GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There has been neither shock nor surprise attached to Baseball Prospectus’ sub-.500 prediction for the White Sox among team personnel this week.
A joke or two may have been made at expense of the website, which rarely predicts with accuracy how the South Siders will fare in a given season. Others say they relish the role of the underdog, one PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) suggests for a team in 2013 that won 85 games and spent 117 days in first place last season. Baseball Prospectus predicted a 77-85 finish for the White Sox.
Then there’s general manager Rick Hahn, who notes his respect for the system and its creator -- presidential election guru Nate Silver -- but disagrees with its evaluations of White Sox pitchers. Hahn has reason to be skeptical; the White Sox have averaged 7.125 more wins per season than PECOTA has projected since 2005.
“It’s real interesting stuff and innovative at its time,” Hahn said. “We tend to disagree with them primarily with the durability of our starters. If all of a sudden our one-through-five are throwing 200 fewer innings than we expect them to throw, then you will have to fill those innings with sub-prime starters, conceivably, and that will increase their projections in terms of runs allowed. Their projections this year currently have us giving up 81 more runs than we gave up last year. Looking at this roster, our opinion is that probably isn’t going to happen if everybody stays healthy.”
Last season, BP believed the White Sox would win 78 games. The system has been off by as many as 19 wins in the 2005 World Series campaign and only twice has it finished within three wins of the team’s actual total over the past eight seasons.
None of this season’s projection surprises John Danks, who has been with the team since 2007.
“They pick us there every year and more often than not, they’ve been wrong,” Danks said. “Whatever. We get it. We know going into the year we’re not the favorites. We understand that. As cliché as it sounds, that’s why you play the games. Teams didn’t anticipate Baltimore and Oakland doing what they did, either. We feel good about our group. That’s all that matters.”
Second baseman Gordon Beckham joked that he’s not even sure what BP is and said an immeasurable characteristic, chemistry, will help the team play above expectations.
“I don’t care,” Beckham said. “We’re a good team and we’re really close knit and that’s the main thing. It’s more about a team. I’ve seen great teams not do well. But if a team is close, and they like each other and play for each other, it’ll work out.”
Reliever Jesse Crain said he doesn’t mind the projection, either.
Crain, now in his third season with the White Sox, likes that his team isn’t expected to do well even though it’s coming off 85 victories. The White Sox believe many of last season’s rookies will improve and continue to mesh well with a veteran roster.
“I like being able to surprise people and you go out there and play hard and kind of under the radar and see what happens at the end,” Crain said. “We were like that with the Twins a lot as well for a while. I think it’s a little easier on the guys to be in that position where they are not expected to do things. They have nothing to lose and show up and win.”
Hahn expects his starters will be stronger than BP’s projections. But if they aren’t, and injuries occur, he can see where the White Sox might meet or even fail to live up to the site’s poor mark. However, he’d like to believe the White Sox own projections are more in line with what will occur.
“If we start hitting the innings totals they project for guys like Danks or Sale or Peavy or Gavin then (77 wins is) conceivable,” Hahn said. “It’s a little of a difference in opinion in health and durability and there is also some stuff with our relievers where we project them a little different than they do.”