Comparing Geovany Soto to A.J. Pierzynski

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Comparing Geovany Soto to A.J. Pierzynski

When Tony Andracki and I rolled out our Chicago All-Decade Team for 2000-2011, we figured there would be plenty of people who wouldn't agree with our decision to put Geovany Soto behind the plate over A.J. Pierzynski. Today on Chicago Tribune Live, David Kaplan, along with Fred Mitchell, Bob Foltman and Jason Goch, debated our list -- specifically, our inclusion of Soto over Pierzynski:

Mitchell's note that Pierzynski's intangibles shouldn't be overlooked is certainly fair. There's no position in baseball at which "intangibles" are more important than catcher. Plus, Pierzynski has a fine track record working with pitchers, and everyone who's thrown to him has been complimentary.

Pierzynski has won a World Series with the White Sox and has endeared himself to the fanbase, both of which count for something. But Soto still wins out, albeit narrowly.

If we're looking at three categories for evaluation, Soto wins two: offense and defense. Pierzynski easily wins the category we can't measure -- intangibles.

But offensively, Soto has been superior to Pierzysnki despite the up-and-down nature of his four full seasons in the majors. In those four years, Soto has a .254 batting average, but that's nowhere near as important as his .347 on-base percentage. His OPS over that span sits at .798, which is very good for a catcher.

In Pierzynski's seven years with the White Sox, he owns a .279 batting average. But that shouldn't be of much concern -- his .317 on-base percentage is a full 30 points lower than that of Soto. And his .730 OPS also pales in comparison.

By OPS, Soto rates above average (108), while Pierzynski rates below-average (90) offensively. So Soto wins that category.

And defensively, Soto rates better than Pierzynski. In 2011, Soto was a top 25 defensive catcher, while Pierzynski rated as the fourth-worst in baseball. While putting a value on catcher defense is still a work in progress for the statistical community, Matt Klaassen's ratings currently stand as the best we have.

Granted much of Pierzynski's lack of defensive value comes from his struggles throwing out runners, some of which isn't his fault thanks to the slow deliveries of, say, Gavin Floyd. But he rates as below-average in terms of passed balls and wild pitches, whereas Soto is above average in that category. So, using this analysis, Soto bests Pierzynski defensively.

And now we reach the subject of intangibles. This is what it comes down to: We can't place a value on intangibles, but they are important for a catcher. But because Soto won the two tangible categories, intangibles don't count as a tiebreaker.

Thus, we went with Soto over Pierzysnki. If you value Pierzynski's intangibles over Soto's offense and defense, that's a perfectly fine argument to make. Maybe that is the case. It's hard to know that, though it's an argument both of us can accept.

So that's our rebuttal to this SotoPierzynski debate. Feel free to drop either of us a line on twitter @TonyAndracki23 or @JJStankevitz and we can elaborate further, or post in the comments below and we'll get back to you.

And check back with us next week for our all-decade team for the 1990s!

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After he pulled the ball more than ever in 2016, Todd Frazier has worked to hit it the opposite way more often this spring. Even if he struggled.

But as the Opening Day nears, Frazier doesn’t want to cheat himself. Though he struggled last season, Frazier hit a career-high 40 homers. That kind of success means Frazier will continue to pull a pitch if it’s where he likes it. That approach led to a double and Frazier’s first home run of the spring in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Both balls were hit to left field.

“I’ve been working on a lot of things and sometimes when you work on something the results aren’t going to be there,” Frazier said. “But I still stay true to myself. And once we start getting going here, pretty close, close as can be -- it’s time to have those things in the back of your mind. But at the same time, you have to hit it where the pitch is and put in play. I was working on a lot of things. I was still trying to go right field, couldn’t get it out there. And now you go to what you know best and just react.”

According to fangraphs.com, Frazier hit 22.8 percent of all balls he put in play to right field last year, which is actually above his career mark of 22.5 percent. But en route to slashing .225/.302/.464, Frazier saw a second consecutive dramatic drop in the number of balls he hit to center. Of the balls Frazier put in play, only 28.5 percent went up the middle, down from 37.7 percent in 2014 when he produced a career-best wRC+ of 122.

To correct that trend, Frazier has worked to give himself a better chance to hit outside pitches the opposite way. Now that his focus is back on hitting to all fields, Frazier thought it was a good sign to homer with a week left before the season starts.

“It feels good,” Frazier said. “It’s showing I’m in the right place. It was a changeup and I’ve been out in front on a lot of those. I’ve got about 10 or 12 more at-bats before the season starts and it’s go time. Get back in the rhythm of things. Whatever you worked on, keep that there. If it’s outside now I have that weapon too as well. I’m right where I need to be.”