Monday, February 14, 2011

Good on Paper, Bad in Excel

"Someone mentioned to me how on paper, we look great and I said, 'Yeah, the '08 Tigers, on paper, they were the most feared team in the history of baseball.' I was terrified and thinking, 'This team is ridiculous and we have no chance.' We ended up winning the division, and the Tigers finished dead last. It can happen to us." –Matt Thornton

I feel like, in a strange way, Matt Thornton has been this team’s voice of reason this offseason. From his radio interview saying Oney should not have brought out clubhouse business, to admitting that looking good on paper doesn’t mean anything, Matt Thornton is a smart guy. But how good do the Sox really look on paper? Enter Microsoft Excel and the writer of The White Sox Blog. Phase one, pitching.

Pitching is really the backbone of any baseball team. If your starting pitching is good, you won’t need much. Sure, there are the likes of Wilson Betemit, Josh Fields, and Mark Teahen, who have single-handedly lost a game or two, but for the most part, pitching makes or breaks a team. So I laid out a spreadsheet of the ERAs and winning percentages of all the pitchers listed for the White Sox by Then, I took the average of both the ERAs and the percentages for both 2010 and for the entirety of their respective careers. To borrow from Top Gear, the results were STAGGERING. Well… not really.

Although I didn’t get weighted average (so the results are a bit biased because some pitchers pitched 500 innings, some pitched about 2), and some pitchers had no results to speak of, the number is still technically the White Sox “on paper.” The average ERA in 2010 for the 18 pitchers listed on is 4.44. This is a fair ERA, but nowhere near brilliant, or even good, considering that it is an improvement from the pitchers’ lifetime average ERA, 4.73. And while 2010 was somewhat of a disappointment, these pitchers had an average winning percentage of 56%, while their lifetime winning percentage was 53.2%. If we only win 53.2% of our games this year, we’d be no better than this year. Last year, we won 54.3% of our games.

Don’t despair, though. While the numbers are staggering with 2.00 ERAs and 77% winning percentages, last year’s World Series winners, the Giant only won 56.8% of their games. See, we’re not exactly in bad shape. But does the pitching look great on paper? Well, according to, you’d have to define “great” as “of exceptional talents or achievements; remarkable” or “impressive or striking.” How can you use any of those words in conjecture with a staff that refuses to relinquish itself of Tony Pena?

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