Something struck me as I watched Game 1 of the World Series last night. In the 5th inning, Jason Bartlett stole second and Joe Buck pointed out the Rays now had 18 stolen bases this post-season. I'm sorry, 18????
For some reason this got me thinking about the White Sox and how a few days earlier a friend of mine and I were lamenting how this version of the White Sox had once again fallen into a station-to-station ballclub, a line-up with the ability to go yard at any moment, but rarely capable of manufacturing runs without the long ball. Let the research begin.
First, let's take a look at the eight playoff baseball teams this season and their ability to swipe bags:
- Tampa Bay 142
- Philadelphia 136
- LA Angels 129
- LA Dodgers 126
- Boston 120
- Milwaukee 108
- Cubs 87
- White Sox 67
Of the post-season clubs, six of the eight were in the MLB top ten in stolen bases (The Rays leading the entire league, the Phillies fourth and the Brewers rounding out the top ten with their 108 team steals). Coincidence?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that stealing bases is the one and only way to win games. Pitching has a touch to do with it too. As does defense, timely hitting, etc... you get the idea. But even White Sox general manager Kenny Williams admits to preferring a more "grinder-style" club, a team that can get around the bases in ways other than trotting. And if that's the case, this team has a long, long way to go before it finds that balance.
Heading into this off-season the White Sox have more than $84 million tied into the top eight salaries on their team. Take a look:
- Mark Buehrle $14 million
- Jim Thome $13 million
- Paul Konerko $12 million
- Javier Vazquez $11.5 million
- Jermaine Dye $11.5 million
- Jose Contreras $10 million
- A.J. Pierzynski $6.25 million
- Octavio Dotel $6 million
We'll ignore for the time being that $21.5 million is tied up in the dual rollercoaster that is Vazquez/Contreras or that the club is paying about 11x more to Octavio Dotel to blow games than it is to Bobby Jenks to save them. What I want to concentrate on is the hitters on this list (Thome, Konerko, Dye, Pierzynski)
- Combined salary: $42.75 million
- Average age (April 2009): 34.5
- Combined home runs: 103 (boom!)
- Combined stolen bases: 7 (uh...)
In other words, the White Sox have a massive amount of their payroll tied up in big boppers on the wrong side of their prime and, in at least two cases (Thome and Konerko) there are legitimate health questions.
In addition, the White Sox will almost certainly jettison free agent Orlando Cabrera who led the team in stolen bases (19) as well as me-first pouts.
So the bottom line if Williams is going to "balance us out a bit more offensively" as he has often said he'd like to do, he has a lot of work ahead of him. Meanwhile, we'll sit back and very well watch either the Phillies or Rays steal the World Series... literally.