For some reason, the enormous impact of U.S. Cellular Field seemingly continues to fly under the radar. Save for the (probably anomalous) one-year impact of the new Yankee Stadium, the Cell has inflated home run rates more than any park in baseball. Only Fenway Park, Coors Field and cross-town Wrigley Field are better places to hit flyballs.
Manager Ozzie Guillen has gained a reputation for small-ball strategies, including aggressiveness with stolen base attempts. Last year, despite a club that lacked speed and aged quickly, the Sox attempted the sixth-most swipes in the American League. With Juan Pierre on board, Guillen has a leadoff hitter he can send frequently, with full confidence.
The White Sox were one of three AL teams that saw no starter reach 120 pitches in a single game last season. Under pitching coach Don Cooper's tutelage, the team's rotation led the Junior Circuit in quality starts for the second consecutive season. That is not a fantasy category unto itself, but it helps them pile up opportunities for wins.
Cooper also has Chicago's staff focused on command and forcing teams to put the ball on the ground. Only the Twins walked fewer batters than Chicago last year, and the Cooper philosophy pervaded the squad: Only three of the 14 pitchers who logged 25 or more innings for the Sox failed to post above-average groundball rates.
Bobby Jenks seems to have the closer's job well in hand whenever he is healthy. Guillen stands by his closer once he earns his trust initially.
The defense could pose a problem for this talented and well-handled pitching staff. Gordon Beckham was narrowly average at third base last season and now must adapt to second. However, Mark Teahen, who bumps Beckham over, is an upgrade at the hot corner.
The outfield is a mess. Pierre can't throw, and Carlos Quentin can't move. Alex Rios is not as bad as 2009 metrics suggest, but he may not have nearly enough range to compensate for either. A.J. Pierzynski's arm is awful, and Ramon Castro's is worse.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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