White Sox improve road results … but how?

The revamped roster makes a difference away from U.S. Cellular Field, but only one part of it - and it's not the offense.

The White Sox wrapped up their travels in style on Sunday, with Tony Pena beating Jered Weaver for the second time this season to lock in a sweep and a 4-2 West Coast swing.
They finished with a sound 43-38 record away from U.S. Cellular Field, which suggests that one facet of the Kenny Williams-Ozzie Guillen offseason plan actually worked the way they envisioned. It put an end to a streak of three straight seasons of sub-.500 play on the road, and was the second most successful road year of Guillen’s tenure:

  • 2010: 43-38
  • 2009: 36-45
  • 2008: 35-46
  • 2007: 34-47
  • 2006: 41-40
  • 2005: 52-29
  • 2004: 37-44

Of course, it wouldn’t be 2010 if there weren’t something a little misleading about how the Sox managed to accomplish that record, although the down year for offenses skews the numbers a little across the board.
First things first, I know what some of you are thinking, and no — their 8-1 record in National League parks only explains two games (they were 6-3 last year).
The Sox were sixth in the league in road runs (345) despite scoring a dozen fewer than they did the year before, when they finished eighth. They were fortunate to not have a bigger deficit, because they hit 15 fewer homers away from U.S. Cellular Field (66 in 2010, 81 in 2009), and on top of that, they also reached base far less often (.321 OBP to .330). They even hit two points worse, and batting average was supposed to be an improvement.
Any advantage on the basepaths gained by the 26 extra steals was negated by the 15 extra unsuccessful attempts. There’s no difference in doubles or triples, either, which would suggest an improvement in team speed. They must have just done a better job of bunching their hits better.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “It must be the pitching.” Yes and no. Sox pitchers did throw extremely well away from Chicago … but no better than they did last year, relative to the league. They’ll likely finish second in fewest runs allowed this year; they were first in that category in 2009. In fact, their run differential was basically the same.

  • 2010: +12 (345-333)
  • 2009: +9 (357-349)

Everything looks the same when looking at the aggregate — but I managed to find something that might explain the reversal of fortune:

  • 2010: .248/.324/.337, 12 HR, 88 RBI
  • 2009: .271/.341/.412, 24 HR, 120 RBI

Those lines represent the damage White Sox relievers allowed on the road over the last two seasons. That database doesn’t itemize runs allowed, so RBI is the closest I can come to approximating it.
When a relief corps cuts its gopher balls in half, you’re going to see a huge improvement. And one area to check for that huge improvement is a team’s record in one-run games. It’s far from a perfect measure, because throwing six innings of scoreless relief to win a 14-inning game is the same as turning a six-run blowout into a one-run squeaker, but there’s some logic behind it, and it’s the best we have for bulk stats.
Nevertheless, I think we found our answer. Compare the team’s records in one-run games on the road, and you’ll find there is no comparison:

  • 2010: 16-15
  • 2009: 7-16

It does reinforce Hawk Harrelson’s tenet that an offense is only as good as its bullpen, doesn’t it?
Of course, I could have saved myself a lot of time had I just took what I learned in the last game and extrapolated from there. Scott Linebrink and Matt Thornton (going two innings — way to go, Ozzie!) posted zeroes in the seventh, eighth and ninth after the White Sox offense scraped together four runs without a homer. If nothing else, it’s a fitting and satisfactory end to that half of the season.

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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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striker

I have a question for readers, who would you rather have in the rotation in 2011, Pena or Garcia? (assuming they cost the same).

Shinons

Well, hopefully neither – hopefully all five of our regulars are healthy. But if we needed one of them, Pena by a mile.

bigfun

Two weird pitchers. Conventional wisdom is that a non-knuckleballer shouldn’t be able to live in the 80-mph zone that Freddy does, but he’s done it so far. Who knows if he can keep it up.
Tony Pena is a… mop-up specialist? He has a 3.29 ERA in games where he has pitched more than two innings, although his other stats don’t look much better. If there’s anything to his success in those outings it’s that he seems to limit extra base hits (.364 SLG against).
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?n1=penato03&t=p&year=2010#248,261,265,273,274,277,283,286,289,291,292,294,295,sum
I suppose if I was forced to choose between them I would take Pena because he’s less of an injury risk, and because he would be more flexible about his role if Peavy was healthy (whereas Garcia might not want to spend part or most of the season in the bullpen).
But I would also be fine with trading Jackson and keeping Freddy (or an equivalent cheap veteran).

As Cirensica

Between Pena and Garcia??? I prefer Livan Hernandez or an un-retired Steve Traschel comeback…or I even would have taken Mark Prior…. Did I make myself clear?
Well…but seriously…between Pena and Garcia, I prefer Daniel hudson….oh wait….our GM traded him to increase payroll by 7 millions…

Shinons

Freddy Garcia’s numbers up to 2003 when he turned 28: 2.06 so/bb, 6.7 so/9, 3.2 bb/9, 1.0 hr/9, 8.5 hits/9, 1.31 whip.
Tony Pena’s career numbers: 2.06 so/bb, 6.2 so/9, 3.0 bb/9, .9 hr/9, 9.1 hits/9, 1.35 whip.
Tony Pena: a less sweaty Freddy?

blah

Hey, Daniel Hudson is no John Ely

As Cirensica

Sorry..I just couldn’t resist. I’ll behave more professionally so to speak….Although I still believe that if we would have kept Hudson, we could have some 7 millions to get a decent fifth starter. I will not hide, and it can be demonstrated by my posts here and there that I dislike Tony Pena. Typical from some fans….Pena got three or four good starts and then “he’s good”…pffft…I still believe he is as mediocre as Scott Linebrink. Garcia and Pena both allow a robust 285 opponent Ave…you can’t hardly be a successful starter with that kind of average unless you don’t give out too many walks. Pena “gifted” 43 walks vs 45 from Garcia. Only that Garcia has more than 50 innings in his sheet than Pena. Some commenters believe Pena is healthier. Pena has never pitched more than 100 innings per season in his whole life…..he may break down with some “mileage” on him. Freddy has proven he is a starter, a guy of thousand battles, not very reliable, but he’s been “there” for many years. Pena just got lucky in some few innings. I believe that if Pena is named a starter he will not last more than 10 starts before going back to his “mop role” status….he will from time to time eat innings in losing endeavors, and some people will go: “what a good pitcher he is”.

ricksch

Don’t worry Jim, let Kenny root against Hudson as that trade will haunt him for years to come — or at least as long as he manages to fool Reinsdorf and keep his job.
The fact that there’s even a discussion about a piece of shit like Tony Pena puzzles the hell out of me. My vote is cast for ANYONE ELSE.

contrarian

Too late to root for Hudson to “fail spectacularly”. That train pulled out out of Union Station in July.
Since the trade, Hudson has had 11 starts, and is 7-1 with 1.69 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. All the starts were quality starts, and he has wins against the Padres, Giants (twice) and Reds.
He has become exactly what we had hoped for–only for the wrong team.

fustercluck

Those being the only choices for this thought exercise, I vote Pena. He’s got more potential than Freddy, who’s got a stiff back and a shoulder held together with airplane glue. Pena’s looking to crack 100 IP for the first time this year. I’d rather they keep him as long reliever / spot starter / Chris Sale insurance.

striker

What I’m thinking is that if we re-signed Pena and Peavy was healthy then that gives us Peavy, Buehrle, Floyd, Danks, Jackson, Sale and Pena as possible starters. This could make someone available if we had to acquire a big bat.

ricksch

If Garcia would accept the role, he’s much better suited for long relief now. The reduced innings would seem more manageable for him.
At least Freddy made a meaningful contribution and deserves consideration. Pena spit up just about every single high-lev situation he was in. What’s the point in holding out hope for a guy who three years ago had ONE decent year with the Diamondbleachs? Next!!