Motorcade of mediocrity


Wanted, needed. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

And now, a man stuck in small-town Indiana will comment on three-day-old news because it seems new to him.

I could understand if those lacking the time or patience to engage with pre-season statistical projections were just completely ignorant to them. Why spend time grappling with what you have no patience for? I could also understand, and might prefer, if the persistent use of projections had given everyone a baseline familiarity with how they look and work..

What’s hard to understand is how Clay Davenport’s personal blog full of his first run of projections for 2014 is full of comments like

"“You might want to tweak your software. The Royals aren’t going to be 9 games worse than they were last year, bro.”“He has no team winning more than 91 games… very likely.. lol.”"

How are these people finding this page? Why do they explore after they have done so?

Seasons have huge error bars, and calculating the average of all the possible outcomes for a team boils down the conclusions in projections to obvious statements like “The Rays should be good, the Astros should be bad, other teams have a chance.” And everyone gets lumped in this 77-84 win middle ground that they may or may not be able to bust out of.

Partisan and even non-partisan fans have their own collection of seemingly sound arguments on why their fair-to-middling team will bust out of their current station and court 90 wins (who hasn’t written a ‘White Sox typically outperform their projections’ post?), but the projections tend to annoyingly point out that there’s just as good of a chance that these teams fade into the background.

Clay Davenport pegs the Sox at 79 wins for 2014 and a third place finish in the AL Central, which puts them firmly in this group again, but that would be a huge step up from last year, when they were inarguably one of the five-worst teams in baseball. This year’s club is all about bringing forward Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, Avisail Garcia, Erik Johnson and maybe even Dayan Viciedo as part of a new core, but this projection would mean they could mess around and win 86 games. That’s fun. I won’t hold my breath, but I also won’t try to smother myself to death.

Also, it makes it a lot funnier that the Royals are at 77 games.

Now, pump the brakes; this is Davenport’s first run of his projections, which is the first of a seemingly infinite array of projections, and when we last checked in with Clay, he was still circling in on how to calibrate Jose Abreu’s nutty Cuban stats for MLB projections. This is fun to look at, but when I’m done giggling I would probably concede that I still expect the Royals to be better than the White Sox next season. They just won’t enjoy the comfort of diminished expectations.

Openly operating with high expectations, and perhaps as removed from the direction of the Sox at large as any player, is Adam Dunn.

"“As long as the White Sox produce a winner and Dunn goes to the postseason for the first time in his career, he doesn’t care how it gets done. He believes as long as winning is the priority, the White Sox will determine how to divide up the playing time on a 25-man roster that features Dunn, Paul Konerko and Jose Abreu.‘It’s been like that from Day 1, but especially now,’ Dunn said at SoxFest on Saturday afternoon. ‘That’s the number one thing. I can’t speak for Paul, but I’m assuming that’s why Paul’s coming back, and that’s why I’m excited to get this thing started.’”"

To some degree, Dunn airing playoff aspirations is as obvious and necessary as any canned public statement, but this quote could nearly have been said in 2011 and betrays his relic status. Gordon Beckham is battling to hold off prospects and keep pulling in arbitration dollars, Alexei Ramirez is the shortstop of the present and possibly the near future still. Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley are clamoring for footholds in the bigs, and at least Paul Konerko is fully in on the gimmick of his player/mentor role.

Dunn is only here to win to chase titles in his twilight. He’s failed to do that, to the degree that there’s no appealing way to move him elsewhere. Now he’s stuck on a team that should no earthly interest in bringing him back in 2015, and not much interest in the ~450 plate appearances he makes this season beyond figuring that he might as well make them while he’s here.

The playoffs are not the end-all, be-all for a positive White Sox season, but it’s quite the lameduck campaign for Dunn otherwise.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan