Monday, April 03, 2006

Watch Out. The Light at the End of the Tunnel Might be a Semi.

Imagine you’re new to this world, you see a car for the first time, and someone asks you what makes it go. You might start with those spinning rubber tires. A little more inspection might point you to the wheels, and quickly afterwards to the spinning axle. Eventually you might happen upon the small explosions that lead to the power thrust of the pistons, but it would likely take some time.

I think we’re struggling with the same problem explaining the White Sox. For years, we watched their offense perform unevenly, and when they started to succeed, lead-off hitter Scott Posednick was viewed as the cause. During their playoff run, the majority realized that the real cause of their success was their pitching. I wonder if the story ends there.

The White Sox front office is paying enough to make you think it is. The White Sox starting rotation this year is making $44.25 million, and there isn’t one of them that would make less if they were to declare free agency. Think about that the next time you read how deep the Twins starting rotation is.

However, all that talent is judged a bit skeptically. The popular perception is that the White Sox starting rotation overachieved last year. Certainly if you look at each of the returning starters – Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras – they each had career years. The question is whether or not there’s a reason they all had career years. The question is whether there is something we can’t see that was firing those pistons.

I'm afraid there is. The power stroke of the White Sox combustion engine might well be pitching coach Don Cooper. Cooper was named the Sox pitching coach at the end of the Jerry Manuel era, and the White Sox pitching has never been the same. Cooper worked with Esteban Loiaza as he developed from a non-roster invitee to the runner-up in the Cy Young Award in 2003. Freddy Garcia was a talented but enigmatic malcontent in Seattle, but with Cooper he’s pitched 228 innings with a 3.87 ERA last year. Jose Contreras was a punchline with the Yankees, but under Cooper’s tutelage, he posted a 2.96 ERA over the second half of last year. There’s also Jon Garland, and the bullpen which was built and rebuilt and rebuilt again until they mowed through the league’s best in October.

So before you start believing those preseason projections that have the White Sox regressing back to the mean, understand how projections work. Projections don’t know anything about wheels or axles or engines. They don’t know anything about cars other than that they go, and cars of a certain type with certain characteristics tend to go a certain distance. I'm afraid that actual mileage may vary, especially when the car has a strong engine.


"Take it easy. Take it easy. It'll all happen in time. This is the job. Don't wait for it to happen. Don't even want it to happen. Just wait - and see what does happen."
I've had some folks ask me about the "big announcement" that I promised a few weeks back. It will be on Monday, the 10th, just in time for the Twins opener. And yes, the timing is significant.

Who is the gopher's ally? His friend?
I'm toying with a new idea for this site, and I think I'm going to open the door to a little crowd participation.

I want an intern. Not an intern in the Clintonesque sense - The Voice of Reason would likely object, and so would roughly 108% of all possible interns. But someone to help out with some posting of links and such on the site. Qualifications include:

1. You have to visit Twins blogs, stories and forums on the 'net at least semi-obsessively.
2. You need a sense of humor.
3. You need to not suck as a writer.
4. You can spend at an hour or so a couple (week)nights per week working on the site.

If you're interested, send me an email using the link in the upper right hand corner and tell me why you should get the job. I'll go through the applications, come up with some sort of contest, and we'll see what we get.

Congratulations Anne. Believe it or not, you deserve every bit of attention that comes your way.


TeeAhr1 said...

"Link in the upper right hand corner?" I don't see one.

TeeAhr1 said...

Never mind, sorry. Firefox decided it wanted the columns on the bottom today.