Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chicago White Sox - Looking at the Rotation

Now that some of the shine has worn off of Philip Humber’s perfect game, and I’ve looked at two very weak rotations in their division, It’s time to take a look at the fairly strong rotation of the Chicago White Sox. Chicago has a relatively strong starting five, and are probably in a pretty good position to see very little change in their rotation this year.

Jake Peavy who was supposed to be the anchor for this rotation over the past few years is finally looking like the Cy Young winner we saw in 2007. Peavy has spent the last 3 years battling injuries and generally pitching like a league average starter, but he’s come out of the gate red hot this year throwing 37 & ⅔ innings over his first 5 starts and in that time has struck out 33 batters against only 5 walks. His WHIP sits at an unfathomable 0.690. I’d normally criticize him for his groundball/flyball spilts, but he’s keeping 23% of fly balls in the infield, and he’s striking out over 24% of batters he’s faced. Even though over ⅓ of the hits he’s given up so far have been for extra bases, for the most part what he’s doing works. I don’t think that he’ll be able to continue allowing 68% of batted balls to stay in the air without seeing some more of them leave the park, but aside from that his stats are looking very good, and I think this might be a resurgence of the dominant Peavy that Chicago traded for.

Chris Sale has also been lights out over his first 5 starts, and at 23 years old, looks to be ready to make the jump from dominant reliever to legitimate starter. His walk numbers are down this season, and as one would expect from most relievers turned starter so are his strikeout numbers. That said, he’s already struck out 29 batters over 32 innings. He’s keeping the ball down pretty well, and that’s only going to help him, the biggest concern is that so far 50% of hits against him have been for extra bases, though I can’t see that persisting through the whole season. He has a perfect 1.000 WHIP, and while that’s not practically sustainable, even as the year progresses, Sale should be able to continue producing above average results, even if we see his 150 ERA+ start to come down to earth a bit.

Gavin Floyd has been very good in the early going, and should look to remain above average for the season. Floyd has been tagged pretty well in 2 of his outings, but the other 3 have been very dominant performances. Floyd has been right about the same pitcher overall this season that he has been in the past, though he’s striking out a lot more batters, and that’s helping forgive his minor hiccups in other areas. I don’t think Floyd will be quite this good all year, but he will likely continue to be a solid starter for the remainder of the season.

John Danks has not looked pretty so far but that could well be some early season mechanical issues where he’s not commanding his pitches well so far. in 30 & ⅓ innings Danks has walked 15 batters, which is somewhat unsightly, he has also given up 5 home runs, which leads me to believe he’s not spotting his pitches well so far. He’s not doing much else differently, and if he can correct whatever mechanical issues he’s having, Danks should be a fine starter going forward. At the very least he should start to see his pitching line come more into focus with last year’s if not more like the three years prior. I’d look for Danks to continue holding onto his spot in the rotation and try to work out his flaws at the big league level.

Philip Humber has done some bouncing around before landing with the White Sox last season, but he seems to have really come into his own, and while this will only be his second full season as a starting pitcher, Humber is going to be looked upon to put together some very good numbers this year, doubly so now that he has pitched a perfect game Humber’s only pitched in 3 contests this season, and followed up his perfect game with a very ugly performance getting hit for 9 runs in 5 innings against the Red Sox. Looking at Humber’s numbers over the past 2 years, he’s not too prone to the walk, and has managed a fair number of strikeouts as a starter. The game in Boston severely skews his stats for this year, and I would be more inclined to say it was a result of the complete game if he’d thrown more than the 96 pitches he threw against Seattle. Humber looks like he’s put it together and may well be another contributing arm in the Chicago rotation. Humber is likely to pitch a good lot better than he did against Boston, but I wouldn’t count on the type of brilliance he displayed against a meek hitting Mariners team one start prior.

With a rotation that is this rife with potential, and has the overall ability that the White Sox have shown, it’s easy to see them in the race for the AL Central division title late in this season. Their lineup doesn’t have the kind of impact bats that you’d see in Detroit, but I think their rotation certainly will do a lot to keep them in the race longer than the Indians.

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