How Manny Ramirez Might Affect the AL Central Race

June 27, 2010 Los Angeles, CA..Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers in action during the Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Yankees defeated the Dodgers, 8-6, in 10 innings..Josh Thompson/CSM.

No, Manny isn’t a Southsider yet, but it seems to be just a matter of time. The Dodgers sit 10 games out of first place, and 4.5 games out of the wild card, and they’ll need to sweep the Rockies this weekend and hope the Padres, Phillies, Giants, and Cardinals collapse and, yeah, they’re not going anywhere. Manny will be in Chicago by Tuesday. What this means for the Sox and the pennant race, after the jump.

There is no doubt that the addition of Manny Ramirez makes the White Sox better. Their .333 weighted on-base average is 8th in the American League and their .159 isolated power ranks 7th. And this is in a notorious hitters’ park! They’ve gotten decent production out of Carlos Quentin (.358 wOBA) and Alex Rios (.348), while Paul Konerko is having a monster .412-wOBA-and-.262-ISO season, but they have five regular players with a wOBA less than .320: leadoff hitter Juan Pierre (.319), Omar Vizquel (.317), Gordon Beckham (.304), DH Mark Kotsay (.300), and A.J. Pierzynski (.286). They’ve gotten particularly poor production out of the DH spot; their .315 wOBA ranks ninth in the AL, behind the Orioles (.387), Red Sox (.368), Twins (.362), Yankees (.356), Rangers (.355), Indians (.335), Tigers (.322), and Royals (.318). Manny Ramirez, despite the injuries he’s suffered this season, is still one of the premier hitters in baseball. He’s batting .313/.404/.513 with a .394 wOBA and .200 ISO, and punishes left-handed pitching to the tune of a .432 slugging percentage. That is a huge upgrade over Mark Kotsay, who is batting .233/.307/.382 overall with a .056 wOBA against lefties. According to Fangraphs, he’s been a 1.4 WAR player for the Dodgers, but that’s mostly because his horrible defense (-5.4 UZR, -19.1 UZR/150) detracts from his overall value. The White Sox won’t have to worry about him as a liability in the field, as he will only play in the field on an emergency basis. Combined with their strong pitching both in the rotation ( 3.83 FIP) and bullpen ( 3.79 FIP), and the Sox should make things interesting down the stretch.

Unfortunately for the Sox, even with the addition of Ramirez, they are still looking up at one of the best teams in the American League. No really, it’s true: the Twins are one of the best teams in the American League. If you favor more traditional stats, their .279/.343/.433 line trails just the Yankees and Red Sox, and their pitching staff boasts the fifth-best ERA in the AL, at 3.94. If you favor more advanced stats, well, the Twins look even better. Their .341 wOBA trails, again, just the Yankees and Red Sox, though their .154 ISO is towards the middle of the pack . There are only two regular players with wOBAs less than .320, and the third, Nick Punto, who lost his starting job to Danny Valencia (.358 wOBA) before going on the DL. Every single regular player has a wOBA of at least .330, and five are at least .350: Valencia, Delmon Young (.356), Joe Mauer (.380), Jim Thome (.416), and Justin Morneau (.446, though he hasn’t played in nearly a month). And this is all despite playing in a pitchers’ park (the home run rate at Target Field is just 0.65 per game). The pitching is pretty good too, with the starting rotation boasting the best FIP (3.83), xFIP (4.00), and K/BB ratio (3.16); while the bullpen ranks third in FIP (3.83) and K/BB ratio (2.35), and 8th in xFIP (4.36). It’s no wonder why the Twins currently lead the division by 3.5 games, and currently have an 85.9% chance at winning it according to Baseball Prospectus. The Sox have the better bullpen, though they recently lost both J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton to the DL, but the Twins are still the better team in every other facet of the game. The addition of Manny Ramirez improves Chicago’s postseason chances quite a bit, but they will still need an epic, 2009 Tigers-esque collapse from the Twins to get there.

Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. You can follow her on Twitter, or email her at erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com.

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