PECOTA Day brings me a lot of joy for a lot of reasons, but one of the most fun aspects of its release, at least to me, is looking at the player comparisons.
Like last year, I’ve picked out some of my favorite White Sox player comparisons — fun, unusual, exciting — as we continue to count down the days until pitchers and catchers report.
Noteworthy comparisons: 2007 Derrek Lee, 1996 Rafael Palmeiro
2007 Lee was two years removed from being “Derrek Lee: World-Destroying MVP Candidate” but he was still very good, going .317/.400/.513 with 22 home runs. Palmeiro’s ’96 season was the second of nine straight seasons in which he hit 30 home runs or more and he finished sixth in AL MVP voting. Sluggers on the wrong side of 30 don’t have a great history of continued strong performance — it’s sometimes feels like we’re all sitting here waiting for Abreu to stop being Abreu — so while these performances may be outliers (performance-enhancement issues aside in the latter’s case), the possibility that Abreu continues to produce at an above-average rate in his age-31 season remains strong.
Noteworthy comparisons: 2015 D.J. LeMahieu, 2007 Brandon Phillips
After a surprisingly productive 2017, it’s fun to dream of Sanchez suddenly morphing into an All-Star caliber infield, even if it’s still incredibly farfetched. In 2015, LeMahieu did just that, as after a few years of being an average-ish middle infielder (although he did win a Gold Glove the year prior), LeMahieu started to supplement his superb defense with enough offense to warrant an All-Star berth. Like LeMahieu, Sanchez’s best position is probably second base, but with the presence of Yoan Moncada, Sanchez will likely see most of his playing time in 2018 at third base, which makes such an ascent more unlikely. Phillips’ inclusion is more perplexing. Like LeMahieu, his 2007 season was a breakout campaign in his second full season in the majors, but I don’t exactly see 30-homer potential out of Sanchez’s bat.
Noteworthy comparisons: 2010 Hunter Pence, 2008 Alex Rios
PECOTA expects regression from Garcia, which isn’t surprising considering how out-of-nowhere his 2017 season was. But putting up numbers comparable to Pence’s 2010 season or Rios’ 2008 season wouldn’t be regressive at all (each put up 5.0 WARP seasons). From a rate stats perspective, regression to the form of an OPS in the high .700s would be reasonable, but both Pence and Rios were above-average defenders in their respective seasons, according to FRAA. That kind of improvement from Garcia seems unthinkable, but I guess so did him having a .330 batting average one year ago.
Noteworthy comparisons: 2015 Madison Bumgarner, 2011 Yovani Gallardo, 2011 Johnny Cueto, 1986 Fernando Valenzuela
Rodon’s entire comparable players list is a laundry list of wonder. A year ago, PECOTA compared Rodon to Bumgarner’s 2014 season in which he posted both his highest K/9 and lowest BB/9 (at the time) of his career. In 2015, he was even better. In 2011, Cueto was just entering his peak, while Gallardo had his last above-average season. Then there’s Valenzuela, five years removed from peak “Fernando-mania” but still good enough to set a career high in strikeouts, throwing 269 innings with an absurd 20 complete games. That is totally attainable for Rodon, right? There are some less-fun comps on Rodon’s list (2011 Joba Chamberlain and Phill Hughes, anyone?) but it’s by far my favorite of the bunch.
Noteworthy comparisons: 2011 Kevin Millwood, 2015 John Lackey, 2008 Esteban Loaiza
I had to throw one not-so-fun guy on here, right? 2011 was the second-to-last year of Millwood’s career. He threw 54 innings for the Rockies and was out of baseball a year later. Likewise, 2008 was the last year of Loaiza’s career. He threw a grand total of 27 innings (including three with the White Sox) and then it was time for him to go. 2015 Lackey was actually pretty good! He threw 218 innings for the Cardinals (his highest total since 2007) and was worth 2.2 WARP. That would be a dream for Shields.
Lead Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports