Thursday, May 11, 2006

A taste of this weekend's Dugout Splinters in GameDay...

What's Working
The White Sox won last year, plain and simple, because of their pitching. For all the raves about the White Sox offense, it was below average, ranking ninth in the American League. Not anymore. They’re in fourth place in the AL this year, thanks to a gamble they took on a 35-year-old with a bad back by the name of Jim Thome. Fourteen home runs later, we can safely say that was a pretty good gamble.

There is no way to portray the Thome trade as anything less than completely one-sided. The White Sox gave up a very good hitting center fielder in Aaron Rowand, but Rowand was going to start getting expensive. In addition, they received $22 million to help cover Thome’s salary, meaning that Thome is essentially costing the White Sox just $7 million per season over the next three years, which is about the same amount the Twins are paying Shannon Stewart.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams was able to make that kind of deal because he was in the right place at the right time. New Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick was apparently desperate to get out from under Thome’s contract because of the performance of rookie Ryan Howard last year, who can only play first base. Thome’s no-trade clause in his contract gave him the freedom to veto any trade that wasn’t to a competitive team close to his home. The White Sox were the only interested team that matched those criteria. Plus, they happened to have an offensively skilled center fielder, which the Phillies have needed since Lenny Dykstra. Deal done.

What’s worse for Twins fans is the performance of the players that surround Thome in the order, each of whom are hitting about 50 points higher than last year. Tadahito Iguchi bats second and hit .278 last year. He’s hitting .323 so far this year. Paul Konerko, who bats cleanup, is batting .331 versus .283 last year. The next batter, Jermaine Dye, is hitting .309, 36 points higher that in 2005.

Had enough? Sorry, there’s more. Following Dye is AJ Pierzynski who is batting .330. Following him is Joe Crede, whose career batting average is .259. He’s hitting .319 this year. I can’t go on. No player should have that big an effect on his teammates, but if that’s a coincidence, it’s one miserable coincidence for Twins fans.

On the Hill

Monday: Freddy Garcia (5-1, 4.64 ERA)

  • 2005: 14-8, 228 IP, 146 K, 3.87 ERA

  • Garcia was the other White Sox pitcher who has been traded for Randy Johnson. He was the key prospect that Seattle acquired when they traded away Randy Johnson in 1998. They also acquired Carlos Guillen (who we just saw starting at shortstop with the Tigers) and John Halama (who is no longer in the majors).

  • In his last start he struggled early but gave up only one run over eight innings. He also didn’t walk a batter, which has been a problem for him most of the year.

  • Heckling Tip: Time for those Jeff Spicoli impressions. According to the Venezuelan daily newspaper Lider, Garcia tested positive for marijuana during the World Baseball Classic. Aloha, Mr. Hand.

1 comment:

ubelmann said...

There is no way to portray the Thome trade as anything less than completely one-sided.

I totally disagree.

In addition to being a decent hitting CF, Rowand is also a very good fielding CF. Fielding was what drove the White Sox surge for the WS last year. By giving up a plus defender in a key defensive position, Kenny Williams was taking a big risk. Plus, he still has the risk that Thome won't continue to stay healthy.

Additionally, the Phillies have Ryan Howard hitting .291/.345/.543 so far this season compared with Thome's .293/.440/.698. Yes, those are monster numbers for Thome, but they are highly, highly unlikely to stay that high, considering he's a career .282/.409/.565 hitter. Throw in Howard's better health and I'd say the Phillies broke even at first base. Then, the Phillies patched up their gaping hole in CF with Rowand. The Phils didn't have (and still don't have) a terribly great pitching staff, so the best way to improve your whole staff is to go out and improve the defense. That's what Rowand was there for.

The best way to evaluate trades is by how they look when they are made. A different way is to look at how they look when they are over. The worst way is to look at the trade one month into the season. This was actually one of those few rare trades that made a lot of sense for both teams involved.