PECOTA has been released for a few weeks now, but there’s always plenty to digest in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.
One of my favorite aspects of PECOTA to look at around this time of year is the player comparisons, something that is far from gospel but at least somewhat useful in that: “it takes a player’s baseline projection and finds players with the same age and similar contact, power on contact, walks, and strikeout rates, as well as similar height, weight, handedness, and position (or start/relief split for pitchers).”
There’s always something interesting in these player comparisons, so I thought I’d take a look through the top ones for White Sox players and see if anything fun comes up.
Fun comp: 2014 Madison Bumgarner
Baseball Prospectus Editor in Chief Aaron Gleeman wrote a piece last week listing the pitchers PECOTA thinks are the best bets to break out in 2017. Among those pitchers was Rodon, and when you look at his top comparable player and the stats that pitcher put up in that season, it’s easy to start dreaming of a future Cy Young contender.
The grain of salt that’s needed to be taken with these comps is important to remember, of course. At 24, Bumgarner had already completed three straight 200-plus inning seasons, where Rodon first full season a year ago saw him max out at 165 innings. Stuff like that are the most obvious flaw in these projections (remember, this exercise is supposed to be fun). But when you see Rodon compared to a pitcher and season that produced 217 innings, 219 strikeouts, and 6.1 WARP, you see why both the White Sox and PECOTA are enticed by his potential.
Quintana’s comps are a testament to his consistency and the fact that he’s established himself as one of the best starting pitchers in the league. Price in 2014, Cueto in 2014 and Wainwright in 2010 all led their respective leagues in innings pitched and strikeouts. In both Cueto’s and Wainwright’s cases, their performances led to second place finishes in Cy Young voting. Price put together his season across both Tampa Bay and Detroit, so he could have another thing in common with Quintana before long.
Fun comps: 1999 Ray Durham, 2009 Alexei Ramirez
Lawrie’s comps are fun mostly because they include two memorable seasons by White Sox infielders. Durham’s ’99 was his second season in what wound up being nine straight of .800 OPS or higher, and 11 straight at .785 or higher. Ramirez’s ’09 was his second in the majors and another step in establishing him as an above-average contributor at his position.
The difference between those two and Lawrie, of course, is that both were consistently healthy throughout those seasons, while Lawrie has yet to prove he’s able to do that.
If there’s any comp that might make you believe this system is whacked out of its mind, it’s this one. Saladino profiles as a solid major-league utility player, someone who can start in a pinch but that shouldn’t be relied on to be a meaningful contributor if you have eyes on contention. In 2014, Dozier hit 23 home runs, stole 21 bases, and put up a .762 OPS and 4.4 WARP in 707 plate appearances. Two years later he was a 40-dinger guy who garnered MVP votes. Phillips’ ’08 numbers were similar, but it was a below-average offensive season by his standards.
So there you have it. The White Sox have future Cy Young contenders and top second basemen on their roster already. This rebuild is going to be much simpler than anyone expected.
Lead Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports