A quick scan of various prognostications for the 2012 season reveals something not too surprising: nobody seems to have much confidence in the White Sox.
Hardball Talk's Aaron Gleeman pegs the Sox for a win total in the upper 70s, noting he expects the Sox to be sellers at the deadline. Baseball Prospectus' latest PECOTA projections have the Sox at 79 wins with a 19 percent chance of making the playoffs. The the lesser-known CAIRO has the Sox at 74 wins.
On the lower bounds of things, Sports Illustrated has the Sox losing 95 games, a projection Jake Peavy obviously disagrees with. And when Cubs Talk's Tony Andracki simulated a season on the video game MLB The Show, the Sox went 60-102.
The Sox probably won't lose 100 games. Even 95 seems like a stretch. But if only one or two key things go wrong for the Sox this season, the results may not be pretty.
The good news, though, is that if two or three key things go right, the Sox should contend for the playoffs deep into the season. Let's say Adam Dunn rebounds nicely, Peavy stays healthy and Chris Sale is effective. Even if everything else stays the same from 2011 -- namely, the production of Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham -- those three things breaking in favor of the Sox could put them into contention.
The White Sox aren't the Rangers, which PECOTA projects to be the best team in baseball this year. The Rangers can shoulder the loss of a key player or two -- like the 60 or so games Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz combined to miss last year. The White Sox don't have that wiggle room.
So that's why you're seeing these modest projections. Around 77 wins is the safe bet, the one that doesn't require much to break right -- or wrong -- to reach. I
f the Sox win 90, don't go back and dismiss these projections as pointless, or inaccurate, or the spawn of the devil. PECOTA isn't saying the Sox will absolutely win 79 games -- it's saying that's the most likely outcome. And hey, a chance to make the playoffs at about 20 percent isn't the worst thing ever, either.