Thursday, October 27, 2005

The 2005 World Champion White Sox

The Official Post-Yankee Playoff Team of the Weblog That Derek Built (the TOPYTWTDB, as we call them) was swept last night, unable to generate a single run in the interest of avoiding humiliation in their home ballpark. It was sad, but fitting.

The Astros certainly had their chances. Last night, I was at the pool hall, and in keeping with the low ratings, most of the TVs in the joint were tuned to something else--regular season hockey, pre-season basketball, the lumberjack events, the World's Strongest Man competition, the International Foosball Federation's Monte Carlo Grand Prix--you know, something with local ramifications.

After I won my match, I saw one at bat that told me what the result of this game would be. Bottom of the sixth inning, score tied at zero, Freddy Garcia had just walked Mike Lamb to face Jason Lane, with two outs and the bases loaded. Garcia quickly ran the count to 0-2, and then Lane started to battle. Foul ball, foul ball, foul ball. AJ Pierzynski did a great job of blocking a splitter in the dirt to keep the runner at third. Another foul ball.

And then, suddenly, Lane lost the contest of wills. The pitch that struck him out was high and inside, and no threat to catch any part of the plate. Threat over, and, I felt at the time, game over.

It's strange to see a sweep where the games are fairly close, the underdog is well-regarded, yet it just feels like they are also completely overmatched. Maybe it's the sour way the Series started, with Roger Clemens unable to answer the bell after the second inning. The key to the Astros chances was having that fearsome Big Three, and once that became a Big Two, they just didn't have enough offense to hang in there.

As for the White Sox, over at Baseball Prospectus I took a look at how so many good folks underestimated them so much at the beginning of the season. For those of you who remember my pre-season picks, I had them FOURTH in their division. PECOTA, Nate Silver's player projection system, showed the ChiSox as a .500 team, somewhere between 80-82 and 82-80.

My analysis shows that PECOTA actually did a pretty good job of predicting Chicago's offense, but was dashed upon the rocks by unexpected and interrelated improvements in their defense and pitching. Check it out.

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