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?
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.