just so I understand. Peavy is a bust because of less than a third of a season? Since when did the Chairman hate paying starting pitchers? He really nixed the Buerhle deal huh? Didn’t have a problem giving Jose a 3 year deal. The Chairmen hates long term contracts. I wish folks would stop trying to turn specific issues into all encompassing ones.
Last year folks cried Rios was dead and buried. Quentin and Beckham, the other part of the sinking combination don’t make much.

chisoxt

“Just so I understand. Peavy is a bust because of less than a third of a season?”
No, I hated the trade the moment it was made. If you had been paying attention, you would have known Jake’s long history of injuries. Why trade young arms for someone like that who will be paid about $45 over the next three seasons? Why not instead, invest that money in filling some of the other glaring holes on the team.

tdogg

I didn’t ask if you hated the trade. That is a matter of opinion to be played out. You implied he was a bust after 1/3 of a season. That’s ridiculous. And long history of injuries? Surely you just meant recent injury.

chisoxt

No, not just recently. Jakes injury history should have given Kenny pause, especially since he is owed so much money over the next three seasons. For goodness sakes, he was on the DL when they traded for him.

tdogg

Hmmm so if its not recent then you are referring to the 800+ innings he pitched the previous 4 years??? Huh? The White Sox have probably the best medical staff in baseball. His latest injuries were not arm related. I wasnt aware that a freak ankle injury was related to a likely future one. Peavy is very likely to pitch to his contract value. Reinsdorf wasn’t snookered into anything.

bigfun

tdogg, I agree with you about the injuries (although the shoulder thing is worrisome), but I don’t think he can earn that contract. He’s being paid like his 2006/2007 self, and maybe he would could still do that at Petco, but he’s given almost no indication so far that he can pitch even close to that level at U.S. Cellular.

tdogg

I agree its not a definite. You are right he won’t be a 6 WAR pitcher here. But for the first 3 years he really only needs to be about a 3.5 WAR pitcher to equal the value. If he’s healthy I think he certainly can do that. Much like the Rios example his skills are still intact, and he’ll adapt to a degree.
I think Peavy is unlikely to “exceed” his contract value and that’s fine. Every contract doesn’t have to. That’s one of the benefits of having players like Alexei and Floyd in friendly contracts.

bigfun

I just went backwards on your math… are you valuing wins at nearly $5 million? That doesn’t sound right to me.
He’s owed a minimum of $17.3 per year from 2010 to 2012 (minimum as in assuming they buy out the option year). I would value wins at something closer to $4 million per (which is debatable… if you want to cite anything really current on win valuation that I haven’t seen, feel free).
Under my math, he needs to do 4.3 per year. Not very confident about him doing that.

tdogg

I think it will be higher than 4 million but you are correct I did not add the cost of the buyout. For argument sake if its 4 WAR its way too early to have a strong opinion (imo) one way or another. I will say this though. Look at it this way. I know its not entirely accurate. Last year Floyd yielded a 4.5 WAR season. As I said, I still see the skills and he could still have an outstanding season thrown in with average. For me its health and what better team to help with that? It will be interesting.

tdogg

I think it will be higher than 4 million but you are correct I did not add the cost of the buyout. For argument sake if its 4 WAR its way too early to have a strong opinion (imo) one way or another. I will say this though. Look at it this way. I know its not entirely accurate but last year Floyd yielded a 4.5 WAR season. As I said, I still see the skills and he could still have an outstanding season thrown in with average. For me its health and what better team to help with that? It will be interesting.