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Friday, August 27, 2004
Split Personalities

The White Sox batted a Major League worst .226 in July. To put it mildly they were terrible. They haven't been much better in August.

I thought that they may have had, with the loss of Frank and Maggs, the biggest difference in splits before and after the All-Star Break. With the help of ESPN's uber-useful sortable splits, I set out to compare the Sox with the rest of the AL. The results were somewhat surprising.

Here's a look at the difference in the qualitative stats from the first to second half. "^" is supposed to represent Delta.

Team           ^BA   ^OBP   ^SLG   ^OPS

Texas 0.040 0.029 0.040 0.069
Chicago Sox 0.019 0.033 0.021 0.053
NY Yankees 0.002 0.019 0.009 0.027
Toronto 0.009 0.022 0.005 0.026
Tampa Bay 0.007 0.016 0 0.016
Detroit 0.013 0.011 -0.003 0.008
Baltimore 0.001 0.004 -0.015 -0.013
Oakland 0.005 -0.008 -0.005 -0.013
Boston -0.007 -0.002 -0.017 -0.018
Kansas City -0.012 -0.016 -0.012 -0.028
Anaheim -0.018 -0.018 -0.013 -0.031
Minnesota -0.005 -0.008 -0.038 -0.045
Cleveland -0.005 0.003 -0.055 -0.051
Seattle -0.025 -0.017 -0.042 -0.059

Just now as I'm typing this I realize the numbers are a little counter-intuitive, but they are understandable when explained. I subtracted the second half from the first, so a positive number actually indicates a decline in production in the second half.

The White Sox offense has struggled without Frank and Maggs, no doubt. But surprisingly it didn't have the worst drop in OPS numbers in the AL. That honor falls to the Texas Rangers, for reasons that can only be explained by a white-hot start.

Chicago did however have the biggest drop in OBP, which we all know is the most important stat in baseball. Frank Thomas still leads this team in walks, even without playing in 51 of the teams games. At his current rate, second on the team in walks, Paul Konerko won't pass Frank until the last week of the season. Earlier in the season Harold Reylonds opined that Frank's OBP was over-rated because he didn't score that often. I guess that's just another reason not to believe anything that comes out of Harold "the-Kansas-City-Royals-will-win-the-AL-Central" Reynolds mouth.

So they haven't had the biggest drop-off in offensive production in the AL, but the team that has is still in the AL West and Wild Card hunt. Why? Well let's take a look at the pitching splits.

Here's some similar qualitative pitching stats, with the same counter-intuitive format.

Team ^WHIP ^K/BB ^K/9 ^BAA ^OPS ^ERA
Boston -0.02 -0.90 -0.50 -0.020 -0.051 -0.84
Seattle -0.08 0.26 0.86 -0.013 -0.048 -0.74
Chicago Sox -0.04 -0.08 -0.42 -0.004 -0.030 -0.49
Toronto -0.06 0.22 0.36 -0.002 -0.062 -0.36
NY Yankees -0.05 -0.05 -0.46 -0.010 -0.039 -0.30
Kansas City 0.11 -0.46 -0.28 0.010 0.015 -0.29
Cleveland 0.12 -0.52 -0.22 0.004 0.012 0.01
Anaheim -0.03 -0.15 -0.77 -0.006 -0.037 0.10
Detroit 0.09 -0.29 0.86 -0.005 -0.004 0.22
Texas -0.11 0.38 0.68 -0.011 -0.031 0.27
Baltimore 0.02 -0.22 -0.14 -0.005 -0.021 0.29
Minnesota 0.09 -0.12 0.09 0.013 0.054 0.42
Tampa Bay 0.15 -0.42 -0.35 0.016 0.052 0.63
Oakland 0.23 0.08 0.70 0.042 0.081 0.68

The pitching stats are slightly more confusing, because K/BB and K/9 are of value when high, as opposed to other pitching stats, which are better when low(like a golf score). That means that a negative number in the K/BB and K/9 category actually represents an improvement in the second half. Tampa Bay and Cleveland were the only clubs to improve on their first half pitching numbers in every category in the second half. Seattle and Toronto were worse in every category.

In terms of ERA, being ranked at the top of this list indicates a rise in ERA(which is bad). So on the two lists, the Sox are second in drop of in one and third in the other. That's just not a good combination.

In Contrast, the Minnesota Twins are 3rd from the bottom(good) in pitching and third from the bottom(good) in hitting. Should it come as a surprise that the Twins have gained 8.5 games in the standings since the break? No. They've just plain played better. There's no excuses. The Sox have been outplayed in the second half by almost every team in the AL.

So why the heck is Texas still in the race? I have no clue. While their overall pitching has improved in terms of ERA, in the second half, all of the peripheral stats have actually gotten worse. This does not bode well for the future. It appears, to me anyway, that the Rangers bandwagon is running on fumes, and should die any moment now. The Rangers and White Sox first half pitching splits look eerily similar, but the second half has been an paradox. While the White Sox have been better than the Rangers in every pitching peripheral, the Rangers have managed a better ERA, which has resulted in more wins.

The Rangers remind me of the 2000 White Sox, and I don't mean that as a compliment.