White Sox gaining in revised projections, assuming they have few losses

With the schedules set, Baseball Prospectus published its revised PECOTA projections for the abbreviated 2020 season.

Good news: The White Sox get a little boost from a schedule larded with games against the Tigers and Royals. Bad news: So do the other two divisional contenders.

As a result, the standings retain the same shape.

Team162-game60-game
Twins93-6935-25
Indians86-7632-28
White Sox83-7931-29

But what has changed is the spread of the outcomes. With its original 2020 projections, BP posted the win curves for each team over their 1,000 runs, showing the most likely ranges for each team. BP updated those as well:

This is a good illustration of how a smaller sample size hurts the Twins. Given 162 games, the Twins didn’t start peaking until well into their rivals’ declines. Here, the difference is just a bad series.

As we’ve discussed before, the White Sox are in a unique position to benefit from the circumstances. Just like ZiPS, PECOTA also shows the White Sox’s postseason odds improving more than those of any other team, and by a significant margin.

TeamMarch%July %Change
Chicago White Sox18.628.29.6
Toronto Blue Jays2.510.37.8
Texas Rangers0.57.26.7

* * * * * * * * *

These projections are the rosiest in recent memory for the White Sox, but they also feel the flimsiest due to the circumstances. Between players opting out, players waffling about playing, players who tested positive and all those positive tests yet to come, depth charts and playing time distributions are going to require regular vigilance. The White Sox themselves are working with a couple situations that projections can’t yet account for.

They’ve had two positive COVID-19 tests, but the players didn’t allow the team to disclose their names. Yoán Moncada hasn’t yet participated in training camp, and Rick Renteria’s reasoning was vague at best (“I’m just holding him out right now”). These dots are begging to be connected, but even if that’s not Moncada’s story, the questions about his condition and the number of games he can play remain. His breakout 2019 is a big reason why the 2020 projections are so much sturdier, so if he’s not around, that’s a blow.

Then there’s Michael Kopech, who has yet to show up to Guaranteed Rate Field due to a personal matter. Kopech is not a reason why the White Sox look so much better on spreadsheets. In fact, Kopech’s projections are relatively dreadful, especially PECOTA’s (5.87 ERA).

But one man’s “analytics hates me” is another man’s opportunity. If Kopech posted a season that resembled that of a decent No. 4 starter, White Sox fans wouldn’t be impressed, but it’d make a dent in some of the models. Kopech approaching his ceiling in 2020 would be akin to flipping a Senate seat in Wyoming.

That’s only if Kopech is around, though. If he’s unavailable for whatever reason, then the White Sox are suddenly without their most straightforward upside play. Others feel more dependent on faith or randomness. One of them could be Reynaldo López, who resumed the emphasis on focus and mental resilience that has been a staple of personal and team assessments over the past year.

I’m certain these claims have some merit, but I’ve had a hard time telling if there’s any overlap between these focus problems and his biggest tangible issue, which is lacking a fallback plan for days when his fastball command isn’t on point. Lucas Giolito can deploy a smokescreen of changeups while trying to right the ship, and Carlos Rodón will summon “Hard Carl” and grunt through five innings on mostly sliders. Other White Sox have pitchers have at least one secondary pitch that will help them carry sleeper sofas out of a third-floor walkup, but López’s changeup and breaking ball can take days to respond to texts. I wouldn’t close the door on a turnaround, but a season that’s more reliant on improvement from López over Kopech is a season that’s harder for White Sox fans dream on.

But as the White Sox just reminded us this morning by selling fans the opportunity to have their face in a cutout in the stands of Guaranteed Rate Field, this is not just “a season.” If and when games are played, we don’t know which players will actually be around for them. Of the players who will be active, who knows how many will actually look like themselves? For all we know, maybe this is where López has an edge, because the guy actively addressing mental blocks may be better equipped to handle this kind of season than all the players who don’t have the vocabulary to express what they’re experiencing.

(Portrait of Yoán Moncada by Carl Skanberg)

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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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Eagle Bones

This made me laugh, well done Jim!

Other White Sox have pitchers have at least one secondary pitch that will help them carry sleeper sofas out of a third-floor walkup, but López’s changeup and breaking ball can take days to respond to texts.

ParisSox

We’ve all been there, heh?

As Cirensica

I couldn’t do it better

lil jimmy

Two days I will always remember. The day I was too old to be drafted, and the day I became too old to help people move!

fustercluck

Jim’s analogy AI seems to be evolving. This must be what it was like when Skynet started to win at chess.

asinwreck

I am thankful Mr. Rodón’s nickname has to do with his toughness and not temperature.

John SF

Kopech approaching his ceiling in 2020 would be akin to flipping a Senate seat in Wyoming.

Other White Sox have pitchers have at least one secondary pitch that will help them carry sleeper sofas out of a third-floor walkup, but López’s changeup and breaking ball can take days to respond to texts.

Just fantastic prose as always Jim.

As Cirensica

Vaughn and Abreu taking practice as a 3B is another indicative of Moncada being unavailable?

mattcoz

Yeah, more smoke.

Eagle Bones

Seems unlikely these two have anything to do with each other. Can’t imagine either of those guys logging time at third except in an emergency.

As Cirensica

Moncada in the Covid-19 Injured List makes it an emergency. We have Mendick though. And Leury.

youhadmeatabreu

Didn’t Encarnacion play 3B when he got into the league. Sure he was bad at is and that was a decade ago, but . . . . . .

joewho112

His nickname was E5, wasn’t it?

As Cirensica

He was really bad many years ago…nowadays when he is older, slower and not that athletic, I don’t think so. Also, he has been down with some back issues, so the least he wears a glove the better.

Eagle Bones

Mendick, leury, cuthbert, madrigal after a week. There are a bunch of guys they’d go to before going that route. Not to mention they probably have no intent of starting Vaughn’s clock.

shaggy65

Cheslor Cuthbert is a third baseman…

but holy hell I really hope we don’t have to break the glass to get him.

lil jimmy

Jake Peter just became available…

Right Size Wrong Shape

Does everyone still get to be irrationally angry if they get rid of him again?

Big Hurt Beer

It’s stiff competition between you and Fegan as to who makes me laugh more in relatively mundane articles. Fegan has

The most the public gets to see of Rodón is obviously on the mound, where it’s all glowering and contempt for undershirts

while Jim has

Other White Sox have pitchers have at least one secondary pitch that will help them carry sleeper sofas out of a third-floor walkup, but López’s changeup and breaking ball can take days to respond to texts.

White Sox writing is so much better than the team’s baseball ability.