AL Central Preview: Royals vs. White Sox

In today’s age of advanced statistics, in-depth comparisons no longer need to rely simply on batting average, fielding percentage, slugging percentage, and on base percentage. In this breakdown, the Royals and the White Sox players will be analyzed using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to fangraphs.com.

WAR takes into count the myriad statistics and variables in baseball and compiles them into one simple stat: How many more victories is a player worth than an average replacement who can be found on waivers or at the Triple A level. This is a great statistic because you truly understand how good a player is compared to other guys at his respective position.

For a little perspective, here are the top 5 in WAR last year:

  1. Josh Hamilton – 8.0
  2. Joey Votto – 7.4
  3. Albert Pujols – 7.3
  4. Ryan Zimmerman – 7.2
  5. Adrian Beltre – 7.1

Here are the top 5 projected leaders for 2011:

  1. Albert Pujols – 8.4
  2. Jason Heyward – 7.9
  3. Evan Longoria – 7.4
  4. Chase Utley – 6.9
  5. Troy Tulowitzki – 6.9

Now, let’s examine how the Royals and White Sox stack up, according to WAR:

Starting Pitching

Royals Sox

Luke Hochevar: 1.7 Mark Buehrle: 3.8

Kyle Davies: 2.0 John Danks: 4.3

Vin Mazzaro: 0 Jake Peavy: 1.8

Sean O’Sullivan: -0.2 Gavin Floyd: 4.3

Jeff Francis: 1.9 Edwin Jackson: 3.8

The advantage in pitching clearly goes to the White Sox, even with the recent addition of Jeff Francis. Its rotation is dangerous and arguably the best in the division. The return of Jake Peavy to the Sox will be key on whether or not they can contend with the Tigers and Twins. If Peavy returns healthy and stays that way the entire season, don’t be surprised to see the White Sox go deep into the playoffs.

Catcher

Royals Sox

Jason Kendall: 6.2 A.J. Pierzynski: 1.8

The advantage goes to Kendall, but I can’t imagine him registering a 6.2 in 2011. They both possess an intangible leadership factor, but it’s no secret they’re not getting any younger. Kendall has two years on Pierzynski in terms of age, but this could be their last year behind the plate.

First Base

Royals Sox

Kila Ka’aihue: .3 Paul Konerko: 4.2

The advantage at first base goes to Konerko and the Sox. It should be mentioned both players are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their careers. Ka’aihue could be an emerging star in this game, yet Konerko appears to be a fading one. That being said, Konerko will more than likely have a better year than Ka’aihue.

Second Base

Royals Sox

Chris Getz: -.1 Gordon Beckham: .9

The advantage goes to Beckham and the Sox – he’s a clear cut winner in this instance. I expect his WAR to be above 3 this year, and only continue to rise in subsequent years.

Third Base

Royals Sox

Mike Aviles: 1.5 Brent Morel: 0

Going into the season, it appears as though Aviles has the advantage in this category. Morel is still very young, so his ceiling is much higher than Aviles’. I’ll call this one a wash given what we’ve seen from Morel last year when he was called up and what the Royals can expect from Aviles.

Short Stop

Royals Sox

Alcides Escobar: .6 Alexei Ramirez: 3.8

The advantage goes to Ramirez and the Sox. Escobar isn’t likely to beat out Ramirez this year in WAR, but does provide the Royals with a solid short stop for years to come. Look for Escobar’s WAR to be somewhere near Ramirez’s in about two years.

Left Field

Royals Sox

Alex Gordon: -.2 Juan Pierre: 2.2

Going into the 2011 season, Pierre and the Sox have an advantage in left field. However, as the season progresses, I would expect this to be a wash. Pierre is getting older and slowing down a bit, which hinders his offensive production. Additionally, one would reasonably expect Gordon to only grow from his current -.2 status.

Center Field

Royals Sox

Melky Cabrera: 1.2 Alex Rios: 3.7

Lorenzo Cain: 0

The advantage in Center Field goes to Rios and the Sox. Melky Cabrera had an abysmal season last year with the Atlanta Braves, so there’s no reason to believe he will improve with the Royals. In addition, Lorenzo Cain will probably push Cabrera for his job later in the season, which is why he is mentioned. Rios is a solid player for the Sox, and will probably match his production from last year.

Right Field

Royals Sox

Jeff Francoeur: .5 Carlos Quentin: 0

The advantage barely goes to Francoeur for the right field position. Quentin is highly overpaid and has yet to show Sox fans anything for the salary he is receiving. If Francoeur is going to resurrect his career and prove his hyped prospect status, he’ll have to do so by posting a higher .5 WAR in 2011.

Designated Hitter

Royals Sox

Billy Butler: 3.4 Adam Dunn: 3.9

Save the most compelling argument for last. Both of these players will be splitting time at first base when their respective teams need them. For the sake of this article, they are designated hitters. Billy Butler is the best hitter the Royals have. The same could be said for Dunn and the Sox. I’m going to give the advantage to Butler for the 2011 season because I believe his upside is stronger than Dunn’s. Dunn strikes out way too often still, and Butler can hit for average. It’s my opinion that getting on base, driving in runners when they’re in scoring position, and hitting for average always outweighs the occasional home run when you’re striking out every 2.8 at bats like Dunn. Dunn is a boom or bust type of player and Butler provides a sense of consistency. Expect Dunn’s WAR to reach low 3’s, and Butler’s to reach high 3’s. Both will be valuable to their teams in 2011, but since Butler is the best hitting talent on the Royals, he’ll get the nod in this category.

Summary

The overall advantage goes to the White Sox. Its pitching will keep them in contention for the division in 2011. While the hitting and defense don’t necessarily match those of the American League East division, the White Sox could be primed for a division title and a deep playoff run. Royals fans should expect another 100-loss season, unless its minor league talent matures earlier than expected.

Have comments? Feel free to leave them below.

2 thoughts on “AL Central Preview: Royals vs. White Sox

  1. You are right. I was reading his RAR (Runs Above Replacement) instead of his WAR, I apologize. I suppose I will now award the advantage to the Sox but still maintain they will more than likely have similar WARs in 2011. Thanks for the comment and keeping me honest.

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