FanGraphs released their 2023 ZiPs projections, and the results were not kind to the White Sox. ZiPS is a system of player projections that uses growth and decline curves based on a player type to find trends. Using all that data ZiPs can project the win totals for every MLB team. It was developed by Dan Szymborski and is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in baseball.
ZiPS projected standings have the White Sox going 74-88 and finishing third in the American League Central behind the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins. The Guardians are projected to win 83 games, while the Twins are projected to win 80. That puts the White Sox nine games back of first place and six back of the Twins. In fact, the ZiPS projected standing to have the White Sox closer to the Detroit Tigers (71 projected wins) and Kansas City Royals (70 projected wins) than they do the heavy hitters in the division.
Their chances of winning the division are at 11.1 percent, while their chances of making the playoffs are slightly higher at 15.5%. Their odds of winning the World Series are virtually zero coming in at 0.3 percent.
FanGraphs’ reasoning was that adding Andrew Benintendi is basically making the minimum effort, and they have been treading water as an organization. The South Sider’s depth is thin, and for a team with an injury history, that is a significant issue. FanGraphs also points out that in terms of the “next 26 roster,” which ranks a team’s depth pieces, the White Sox rank below the Royals and Tigers.
Why ZiPS Projections Are Wrong
Only 74 wins seem low for a team with the amount of talent that the White Sox still has. Last season nearly everything went wrong, and the White Sox still managed 81 wins. Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, Lance Lynn, and Michael Kopech will all be back at full strength.
Former All-Star Lucas Giolito also seems primed for a bounce-back season. While the offense has plenty of question marks, the defense did get better on paper. Andrew Vaughn moves from right field to his natural position at first base, while Gold Glover Andrew Benintendi joins the outfield.
The White Sox also replaced Tony La Russa with Pedro Grifol, who should have the White Sox more prepared entering games. At the very least, Grifol also won’t create nearly as many off-field distracts.
Why ZiPS Projections Are Right
The White Sox are banking on health for the upcoming season. This is a horrible strategy for a team claiming to be in their contention window. After two consecutive injury-riddled campaigns, clearly, the projections are not buying it. Even if the White Sox do stay healthy, an argument can be made that the White Sox got worse this off-season.
They lost by far their best hitter, Jose Abreu, in free agency. Abreu carried a 4.2 offensive WAR last season. Andrew Benintendi, the White Sox’s big free agent splash, only had a 0.2 offensive WAR the previous season.
At second base, the White Sox lost Josh Harrison. While Harrison got off to an awful start last season, he still had a higher WAR than Romy Gonzalez, who is currently slated to be the Opening Day starter. Even if you included Gonzalez’s Triple-A numbers, Harrison still produced better offensive numbers across the board.
The White Sox also lost their most productive pitcher, not named Dylan Cease, in Johnny Cueto, and replaced him with a guy who is now under investigation for domestic violence. That means Davis Martin will enter camp as the fifth starter unless Jimmy Lambert or Jonathan Stiever can wrestle the job away in Spring Training. All three options are significantly worse than Cueto. The White Sox will be without an elite closer due to the unfortunate Liam Hendriks situation for the foreseeable future, so the ninth inning will be up for grabs.
Another issue is the immense amount of pressure that will be put on Oscar Colas. Colas had a good 2023 season, but it was his first year in the states, and he hasn’t gotten much time in Triple-A. Rushing him to the MLB seems like the White Sox only solution to the hole in right field. Growing pains are to be expected for Colas.
While it feels like ZiPS shortchanged the White Sox, there is not much to be optimistic about.
As down on this team as I am, they are probably going to win more than just 74 games. They should be a .500 team plus or minus a couple games. Vegas odds peg them for 83 wins. They are not an awful team, just mediocre. But the reason fans are rightfully ticked off is that ownership has done nothing to help this team improve since 2020. Net/net during that time they have lost Abreu, Rodon, and Cueto, and added… Benintendi. That’s it, basically. Perhaps the worst owner/GM combo in MLB. Maybe all of sports. However, if they are out… Read more »