Showing posts with label John Danks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Danks. Show all posts

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jose Quintana, his trade value, and fans' and media perception of it

Jose Quintana
White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana has had his name mentioned in trade rumors for months. And he'll probably continue to have his name mentioned in trade rumors until the day he actually is dealt, whenever that may be.

In the meantime, one of the things that drives me insane about situations such as this is the constant speculation and near-daily fluctuations in what fans and media perceive Quintana's "trade value" to be.

Just last week, Quintana had his best outing of the season. He pitched eight innings of one-hit, one-run ball in an extra-inning victory over the Seattle Mariners. After that performance, Quintana had posted quality starts in five out of six appearances, going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA over than span.

"Hey, Quintana is on a roll! His trade value is up! The Sox should be able to get a couple good prospects for him at the trade deadline!"

Then, a game such as Wednesday's happens. Quintana retired the first 10 Arizona Diamondbacks he faced. He appeared to be on his way to yet another strong outing. Unfortunately, things turned on a dime, and eight of the second 10 Arizona hitters Quintana faced got hits. He ended up allowing eight earned runs. He got knocked out in the fifth inning, and the Sox lost, 8-6.

"Oh, boy, there goes Quintana's trade value. Nobody's going to want him now that his ERA is up in the high 4s."

This morning, I saw some click bait on the Chicago Tribune's website that Quintana is "Spanish for John Danks" or some such nonsense. I didn't click on it, we're not going to link to it here, and it should be dismissed for the idiocy that it is. However, it's worth bringing up as an example to illustrate how folks -- even media members who should know better -- sway in the wind about a player's "trade value" based upon a very small sample size.

Teams that might interested in acquiring Quintana's services are not going to cross him off their list based upon this one horrible outing against the Diamondbacks, nor were they going to call Rick Hahn and offer all the crown jewels of their farm system for Quintana after his brilliant outing against the Mariners. One game just doesn't make that much of a difference.

Scouts are looking at longer-term trends, what the track record and makeup of the player is, and what kind of stuff he's been featuring as of late. Quintana's fastball command was poor against Arizona, to say the least, but there has been no downturn in velocity or movement. His assortment of offspeed pitches looks the same as it always has.

If Quintana improves his fastball command, and he has a track record of being able to do so, he'll still be a pitcher who is in demand when July rolls around. His ERA might be 4.82 right now, but his career ERA is 3.49. As long as his stuff hasn't fallen off -- and it hasn't -- he's due to trend in a positive direction toward his career norms. An acquiring team may be positioned to take advantage of that trend.

The quality of prospects the Sox would be able to acquire in a Quintana deal remains an open question. Fans and media are not privy to those trade discussions, and you can't believe much of anything you read in the rumor mill.

But it's worth noting that one good game here or one bad game there is not going to have a significant effect on Quintana's worth in the marketplace. As long as he's healthy, he's a pitcher that has value. How much value? Perhaps we'll see in July.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rick Hahn: White Sox are 'mired in mediocrity'

Rick Hahn
Remember when we thought the White Sox would be better in 2016 than they were last season? That was fun while it lasted, huh?

Well, guess what? The Sox are 46-49 after 95 games. At this same point last season, they were 45-50. So, all that moving and shaking over the last calendar year has resulted in a net gain of one lousy win. Hooray!

Before Thursday night's 2-1 rain-shortened loss to the Detroit Tigers, Sox general manager Rick Hahn admitted the plan is not working.

“We looked to get ourselves right as quickly as possible,” Hahn told members of the media scrum. “There was a spurt this season where it looked like it worked. As we sit here today, we’ve been wrestling with being a couple games over, a couple games under .500 for the last few weeks.

“We’re mired in mediocrity. That’s not the goal, that’s not acceptable, that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term.”

So, there you have it: The first sign that the Sox might be looking at a change in direction at the Aug. 1 trading deadline. The team is 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, and 7.5 games back in the wild-card race. There isn't much hope left for 2016, and Hahn acknowledged the team has ruled out any deals that would involve trading prospects for short-term rentals.

Hahn noted several times that the Sox are "open-minded" about their options. He did not rule out a complete teardown, although he commented that trading All-Star pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana "might be extreme."

The Sox are not the most transparent organization in the world -- and I don't care that they're not -- so we're left to speculate about what this might mean. My speculation is they'll keep Sale. Shortstop Tim Anderson also is off limits in a trade. Quintana is unlikely to be dealt, but could be had if the right offer comes along. Everyone else is on the block, with David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Zach Duke and Melky Cabrera among the most likely candidates to be traded.

Here's what I fail to understand: The Sox allowed this season to slip away without firing the manager or anyone else on the coaching staff. Maybe the 23-10 start to the season created false hope, but the 23-39 mark since then is ridiculous. There's no way this team should have played that poorly over a stretch of 62 games.

The Sox were willing to shake up the roster, with John Danks, Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins all being shown the door. Anderson was called up from the minors. The Sox traded for James Shields. They signed Justin Morneau. They recently recalled top prospect Carson Fulmer. They've been willing to address problems on the roster, but that hasn't improved results. There's no question the team is playing below its talent level at present, and it's been that way for more than two months. Why isn't anyone that's part of the dugout brain trust accountable for that?

I'm reluctant to let Hahn and Ken Williams undertake a new rebuilding project. They've turned almost the entire roster over since the midpoint of the 2013 season -- Sale, Quintana and Nate Jones are the only players left from that time -- but the results still are disappointing.

There's a lot of folks who want to trade Sale and Quintana, but I'm opposed to that line of thinking for two reasons: 1) I don't trust this front office to get the appropriate return, and 2) Right now, you'd be shopping them only to contending teams, and contenders are only willing to give up prospects during the middle of the season. If you're going to trade one or both of the crown jewels of your organization, I think you need to get at least one, if not two, major league players in return -- not just prospects.

Teams that are in the hunt typically are not willing to subtract players from their 25-man roster at this time of year. If the Sox do want to make a move with their top pitchers, they might be better served to wait until the offseason when every team in baseball could conceivably be in the market for Sale or Quintana. At that point in time, the Sox might be better positioned to maximize their return.

Right now, the vultures are circling, looking to pick at the carcass of the 2016 Sox. Hahn needs to exercise patience here. If he is going to move, he better make sure he gets exactly what he wants. These decisions are too important to the future of the Sox organization to rush.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

White Sox designate John Danks for assignnment

The White Sox on Tuesday announced their intention to designate veteran left-hander John Danks for assignment.

Danks is 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts this season, and as we've chronicled previously on this blog, he is the one guy who seems to be holding the Sox back this season. The South Siders enter Wednesday's game against Boston with a 19-8 record, which means they are 19-4 when Danks doesn't pitch.

General manager Rick Hahn indicated right-hander Erik Johnson will be recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to take Danks' spot in the starting rotation. Johnson will start Thursday's game against Boston.

“(Danks) was an important part of some very good White Sox teams,” Hahn told CSNChicago's Dan Hayes. “This is about putting us in the best position to win ballgames going forward. We feel we have a pretty special thing going on in this clubhouse right now. We have the opportunity to build off some of the momentum we already have created for ourselves, and we wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win games going forward.”

There's no question Danks has been a momentum killer during his starts in the early going this year. His appearances have put a stop to a five-game winning streak and a six-game winning streak already. The struggles are part of a longer-term trend since Danks underwent shoulder surgery in August 2012.

He has never been the same pitcher since returning in 2013. In 88 post-surgery starts, he has gone 22-44 with a 4.84 ERA. As a team, the Sox are 32-56 in those 88 games. He's just too big of a liability for a team that is off to a good start and has every intention of trying to win this year.

Letting Danks go will not be cheap. The club is eating the remaining $11.75 million on Danks' contract, which comes as a surprise to many longtime Sox observers, who are used to seeing owner Jerry Reinsdorf insist on getting a return on his investment.

For myself and other Sox fans, the move is refreshing, because it shows the Sox are serious about winning and willing to address problems quickly. In the past, we've seen this organization stick with high-priced players despite poor performance. (Why was Adam Dunn batting third in 2011 when his batting average was well below .200?)

In the past, we've seen this organization stick with struggling players (Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham) long after it became apparent they were never going to be solid, everyday contributors.

Whether the Sox have an internal solution for the No. 5 starter spot remains to be seen. But both the numbers and the eye test show that Danks is no longer capable of pitching at the major-league level. I commend the Sox for recognizing that and moving on.

Friday, April 29, 2016

John Danks torpedoes another White Sox winning streak

John Danks is 0-4 in four starts.
From April 9 to 15, the White Sox won five games in a row. John Danks put a stop to that by getting shelled in Tampa Bay on April 16.

The Sox won six games in a row this week. Danks put a stop to that Thursday by getting shelled in Baltimore.

The veteran left-hander was staked to an early 2-0 lead on Todd Frazier's first-inning home run, but it was all downhill from there as the Orioles clobbered the South Siders, 10-2.

Danks lasted five-plus innings, allowing six runs on nine hits. He struck out four and walked two, one of which was a four-pitch free pass to Baltimore's No. 9 hitter, Caleb Joseph, in the third inning. That walk started a four-run Orioles rally that featured back-to-back home runs by Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. By the time the fourth inning rolled around, the Sox were facing a 5-2 deficit.

Baltimore broke it open with five in the sixth. Jake Petricka, providing no relief, gave up a grand slam to Manny Machado, but realistically, the game was lost early when Danks let it get away from him.

The Sox are 16-7 through 23 games, but Danks is 0-4. His ERA has swelled to 7.25. His WHIP sits at an unsightly 1.746.

Danks' woes have created the first crisis for the Sox in this 2016 season. As we've stated before, we can't attribute this slow start to a small sample size, because Danks finished last year on a struggling note. If you combine his final 10 starts of 2015 with his first four starts of this year, you come up with an ugly 1-11 record and a 5.13 ERA.

"It's been a pretty miserable April," Danks said in this MLB.com article. "I'm just not throwing enough strikes, just not throwing enough quality strikes. There's been games where I can full on eliminate a pitch, because it doesn't have a chance."

If you can believe it, Danks' velocity is down from last year. His average fastball velocity is 87.90 mph through four starts this season. That's only six miles an hour quicker than his changeup, which sits at 81.16 on average. They say you want an average variance of 9 to 11 mph between those two pitches, so Danks' reduced velocity is really killing him. It's hard to tell the difference between the fastball and the change. To the hitters' eye, it all looks the same. Danks is easy pickings for a hard-hitting team such as the Orioles right now.

By way of comparison, his fastball velocity in 2015 averaged 89.86. Danks had 15 starts, most of them toward the end of last year, where his fastball averaged 90 mph. If he touches 90 with his four-seamer, that's at least enough to give him a fighting chance with the 81 mph changeup. Right now, those lost three ticks on his fastball have put him in a situation where he needs to be pinpoint with his command, and he has been anything but pinpoint.

The Sox have to be thinking about making a change at the back of the rotation at this point. We've already seen Miguel Gonzalez come up for a spot start. Other viable options from Triple-A Charlotte include Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

General manager Rick Hahn has addressed several problems on this team since the end of last season -- a new third baseman, a new catching duo, a new second baseman, a new shortstop, an upgraded outfield defense. The Sox have the look of a contender, and they've come too far to show too much patience with Danks.

I'd be inclined to make a change now, but at most Danks should get no more than two more starts to pull himself together. It's hard to sustain winning streaks when you've got one starting pitcher who is putting you in a three-, four-, or five-run hole in the early innings more often than not.

Monday, April 25, 2016

White Sox put John Danks on notice (finally)

We're three weeks into the season, and the White Sox are coming off a sweep of the Texas Rangers that concluded a 5-2 homestand.

The South Siders have surprised even the biggest optimists by posting a 13-6 record through the first 19 games -- that's the most wins in the American League entering Monday's play.

That said, there was some roster juggling necessary over the past week. Catcher Alex Avila pulled a hamstring during Saturday's 4-3 win over Texas, and Kevan Smith was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte as Avila was placed on the disabled list.

More notably, Erik Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte after going unused on the homestand, and Miguel Gonzalez was called up to start Monday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays -- the first of a weeklong, seven-game road trip.

Ace Chris Sale's start was pushed back to Tuesday. Jose Quintana will start Wednesday's game. For the second time this season, John Danks had his turn skipped, and he will pitch either Thursday or Friday against Baltimore.

It appears the Sox are (finally) sending a message to Danks that his spot in the rotation is not secure. The Sox are 0-3 in Danks' three starts this year, and 13-3 behind their other four starting pitchers.

Obviously, there will be some regression in those numbers as we go along, but Danks has earned his 0-3 record, which is coupled with a 6.23 ERA, a 5.52 FIP, a 1.65 WHIP and a 1.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

His struggles cannot be attributed to a small sample size, either, given his high ERAs in the past three seasons (4.75, 4.74, and 4.71). Right-handed batters are hitting .309 against Danks this year, after hitting .294 against him last year. Sending him to the mound against Toronto would be akin to raising the white flag, given the strong right-handed hitters in the Blue Jays lineup (Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki).

Toronto hitters had a 1.021 OPS in two games against Danks last year. In contrast, Danks had one of his best starts of 2015 -- seven scoreless innings -- against Baltimore, so from a matchup perspective, this Toronto series is a great time to skip Danks.

And, in case you were wondering, here are Gonzalez's numbers against the Blue Jays since 2012:

7-3, 2.61 ERA, 76 IP, 56 H, 7 HR, 21 BB, 54 K

Having played in Baltimore, Gonzalez has seen quite a bit of the Blue Jays, and he's won his share of the battles. That doesn't mean he'll win Monday -- there's a reason Baltimore released him. The Orioles let him go because his fastball velocity had dipped from 90-92 to 86-88. The Sox say Gonzalez's velocity came back in the two starts he has made at Charlotte, and that's why they are giving him a chance.

If nothing else, it's encouraging to see the Sox are considering other options for the No. 5 starting job beyond Danks, who has simply not pitched well enough to have a firm grip on the spot. We might learn that he's still the best option they have (for the time being), but it's clear the longest-serving, highest-paid member of the Sox is now officially pitching to keep his job.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I went to Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field, and it snowed

How's this for baseball weather?:


That was the scene at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday before the White Sox's first home game of the season against the Cleveland Indians. The game resulted in a 7-1 Cleveland victory. More on that in minute, but five years from now, when people talk about Opening Day 2016 the main thing they are going to remember was the bone-chilling cold (temperatures in the 30s, wind chills in the 20s) and snow.

It did stop snowing for a little while, and the ballpark looked great for pregame ceremonies:


And, did I mention this new center field scoreboard is awesome?


On the field, there weren't many positives for the Sox, who fell to 3-2 with their worst performance of the season's first week.  We should have seen it coming. John Danks entered Friday's action with a 5-14 record, with a 5.29 ERA, in 26 career starts against Cleveland.

Make it 5-15 in 27 starts.

Danks gave up seven runs, five earned, over five innings pitched. He sucked the life out of the sellout crowd by giving up three runs in the top of the first inning, plus two more in the second. The "here we go again" feeling that was so prominent in the ballpark during these last three losing seasons of 2013-2015 was back again immediately with the Sox down 5-0 an inning and a half into the home portion of the schedule.

There were physical mistakes (Alex Avila's throwing error in the first inning that cost the Sox two runs) and mental mistakes (Avisail Garcia getting picked off first base with runners on first and second and one out, down 5-0, in the bottom of the second inning). There was an alarming lack of offense -- only three hits all day.

Todd Frazier went 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a single and a walk. Beyond that, the only offense was a single by Austin Jackson. This marked the second straight year the Sox were limited to just three hits in their home opener. Last year's 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins was utterly forgettable and sadly a predictor of misery to come.

We can only hope today's performance is an aberration and not a foretelling of another bad season on the South Side.

The only other good thing we can say? Well, Dan Jennings and Zach Putnam combined for four scoreless innings in relief of Danks. If not for that, it would have been worse than 7-1.

Without question, this game was one to forget, unless you're talking about the weather.

Monday, March 14, 2016

White Sox have back-of-the-rotation questions

The White Sox had two spring training games that were hard to watch and/or listen to over the weekend -- they were beaten by the Cubs, 9-2, on Saturday and lost 11-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.

Poor performances by back-of-the rotation candidates were a common theme in both losses, with Erik Johnson looking more like the 2014 version of himself than the 2015 International League Pitcher of the Year.

Johnson gave up five runs on seven hits over three innings against a split-squad Cubs lineup that featured only three regulars (Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo). His fastball was clocked between 85 and 89 mph and had little life. Once such fastball was hit over the fence by Fowler in the second inning. Johnson was hanging his breaking ball and consistently behind in counts.

We'll forgive the hanging breaking balls, because the dry Arizona air can make it hard to snap off a good curve. But reduced velocity and poor command doomed Johnson two years ago, and those issues seem to have resurfaced early on in 2016. He's given up a combined nine runs in his first two Arizona starts, and the stuff he's featuring now isn't going to be good enough for him to make the club.

Speaking of poor stuff, John Danks got cuffed around in his third spring start on Sunday, allowing eight runs on six hits over 4.1 innings in the loss to the Diamondbacks. Danks gave up two homers to some guy named Peter O'Brien, a 25-year-old who has made 12 plate appearances in the majors in his career.

After the game, Danks said he understands his critics, but pointed out that he's trying to simplify his mechanics before the season starts. OK, I can buy that, but the problem is I feel like I've been hearing about Danks trying to make mechanical adjustments for the past four years. The bottom line is he's never been a pitcher with precise command, and now that he doesn't have the velocity he had before his shoulder surgery, it's going to be extremely difficult for him to be consistent over 30-plus starts. That's why he should be pitching for a job this spring, regardless of his contract status.

The Sox's other rotation candidate, Mat Latos, has yet to pitch in a game that counts in the spring training standings. He pitched in a "B" game Saturday, allowing three runs (all in the first inning) over four innings of work.

An American League scout told CSNChicago's JJ Stankevitz that Latos' performance was "pretty underwhelming." Sox manager Robin Ventura described it as "alright."

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement on either count, so the Sox are looking for at least two of these three guys -- Johnson, Danks and Latos -- to step up before the spring is over.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hopefully, John Danks has to earn his spot in the White Sox rotation this year

John Danks
Even though it's only spring training, it was nice to hear baseball on the radio Thursday afternoon. The White Sox lost, 6-1, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The result wasn't satisfactory, but all the usual caveats about spring training being meaningless in the won-loss column apply.

The Sox were limited to just three hits, and starting pitcher John Danks gave up three runs on four hits over two innings. He walked the first batter he saw, then gave up three singles to put the Sox down 2-0 after the first inning. He also gave up a long solo home run to Alex Guerrero in the second inning.

Let me say this about Danks: I hope his spot in the starting rotation isn't secure. His ERAs over the past three years have been 4.75, 4.74 and 4.71, respectively. He's been consistent, give him that, but he's been consistently below par. In each of the past two seasons, his WHIP has been higher than 1.4 (1.441 in 2014, 1.413 in 2015).

Nothing he has done recently should be good enough to guarantee him a spot in the rotation. He should have to compete for one, and unlike previous seasons, the Sox do have other options. We know Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will be in the rotation, assuming good health. But the other two spots should be up for grabs among Danks, Mat Latos, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

If two of those three other pitchers are more impressive this spring than Danks, then they should be in the rotation, and Danks should go to the bullpen. If Danks outpitches all of them this spring, then he can keep his spot. But I don't think it should be just handed to him.

Earlier this winter at SoxFest, a fan asked GM Rick Hahn whether designated hitter Adam LaRoche was going to keep his spot in the lineup based on his veteran status and $13 million salary. Hahn insisted the Sox do not have any "scholarship players," that LaRoche would have to earn his spot, and that manager Robin Ventura has been told to play the best players regardless of who is making the most money.

I don't know if I believe it when the Sox say they will send a high-priced player to the margins if that player is not producing. Like LaRoche, Danks is set to make big bucks in this, the final year of his contract. In fact, Danks will be the highest paid player on the team at $15.75 million.

Based on that figure, I can't shake the feeling that Danks is going to be in the rotation whether he deserves the spot or not. And based upon what I've seen the past three years, he's a good candidate to be replaced. His poor outing Thursday comes with the aforementioned caveats about spring training not mattering, but there have been plenty of times where Danks has failed miserably when it did matter.

Let's hope the Sox take that into account if Danks flounders all spring.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mat Latos vs. Jeff Samardzija: a side-by-side comparison

The White Sox created competition at the back end of their starting rotation last week with the signing of veteran right-hander Mat Latos.

We already know Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will be the top three starting pitchers on the roster. That leaves Latos, John Danks, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner to compete for the last two spots.

Being a cynic, I'll go ahead and assume Danks' place in the rotation is safe. He's the longest-tenured player on the Sox. He is the highest paid player on the roster, and money talks when it comes to the decisions the Sox make.

That would mean the Sox would have four of the same five starting pitchers they had in the rotation last year, with Latos, Johnson and Turner competing for the spot vacated by Jeff Samardzija.

If Latos is healthy, I think he gets the job. For the sake of argument, let's assume that's the case.

Will Latos be an upgrade over Samardzija? Let's do a side-by-side comparison with last year's numbers:

Category Latos Samardzija
W-L record 4-10 11-13
ERA 4.95 4.96
FIP 3.72 4.23
WHIP 1.307 1.294
H/9 9.3 9.6
HR/9 1.0 1.2
BB/9 2.5 2.1
K/9 7.7 6.9
K/BB 3.13 3.33

Clearly, these numbers are not impressive for either pitcher, both of whom suffered through the worst seasons of their respective careers.

But a couple things to note: Latos has the excuse of not being healthy. He made only 21 starts all year. Samardzija made all 32 of his starts.

People have excused Samardzija's poor season on the grounds that he had poor defense behind him with the White Sox. I can't disagree with that point, but isn't it interesting that Samardzija's FIP (fielder independent pitcher) was worse than Latos's?

The numbers suggest that Samardzija was responsible for many of his own problems.

Now, let's compare career statistics:

Category Latos Samardzija
W-L record 64-55 47-61
ERA 3.51 4.09
FIP 3.44 3.84
WHIP 1.183 1.278
H/9 8.0 8.5
HR/9 0.8 1.0
BB/9 2.7 3.0
K/9 8.1 8.2
K/BB 3.04 2.76

Latos is the superior pitcher in every category but one: strikeouts per nine innings. And the difference there is minimal.

Which pitcher would you bet on as a bounce-back candidate in 2016? There's a strong case for Latos.

And, remember, Samardzija signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Latos comes to the Sox on a one-year deal worth $3 million.

I'd say the Giants are taking the far bigger gamble on Samardzija than the Sox are taking on Latos.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mat Latos, White Sox agree to one-year deal

Mat Latos
The White Sox moved to increase their starting pitching depth Tuesday, agreeing with veteran right-hander Mat Latos on a one-year, $3 million contract.

Latos, 28, is a three-time 14-game winner who has been limited to just 40 combined appearances over the past two seasons because of knee injuries.

In 2015, he appeared in 24 games (21 starts) with the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, going 4-10 with a 4.95 ERA.

The Sox will hope Latos regains the form he showed from 2010 to 2013. He made at least 31 starts and pitched at least 180 innings in each of those four seasons, going 51-35 with a 3.27 ERA during that time frame.

For his career, Latos is 64-55 with a 3.51 ERA in 177 games, 174 of them starts.

I asked White Sox GM Rick Hahn about starting pitching depth at SoxFest. The projected five include ace Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Erik Johnson and John Danks. I noted that Johnson still doesn't have many big league innings under his belt, and 30 starts and 200 innings also will be a new experience for Rodon -- despite all the promise he has shown.

So, I wanted to know from Hahn who else the Sox had to fill in when one of the younger guys needs to skip a start, or if there's a doubleheader, or if there's an injury. Hahn cited Jacob Turner and Chris Beck as guys who would be positioned to get the nod as sixth or seventh starters.

Frankly, I didn't like that answer. Apparently, Hahn also saw that as a weakness, so he's taking what I think is a low-risk gamble on Latos. The health is a big question mark, but it's worth noting that Latos has had knee problems -- not arm problems -- and he could be the No. 3 or No. 4 starter on the Sox roster if he returns to form.

If he still isn't healthy, or struggles for other reasons, it's only a one-year deal at a bargain rate. It's not something that's going to financially hinder the Sox from making other moves.

Also, this could be a precursor to another move, because the Sox now have six starting pitchers on the roster. But I think they would want Latos to prove he's healthy before trading away any of their other guys.

At minimum, this gives the Sox more options, and when it comes to pitching, more options is a good thing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

John Danks has the lowest WHIP of any White Sox starter in the second half of the season

An absurd ninth-inning meltdown by Tyler Flowers and David Robertson prevented White Sox left-hander John Danks from picking up his eighth victory of the season Monday night, but it didn't change the fact that Danks turned in a quality outing in the Sox's 8-7, 14-inning win over the last-place Oakland Athletics.

Danks went seven innings, allowing just three hits. Granted, all of them were solo home runs, but can anyone really complain about the so-called No. 5 starter giving up three runs over seven innings? I don't believe so.

The overall numbers don't look great for Danks; he's 7-12 with a 4.56 ERA this year. But I'll bet you didn't know he has the lowest WHIP of any Sox starter since the All-Star break. His ERA is the second lowest over that same span, behind only Jose Quintana, who has been the Sox's best pitcher over the last two months.

Here are the second-half numbers for each member of the Sox rotation:

1. Quintana: 5-1, 3.28 ERA, 1.369 WHIP
2. Danks 3-4, 3.60 ERA, 1.200 WHIP
3. Carlos Rodon 4-4, 4.10 ERA, 1.298 WHIP
4. Chris Sale 4-5, 5.00 ERA, 1.302 WHIP
5. Jeff Samardzija 3-8, 6.46 ERA, 1.450 WHIP

Not sure what to make of all this, other than to say this isn't the way the Sox drew it up. Quintana has done his job, but Sale and Samardzija are supposed to be the two best pitchers. Samardzija has been consistently terrible. Sale has been up and down, mainly because he keeps inexplicably getting roughed up by the Minnesota Twins.

One thing we can say: Danks is not responsible for the Sox's inability to make a second-half push. He stunk the first half, yes, but he's routinely done his job in more recent outings -- including Monday night.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If the White Sox insist on keeping John Danks in the rotation, they need to give him a shorter leash

White Sox pitcher John Danks is overpaid. Everybody knows that. But this blog entry is not going to be about money. Today we are talking about Danks' poor performance, nothing more, nothing less.

The veteran left-hander had another implosion against an AL Central opponent Monday night. He gave up nine runs (five earned) on nine hits, including three home runs, over 5.1 innings in an embarrassing 13-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on national TV. Danks getting rocked by a divisional foe is nothing new. We've chronicled those struggles here in the past.

I've heard some folks argue Danks is a "serviceable" fifth starter. Heck, I think I might have made that statement a couple times in the past. But as time goes on and I gather more information, I've come around to the opinion that this guy doesn't belong in the rotation anymore. His 5.38 ERA ranks 50th out of 53 qualifying American League pitchers. That's not serviceable. It's terrible. It's the kind of performance you can't live with if you want to think of yourself as a competitive team.

It would be one thing if the Sox didn't have other options. For instance, we can complain until we're blue in the face about the not-so-dynamic Sox catching duo of Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. But the reality is those two guys are the best the team has in its organization at that position right now. You can't do anything else but trot them out there until the front office addresses the issue.

But it's not that way with the fifth starter spot. White Sox farmhand Erik Johnson is pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte. He was just named International League Pitcher of the Week. He has not given up a run in any of his last three outings, striking out 28 batters and walking just four in 22 innings over that span.

Given what we know about Danks and his struggles against the AL Central, and just his struggles in general, wouldn't it be a better play to drop Johnson into the rotation for a week and see how he does? At the very least, he could give teams such as Minnesota and Detroit a different look. The Tigers and the Twins are not fooled by the offspeed pitches of Danks. They've faced him countless times, and they are probably fighting to get to the bat rack, knowing a night against Danks is a chance to pad their personal statistics. Minnesota did a good job of getting fat on Monday night, that's for sure.

If the Sox are going to insist on leaving Danks in the rotation, at the very least they need to give him a shorter leash. Minnesota hung a five-spot on him in the bottom of the fourth inning Monday night, turning a 2-1 Sox lead into a 6-2 deficit. No, it wasn't all Danks' fault. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez made a crucial error behind him that opened the door for the big inning, but the Twins scored three runs after two were out, as well. Danks had opportunities to make pitches, pick his teammate up and minimize the damage. He failed to do that.

He should have been removed after that fourth inning. A four-run deficit is not good, but it's not insurmountable. The Sox's long and middle relievers were all fresh and available to use. Manager Robin Ventura should have gone to one of them. You hope a fresh relief pitcher can keep Minnesota at six runs, and then maybe your offense can come back.

Instead, Ventura trotted the ineffective Danks out there for both the fifth and sixth innings, apparently wanting him to "eat innings." Predictable results followed -- a three-run homer by Kennys Vargas in the sixth made it 9-2. Then, the game was over.

The whole thing was disturbing and disheartening. By sending Danks back out after he had been roughed up, it felt like Ventura was conceding the game. And he can't afford to concede games to division foes right now. The Sox are 30-39, 11 games out and in last place. There has to be an urgency to win right now. You can't allow a struggling pitcher such as Danks to go out there and torpedo everything for 24 other guys. There's no rule that says Danks has to stay in for 90 to 100 pitches no matter what. When he's bad, pull him and give the team a chance to come back and win. This isn't rocket science.

On Monday night, it seemed as though Ventura was managing for tomorrow when he needed to win today. The Sox skipper is running out of tomorrows, maybe a lot faster than he realizes.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Eight road games in seven days: White Sox go 4-4

This week could have been a lot worse, couldn't it?

The White Sox had to play eight games in seven days in three different cities, but they pulled through it in decent shape. A week ago, I think most of us would have taken it if we had been told the Sox would go 4-4 in these games, which is exactly what they did.

It's especially good to end up with a split for the week after the Sox opened with back-to-back losses in Toronto. But they recovered to win the finale against the Blue Jays, before splitting a doubleheader in Baltimore on Thursday and taking two of three from the AL West-leading Astros this weekend.

How about the weird shutout for John Danks on Sunday? The Sox left-hander recorded his 1,000th career strikeout by fanning the first batter of the game, Houston right fielder George Springer. Maybe that was an omen everything else was going to go Danks' way, as well.

Danks struck out six and walked one in a 6-0 win over the Astros, and he somehow managed to go unscored upon despite giving up 10 hits.

How rare is that?

Well, the last pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout while allowing 10 hits or more was former Minnesota right-hander Carlos Silva, who gave up 11 hits in a 10-0 win over the Anaheim Angels on Aug. 3, 2004. It's been more than 10 years.

For Danks, it was his first shutout in nearly four years. The last time? Well, it was a three-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 27, 2011.

No doubt Danks' complete game was welcome for the weary White Sox bullpen. Not only was this a stretch of eight games in seven days, it also was 18 games in 17 days. That's a lot of innings to cover over a two-and-a-half-week period.

The Sox (23-26) finally get an off day Monday before they play the Texas Rangers in a three-game series down south.

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Danks vs. AL Central: AL Central wins

Whatever good vibes the White Sox generated with their six-game winning streak are gone now, after the team dropped three consecutive games to the last-place Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The latest loss came Thursday night, a 5-2 Cleveland victory that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The game started at 7:10 p.m. It was basically over by 7:30. Sox starter John Danks gave up four runs in the first inning, including home runs to Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles, and the Indians tacked on another run in the second to seize an early 5-0 edge.

The score remained the same until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers hit the traditional, ceremonial meaningless home run to make the score look better in the paper.

The larger trend I took away from this game, though, is that Danks really struggles against AL Central division opponents. The teams than know him best tend to get to him early and often. I checked the numbers, and for the most part, they confirmed my suspicions. Danks is just plain lousy against three of the four teams he pitches against most regularly:

Danks vs. Indians: 5-13, 5.29 ERA
Danks vs. Twins: 7-14, 5.67 ERA
Danks vs. Tigers: 6-10, 5.11 ERA
Danks vs. Royals: 8-1, 2.73 ERA
Danks vs. AL Central: 26-38, 4.83 ERA

The Royals have to be wondering what they are doing wrong. For the Indians, Tigers and Twins, it's a fight at the bat rack when they see Danks is pitching. Those hitters probably can't wait to get to home plate.

Take out the stats against Kansas City, and Danks is 18-37 with a 5.38 ERA against Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota.

If you're wondering why the Sox can't seem to beat divisional foes these past few years, Danks is among the culprits.

The Sox (18-20) welcome divisional rival Minnesota to the U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game set this weekend. Fortunately, Danks is not slated to pitch in the series. Here are the weekend matchups:

Friday: Jeff Samardzija (3-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (3-4, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday: Chris Sale (3-1, 4.36 ERA) vs. Trevor May (2-3, 5.15 ERA)
Sunday: Jose Quintana (2-4, 4.13 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (3-3, 2.98 ERA)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Unfounded 'concerns' about four left-handers in the White Sox rotation likely to resurface

With Carlos Rodon officially in the White Sox starting rotation, the team now features four left-handed starters -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks are the others.

That means it is time to brace ourselves for more Chicago media fiction about how having four left-handers in the rotation is somehow a detriment to a team.

When you read that tripe, don't buy into it. Instead, just reflect back on this past week's results as evidence that this is a nonissue.

The Sox threw two lefties back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Here were the results:
Jose Quintana

Sale: 8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 1 BB
Quintana: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 10 Ks, 1 BB

Does it seem to you that facing Sale on Tuesday gave the Brewers any tactical advantage when they went up against Quintana on Wednesday? Doesn't look like it to me. Quintana was every bit as effective as Sale was.

Let's go back even earlier. Rodon pitched the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. Less than 24 hours later, the Reds faced another Sox lefty, Danks. Under the prevailing media theory, the Reds should have been at an advantage against Danks, having faced another lefty in Rodon the previous game. Let's take a look at results:

Rodon: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8Ks, 4 BBs
Danks: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4Ks, 3 BBs

Look at that. The Reds didn't do much against either of the two lefties, despite facing them in back-to-back games.

This is why Sox fans should ignore this invented "concern" about having too many left-handers. The Sox's 2005 World Series team had four right-handed pitchers in the rotation, and that never seemed to be an issue. So why would four left-handers be a detriment? Someone is going to have to explain that to me.

Handedness doesn't matter that much. Just give me guys that can pitch. As it stands right now, ironically enough, the one Sox pitcher who is struggling is the lone right-hander, Jeff Samardzija.

Samardzija hasn't been able to get his fastball inside to righties, and as a result, he's allowed 13 extra-base hits to right-handed batters this season (8 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs).

Right-handed hitters are slugging .505 against Samardzija for the year. By way of comparison, right-handers slugged just .359 against him last season, and have slugged .378 against him in his career.

That's something to watch when Samardzija takes his next start Sunday, and isn't it interesting that the Sox only righty is having more trouble with right-handed hitters than any of the lefties in the rotation?

The Sox will play a three-game series in Oakland this weekend. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Rodon vs. Jesse Hahn
Saturday: Danks vs. Jesse Chavez
Sunday: Samardzija vs. Scott Kazmir

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carlos Rodon wins his first MLB start; then John Danks posts his best outing of the season

We said going into the weekend that Carlos Rodon was in position to put pressure on the White Sox's incumbent back-end starters, if he could have a good outing against the Cincinnati Reds in his first major league start.

Rodon delivered a credible performance, going six innings. He allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking four. He picked up the victory in an 8-2 Sox win Saturday night in the second game of a doubleheader.

Interestingly, circumstances beyond Rodon's control put some added pressure on him for the outing. The Sox's No. 5 starter, Hector Noesi, was struck by a line drive and had to leave the game in the second inning of the opener of the doubleheader. The Sox ended up running through most of their bullpen in a 10-4 loss, and that meant Rodon had to at least get through five innings and ideally six innings in the second game.

It didn't look good when Rodon walked the first two hitters he saw, but he wiggled out of a first-and-third, no-outs jam without allowing a run and settled in nicely from there.

The Sox needed three relievers to cover the last nine outs -- Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and David Robertson. Duke and Robertson were the only two Sox relievers not used in the blowout loss in the opener, so they were plenty fresh to protect the lead.

The heavy bullpen use on Saturday also put pressure on John Danks, who started Sunday's series finale. Danks had been knocked out in the third inning of his previous start, and a repeat of that performance was simply not an option. The Sox have two pitchers they typically use in long relief -- Scott Carroll, who worked 4.2 innings in Saturday's opener, and Rodon, who obviously started the second game.

That left Danks with no safety net for his start. He had to go six innings and preferably seven. He ended up responding with his best outing of the season: seven innings pitched, with just one run on six hits.

Robertson suffered his first blown save of the season, so Danks did not pick up a win, but there's a good case to be made that the Sox lefty's ability to provide both quality and quantity of innings was the biggest factor in Chicago's 4-3 victory. Only Duke and Robertson were called upon to work in relief, and after the blown save, the Sox scored winning run in the bottom of the ninth on Gordon Beckham's two-out RBI single off Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Sox are just 12-16 overall, but they are 10-5 at home, having taken two out of three games in each of their five home series to this point in the season. Next up, a road trip to Milwaukee and Oakland, where the Sox must do something about their miserable 2-11 record away from U.S. Cellular Field.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Carlos Rodon's start could put Hector Noesi, John Danks on notice

The White Sox failed to sweep Detroit on Thursday, as Tigers left-hander Kyle Lobstein limited the South Siders to just five hits over 7.2 innings to pick up a 4-1 victory.

Given where the Sox are in the standings, it was probably unrealistic to think they could win three straight games against a superior Detroit team. Nevertheless, it was frustrating to watch Sox hitters get mesmerized by another soft-tossing left-hander.

Lobstein's performance and pitching line Thursday reminded me a little bit of what Minnesota's Tommy Milone did to spoil the Sox home opener April 10.

Lobstein on Thursday: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs
Milone on April 10: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

Milone has since lost his spot in the Minnesota rotation, and I don't know if Lobstein will stay in the Detroit rotation once Justin Verlander comes back from the disabled list. But, if other teams are smart, they'll throw guys like Lobstein and Milone at the Sox at every opportunity. The Sox simply cannot solve soft-tossing lefties.

In any case, up next for the Sox is a three-game interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds. It's hard to envision Chicago getting back in the AL Central race, because the back of its starting rotation is so weak.

The Reds are fortunate to not be facing any of the Sox's top three pitchers. Instead, they'll be getting a look at those back-end starters. Here are the weekend matchups;

Friday: Hector Noesi vs. Jason Marquis
Saturday: Carlos Rodon vs. Johnny Cueto
Sunday: John Danks vs. Michael Lorenzen

Without question, Saturday's game is the marquee matchup. Rodon, the Sox top prospect, will make his first start at the major league level, and he'll be going against the Reds ace. Cueto was a 20-game winner on a losing team in 2014.

Even if Rodon doesn't win, if he fares well, he could put the pressure on Noesi and Danks.

Noesi is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts this season. He has lost each of his last six starts dating back to last year. He has yet to make it through the sixth inning in any of his appearances this year. On two occasions, he was knocked out in the fifth inning.

Danks is 1-3 with a 6.20 ERA in five starts. He was knocked out in the third inning his last time out in a 13-3 loss to Minnesota.

Combined, Danks and Noesi are 1-6 with a 6.41 ERA in eight starts. That is not competitive pitching, folks. There is no way a team can contend for a playoff spot when 40 percent of its starting rotation is performing so poorly.

There's an opportunity here for Rodon to potentially knock one of those two poor performers out of the Sox rotation. We'll see if he takes advantage.


Monday, April 27, 2015

White Sox finally beat Royals -- twice in a day

It was anything but business as usual Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field. First off, the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals not once, but twice -- a rare sight indeed. Secondly, relief pitcher David Robertson threw both the first pitch of the afternoon and the last.

The closer became the first White Sox pitcher to earn both a win and a save on the same day since Bob Howry accomplished the feat in a doubleheader on Aug. 21, 1999.

After Saturday's rainout, the two clubs had to complete Friday's suspended contest, which was tied at 2-2 after eight innings when the showers came.

John Danks got his first win of the season Sunday.
The game resumed in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, and that put Robertson in the unusual position of "starting" the game on the mound. He worked a scoreless inning, pitching over an error by first baseman Jose Abreu, and earned a 3-2 win when the Sox scored a run in the bottom of the inning on a single by Avisail Garcia.

The Sox took the regularly scheduled game, 5-3, as John Danks (1-2) improved his career record against Kansas City to 8-1. Danks walked off the mound in the sixth inning trailing 3-0, but his teammates rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to give him the lead.

The combination of relievers Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and Robertson made it stand up, as the trio combined for three scoreless innings. Melky Cabrera made one of the best catches of the season in the eighth inning for the Sox, robbing Eric Hosmer of a game-tying home run for the final out of the inning.

Robertson wasn't as dominant in his second outing of the day. He gave up two singles, but also fanned two batters to earn his third save of the season.

When these two teams meet, typically it's the Royals who capitalize on mistakes by the Sox to win close games. That script was flipped on Sunday, as it was Kansas City that made the costly miscues.

In the completion of the suspended game, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera walked Cabrera with two outs and then uncorked a wild pitch to move the runner into scoring position. Herrera's wildness came back to bite him when Garcia's bloop to left-center field fell in and Cabrera came home to plate the winning run.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas booted a grounder off Abreu's bat in the sixth inning of the second game, allowing the Sox to score their first run. From there, the South Siders strung together four more singles to surge ahead -- the biggest hit was a two-out, two-run single by Conor Gillaspie that put the Sox ahead 4-3 and sent Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez (2-2) to the showers.

It's been a long time coming for the Sox to win a series against the Royals. Coming into Sunday, they had lost 15 of the last 18 head-to-head meetings. Will this be the day that marks the end of Kansas City's domination of the Sox? We'll find out later in the season. The two teams have 13 more games to play, but they don't meet again until a doubleheader on July 17 in Chicago.

Monday, April 20, 2015

White Sox call up top prospect Carlos Rodon, activate Jake Petricka from the disabled list

The White Sox have promoted their top prospect to the big leagues. Left-hander Carlos Rodon will be available to work out of the bullpen Monday night when the South Siders take on the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox also have activated relief pitcher Jake Petricka (forearm) from the disabled list. To make room for Rodon and Petricka, relief pitcher Javy Guerra was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to April 13) with shoulder inflammation, and relief pitcher Kyle Drabek was designated for assignment.

Rodon's early call-up is a bit of a surprise. He made only two starts in Triple-A Charlotte. The first was a good one, as he struck out nine and allowed only a run on two hits in five innings against Norfolk on April 11. His second outing was just average, three runs on six hits with four strikeouts in five innings against Gwinnett on April 16.

The Sox had indicated a preference to have him work as a starter, presumably because he might eventually be called up to take the place of one of the Sox's two middling starters -- John Danks and Hector Noesi -- later in the season.

But apparently, the Sox have changed course and decided to let Rodon get his feet wet at the big-league level by using him as a reliever. It's the same philosophy they used with Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale in previous years.

Some have speculated the Sox are bringing Rodon up to try to give a slow-starting 4-7 team a jolt, but let's hope he's actually being called up because he's ready for the opportunity. I would suspect that's the case. I can't believe the Sox would rush Rodon to the big leagues for public relations reasons. The organization makes some questionable moves, but there is no way they are that stupid.

Petricka, who had 14 saves for the 2014 Sox, fired a scoreless inning in each of his two rehab outings at Triple-A Charlotte. He figures to give manager Robin Ventura another option in the seventh or eighth inning moving forward.

Guerra is unscored upon in three appearances for the Sox this season, but he's worked only 1.2 innings. Perhaps the shoulder issue was a reason for his scarce workload to this point in the year.

Drabek has not distinguished himself in three outings this season, allowing three runs on nine hits over 5.1 innings. If he clears waivers and reports to Charlotte, that's nice, but if another team does claim him, the Sox have other pitchers in their organization who can do what he does.