Sunday, August 19, 2012

White Sox Value Survey: Almost Home

Locked in heated battle for the cure that is their prize.
It's so dangerous, but they're determined.
Theirs is to win, if it kills them.
They're just humans, with wives and children.
Wayne Coyne, “Race for the Prize”

Alex & Adam Lumber Co: The bats have awoken, but only one stick offers surplus value. (Nam Huh/AP)
The successful season of the Chicago White Sox has been a story of the fortunes of two of its most star-crossed players, and they provide a great contrast for the purposes of this White Sox value survey.

Alex Rios isn’t a legitimate MVP candidate, but he should be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year. He has done everything and more that White Sox GM Ken Williams hoped he would when he lifted him off the waiver wire three seasons ago. In 2011, Rios was a shell of a player, Frisbee-tossing in throws from center field (if his guess-me-if-you-can reads on fly balls and liners even allowed for fielding the ball cleanly), losing all hope in the batters’ box by either waving off any notion of contact or tapping out customary 6-4-3s, and generally making all the mental errors not of a man being steadfastly supported by his manager (in this case, the consummately-forgiving-unless-he-changes-his-mind Ozzie Guillen) but of one being thrashed nightly by a disapproving helicopter parent. Rios’s turnaround in all phases of his game translates into gaudy WAR numbers, the best of his White Sox career (currently 3.8, projecting to 5.3, the best among Sox hitters this season).

Adam Dunn is the brasher older brother of 2011’s disappointing pair. It was Dunn who cajoled Rios last July into forming a blood brotherhood wherein if the White Sox were to make a move in the standings, it would be “on their backs.” As it turned out, Rios and Dunn played the rest of the season as if lying on their backs, not strapping the team on them, which is why the All-In 2011 South Siders sported a record payroll but languished four games under .500 by the time Ozzie cleared out his office and unpacked his linenwear.

Dunn, with 35 homers that lead the majors, is the more popular choice for Comeback Player of the Year in 2012, especially after having played the Worst Season in Baseball History in 2011. But even in Dunn's comeback season, the flaws in his game long before his ballyhooed, I’m-homering-to-the-scoreboard arrival at USCF are apparent. As a defender, Dunn is generally passable and mildly on par with the club's regular first baseman, Paul Konerko, but still appears to be every bit the guy who had played one full season at first base before turning DH in the American League. And as a hitter, his approach still betrays a Three Outcomes Guy who seems to pride himself on putting the ball in play as rarely as anyone in the game ever has. Somehow, Rob Deer doesn’t pop up among Dunn’s similarity scores at Baseball-Reference, but still, Adam, being Rob Deer is no way to go through your baseball life. Even in such an uplifting bounce-back, the limitations of Dunn’s game are apparent in a 1.5 WAR (projecting to 2.1), a figure that would be decidedly better than only about half the 12 seasons of Dunn’s career.

For value survey purposes, this difference in all-around games between the two guys—what either player provides a team at his best—is absurdly evident. Rios’s high WAR balanced against a $12 million salary means that he roughly projects not only to earn his salary, but double its value … in other words, Rios will provide $12 million in surplus value on top of salary, back to the White Sox. Dunn, with a modest WAR that seemingly represents about the best he can do at this time and position in his career, is playing a game he can’t possibly win; it will take some luck (and maybe a couple of actual base hits supplanting Ks) for him to push his WAR high enough to earn his $14 million salary—that is, break even with the White Sox for the season.

It’s studies in contrasts like these—mining more deeply into the numbers than mere home runs or errors—that make the value survey so fascinating. It tells a true tale of each season, of the bottom lines of teams and players. We’re three-quarters in, so it’s time to dust off the midseason survey and update it for the stretch run.

White Sox Bargains
Bargains are the players who have added surplus value to the White Sox (production beyond their salaries).

1. Chris Sale ($14,790,418)
Prior survey: 1
The good news for Sale is that he is still far ahead of the race to be the best value on the White Sox, to the extent that he has effectively clinched the title, with a $5.5 million lead on Alejandro De Aza. The bad news? His value has essentially remained the same in the third quarter of the season.

2. Alejandro De Aza ($9,251,103)
Prior survey: 2
De Aza’s production trails Alex Rios, but his bargain-basement price nudges him ahead of his outfield mate.

3. Alex Rios ($9,091,714)
Prior survey: 3
It’s quite simple: There is no more valuable position player on the White Sox this season than Rios.

4. A.J. Pierzynski ($8,498,959)
Prior survey: 5
The first significant jump of this survey is A.J., who is having a second half for the ages.

5. Jose Quintana ($7,567,270)
Prior survey: 4
Quintana only lost the No. 4 spot because of Pierzynski’s ridiculous gain of more than $3 million in surplus value.

6. Kevin Youkilis ($4,925,826)
Say what you will about Yolk cooling off after making an immediate impact on the South Side, but he’s on pace to provide close to $10 million in surplus value for the White Sox.

7. Addison Reed ($3,181,137)
Prior survey: T7
Mr. Excitement continues to compile stirring surplus value.

8. Jake Peavy ($2,734,871)
Prior survey: 6
As great as Peavy’s value to the White Sox has been—in the mix forteam MVP for sure—in surplus value terms, it’s a near miracle that his value continues to surpass a $17 million salary.

9. Francisco Liriano ($2,611,344)
Another extraordinary pickup for loose change made by GM Ken Williams.

10. Nate Jones ($2,475,022)
Prior survey: T7
Overlooked in Reed’s record-breaking rookie season is Jones’s terrific work in front of him.

11. Tyler Flowers ($999,174)
Prior survey: 12
Continued production on both sides for the ball would give Flowers a chance to surpass last year’s surplus value of almost $1.5 million.

12. Dewayne Wise ($890,142)
Yes, a ridiculously small sample size. But yes, another sly snag by Williams.

13. Eric Stults ($544,892)
Prior survey: 13  
Ah, the power of one good start.

14. Jesse Crain ($537,024)
Prior survey: 17
Through multiple injuries, Crain is gradually building a solid surplus value season.

15. Donnie Veal ($484,892)
Among all the in-season bullpen adds, Veal might be the real keeper.

16. Gavin Floyd ($411,701)
Prior survey: 13th on the Busts list
It’s a down season for Floyd, but there’s still time for him to change that.

17. Dylan Axelrod ($404,892)
Prior survey: 11
Liriano’s gain is W. Axel Rod’s loss.

18. Hector Santiago ($324,892)
Prior survey: 11th on the Busts list
Having settled down before and after his stint down in Charlotte has brought Hector back to the plus side, where he ended last season as well.

19. Brett Myers ($218,346)
The Games Finished Watch is fully on.

20. Brian Bruney ($98,013)
Prior survey: 19
Hip surgery means Bruney finishes this season where he could not in 2011—on the plus side of the ledger.

21. Dayan Viciedo ($40,283)
Prior survey: 16
It says a decent amount for the Tank that he’s having a very modest season, but is still on the plus-side in surplus value despite a $2.5 million salary.

White Sox Busts
Busts are the players who have cost surplus debits to the White Sox (production at a negative-WAR level and/or modest WAR unable to keep pace with salary).

1. John Danks (-$5,541,554)
Prior survey: 1
It will take a terrible stretch run from Dunn for Danks not to finish atop this ignominious list.

2. Adam Dunn (-$3,836,033)
Prior survey: 12
Talk up a comeback season all you wish, but Dunn’s fairly modest production overall can’t keep pace with his salary. On the plus side, at this time a year ago, Dunn was fast approaching -$20 million in surplus value to the White Sox.

3. Brent Morel (-$3,612,216)
Prior survey: 2
Morel is earning at a minimum level, so his being this deep in the hole is purely a product of running up a tab of -0.7 WAR in just two months.

4. Will Ohman (-$2,944,677)
Prior survey: 3
Now rocking a 4.26 ERA and 3.16 WHIP at Louisville for the Cincinnati Reds.

He's Pawtucket's problem now.
5. Zach Stewart (-$2,899,239)
Prior survey: 4
Now rocking a 4.13 ERA over 10 starts at Pawtucket for the Boston Red Sox. No word on the return of his permed locks.

6. Orlando Hudson (-$2,297,529)
Prior survey: 8
The O-Dog experiment did not work. It was the last hunch that failed to play out well for Williams this season.
Danks (R) is probably not discussing Beckham's poor
faring in this latest value survey. (Jennifer Stewart/UP)

7. Gordon Beckham (-$1,773,772)
Prior survey: 9
There’s no urgency to give up on players making nothing at the major league level, from a salary standpoint. But the value survey screams murder when a below-replacement level player gets 500 ABs in the majors.

8. Brent Lillibridge (-$1,620,212)
Prior survey: 6
Three teams in one season; as bad as he was for Boston, he’s been good for the Cleveland Indians.

9. Kosuke Fukudome (-$1,275,118)
Prior survey: 7
Now rocking a .749 OPS at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the New York Yankees.

10. Eduardo Escobar (-$1,261,342)
Prior survey: 10
Now rocking a .634 OPS at Rochester for the Minnesota Twins, his worst mark since Single-A.

11. Matt Thornton (-$1,179,538)
Prior survey: 21st on the Bargains list
His wishy-washy production is swallowed up by salary.

Q remains puzzled.
12. Pedro Hernandez (-$1,149,785)
Now rocking a 5.40 ERA in three starts at Rochester for the Twins. Carlos Quentin goes all Hulk whenever he remembers this was one of the guys traded for him.

13. Philip Humber (-$950,732)
Prior survey: 15
It’s doubtful that spot appearances out of the pen will get Perfect Philip out of the value hole he’s dug for himself this season.

14. Paul Konerko (-$674,773)
Prior survey: Ninth on the Bargains list
PK’s 1.7 WAR is fighting to keep pace with his salary, especially after being shelved for a week post-concussion.

15. Ray Olmedo (-$660,094)
If O-Dog had done his job, Olmedo would still be luxuriating in his Charlotte digs.

16. Jordan Danks (-$393,010)
Prior survey: 20th on the Bargains list
That game-ending dinger couldn’t stave off a demotion, and it couldn’t raise his WAR to 0.0, either.

17. Alexei Ramirez (-$229,481)
Prior survey: 5
The Missile has turned his season around in the second half and is on pace to be a plus-value player for his fifth straight season on the South Side.

18. Jhan Marinez (-$181,223)

19. Leyson Septimo (-$80,000)
Prior survey: 14th on the Bargains list

20. Brian Omogrosso (-$40,000)
Prior survey:18th on the Bargains list

With just 18 appearances among them, this trio of bullpen arms are the epitome of replacement players.

Yolk leads the way for White Sox value gainers. (Nam Huh/AP)

White Sox Value Gains
Since the midseason report—thus over the course of approximately a quarter of the 2012 season—these White Sox made positive value gains.
1. Kevin Youkilis ($3,968,816)
2. A.J. Pierzynski ($3,193,879)
3. Francisco Liriano ($2,611,344)
4. Alexei Ramirez ($2,270,519)
5. Alex Rios ($2,105,589)
6. Jose Quintana ($1,780,307)
7. Chris Sale ($1,086,238)
8. Hector Santiago ($1,002,962)
9. Tyler Flowers ($999,174)
10. Dewayne Wise ($890,142)
11. Alejandro De Aza ($589,517)
12. Gavin Floyd ($553,161)
13. Addison Reed ($500,667)
14. Donnie Veal ($484,892)
15. Jesse Crain ($304,625)
16. Kosuke Fukudome ($281,892)
17. Brett Myers ($218,346)

Unfortunately, back in a familiar place.

White Sox Value Losses
Since the midseason report, these White Sox lost value.
1. Adam Dunn (-$3,329,096)
2. Paul Konerko (-$2,677,850)
3. John Danks (-$2,271,671)
4. Philip Humber (-$1,415,849)
5. Matt Thornton (-$1,203,984)
6. Pedro Hernandez (-$1,149,785)
7. Orlando Hudson (-$995,443)
8. Jake Peavy ($-885,078)
9. Gordon Beckham (-$758,765)
10. Ray Olmedo (-$660,094)
11. Leyson Septimo (-$640,094)
12. Eduardo Escobar (-$568,338)
13. Jordan Danks (-$461,048)
14. Brent Morel (-$347,187)
15. Dylan Axelrod (-$298,825)
16. Dayan Viciedo (-$219,732)
17. Nate Jones (-$205,448)
18. Jhan Marinez (-$181,223)
19. Brian Omogrosso (-$162,023)
20. Will Ohman (-$88,419)
21. Zach Stewart (-$54,816)
22. Brent Lillibridge (-$36,199)
23. Eric Stults (-$19.202)
24. Brian Bruney (-$4,801)

Team Value Summary
White Sox hitters boast a cumulative $16,728,129 in surplus value on the season so far, an improvement of $4,245,775 since the midseason report. The average White Sox hitter brings $929,340 in surplus value to the team.

Pitchers are, as in 2011, carrying more than their share of surplus value for the team: $22,504,205, a drop of $38,675 since the midseason report. The average White Sox pitcher brings $978,444 in surplus value to the team.

The roster has produced a surplus value of $39,232,334 at the three-quarter mark of the season, an increase of $4,207,100 since midseason.

In 2011, the White Sox provided just $20,573,350 in surplus value (pitchers $33,253,350, hitters -$12,680,000), so the 2012 club is assured of providing more value than their predecessors.

Note: For batters, 1.0 WAR is equal to $4,650,708; for pitchers, 1.0 WAR is equal to $4,236,693. WAR data was compiled using Baseball-Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and FanGraphs. Small changes in inactive player values are most often a result of slight tweaks in the $/WAR data. Players not on the roster for the midseason survey don’t have “prior survey” results. Figures are through games of August 17.

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