Cleaning Up Kenny Williams’ Mess

In spite of a questionable off-season approach to their designated hitter situation and a deadline deal that didn’t fill that vortex of suck, the Chicago White Sox are in first place on the backs of Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko, and most of the pitching staff. After facing Baltimore for one more tonight, they will be going into a critical 3 game series against division rival Minnesota. It doesn’t get us anywhere to look at the past, so the question is what can the White Sox do to maximize the value of the players they have going forward?

The most glaring weakness is still the DH spot. Mark Kotsay has received the majority of the playing time here, and he has also been the team’s least valuable hitter. Kotsay has posted a slash line of .228/.305/.378, with a wOBA of .299. Kotsay’s –0.7 WAR is not only the worst on the team, but tied for fourth worst in the MLB among players with 280 or more PAs. It’s clear that Kotsay isn’t getting the job done, but who is the most viable choice to replace him?

Young Cuban slugger Dayan Viciedo is an interesting option. He’s posting a .361 wOBA (.310/.310/.521) in his first 71 PAs. On the surface, that looks great, but his .333 BABIP is unsustainable for someone as… um… husky as Viciedo. Also, his walk rate of 0% is going to be exploited soon enough (Viciedo’s already swinging at 39.8% of balls outside of the strike zone). It’s clear that even with his incredible power, he’s just not ready for the Majors, and would likely be eaten alive in the playoffs.

Mark Teahen is nearing the completion of his rehab stint in Charlotte, and could be back with the club in the next week. The .255/.340/.387 (.317 wOBA) line he put up while starting at third base isn’t the most stunning, but against RHP he’s hitting .287/.376/.444 (.363 wOBA).

Andruw Jones has played in the DH role some, while also serving as the fourth outfielder. Andruw’s .204/.312/.444 line gives him a .336 wOBA, placing him in the neighborhood of being a league average hitter. Jones benefits from facing lefties, against whom he posts a line of .235/.350/.515 (.376 wOBA).

So based on those numbers, the answer to the DH scenario appears to be a Teahen/Jones platoon, right?

Wrong.

Well, half right. The White Sox currently have a right fielder who, while being a good hitter, is just terrible defensively. I’m of course referring to Jermaine Dye Carlos Quentin. Quentin’s line of .232/.328/.488 (.352 wOBA) is solid in it’s own right, but Quentin’s a great candidate to improve that line, thanks to the impending regression of his .213 BABIP. Quentin’s defense in the past two seasons has been quantifiably terrible. Back to back UZR/150s of –25.2 and –34.2 (the former in LF) have shown that Quentin can’t get the job done, and that he’s a DH (or maybe a first baseman, but that’s a discussion for 2011).

Teahen, meanwhile, has a UZR/150 of just –2.0 in 261 games in right. Jones, in 42 games this year, has a UZR/150 of 8.6. A platoon of these two players also would help the oft-injured Quentin stay healthy, keeping his dangerous bat in the lineup.

The White Sox are in a position that most didn’t think they could be in after the first two months of the season. The team has had some breaks, but if they’re going to compete with a very good Twins team, they have to utilize their players effectively. Getting Quentin out of the outfield and Mark Kotsay out of the lineup? Well, that’s just smart baseball.

We hoped you liked reading Cleaning Up Kenny Williams’ Mess by Matt Zakrowski!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




newest oldest most voted
MikeS
Guest
MikeS

Couldn’t agree more. Why does Ozzie insist on playing Quentin in Right and DH’ing Kotsay or Jones? He is accentuating their negatives and playing down the positives. He also puts Quentin at risk for injury which is not insignificant for a guy who has trouble staying in the lineup. Quentin tries hard out there and he’s got a strong, accurate arm but every time he dives for a ball that Jones would have caught easily I cringe and hope he comes through the experience with all his parts intact.

Kenny Ocker
Member

I like your concept here, and I also like the way it was written. You did a good job in illustrating the problem, offering a passable solution, and then an even more interesting solution.

Matt Walsh
Guest
Matt Walsh

Tough not to agree with your conclusion, but I don’t think the title is fair to Kenny (especially considering your opening sentence- “the Chicago White Sox are in first place on the backs of Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Paul Konerko”). Getting Alex Rios certainly deserves some credit.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

I don’t see what the hell the title has to do with anything. TCQ is Kenny Williams mess? Kotsay is a disaster, but the article doesn’t stop there. You bring up obvious points, Kotsay can’t DH and TCQ needs to get out of the field. The real problem is a lack of options. Reportedly, the CWS acquired EJax in order to get Dunn to fix the problem. WAS changed their mind on the deal, and the CWS got left high and dry. The line of “has been in the neighborhood of league average hitter” cracks me up. Is it too… Read more »

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

I get it, but let’s dig deeper. [1] Just as one is required to say that Philly should have kept Lee, CWS should have kept Thome. Now, that’s out of the way … [2] Kotsay is a little below average (.322 wOBA) as a LHB v. RHP, which is how they’ve used him, except for 22 ABs (in which he’s HORRIBLE against LHPs). [3] Jones has been much better against LHP’s, but in a much smaller sample. [4] Whether Teahen DH’s or plays 3B is probably a wash. The slight gain you get with Omar in fielding is lost with… Read more »

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Kotsay’s -0.7 WAR, in comparison to the others, is more of a reflection of positional replacement levels than it is batting production. Here’s the guys we’re looking at in terms of wOBA splits … TOT/vLHP/vRHP —————– Teahen — 319/167/366 Kotsay — 300/064/322 Jones — 330/358/310 Castro — 406/507/367 Viceido — 313/376/239 Quentin — 360/358/361 Vizquel — 318/282/328 Castro getting a shot at DH makes the most sense to me. One could come up with varoius platoon arrangements for 3B/RF/DH, but none would guarantee continued performance with partial playing time. But, Kotsay at DH isn’t really a whole lot different than… Read more »

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

TCQ does have to get out of the OF. I would consider it a priority, because he can be a league average DH, which is a GOOD hitter. But losing 2 wins in the of due to his poor play is horrific … and well, doesn’t make sense when pitching is your strong point. For some reason AJ has a great reputation for “handling pitchers”. My personal opinion is that he’s the laziest, most half-assed, catcher I see. MOF, when I work with catchers and they half-hearted backhand a ball in the dirt instead of shifting over and blocking it,… Read more »

Sox2727
Guest
Sox2727

Obviously in hindsight, the decision to not bring back Thome and use this “rotating” DH has failed miserably. It literally causes me great pain to see Mark Kotsay’s name in the lineup when I arrive at the ballpark. However, Kenny left this decision up to Ozzie who “needed” Kotsay because he’s a “good clubhouse guy.” You know what goes great in a clubhouse, a .350-.375 wOBA from your DH. I really feel that Kenny needed to step in and override Ozzie on this one, so I believe they’re equally to blame for this particular problem. How you can justify Kotsay… Read more »