John Danks’ Sunday start proceeded poorly. He allowed seven baserunners in his first two innings of work, though the Twins seemed unwilling to take advantage as they repeatedly made outs on the basepaths. In other words, it could have been worse.
This was not the Danks we have seen over the past three weeks. He seemed unusually unwilling to throw strikes. Though the Sox battled back and took a lead after falling behind 3-0, Danks proved unable to keep that lead, and they fell to the Twins 6-5, losing all four games of the series.
This does not augur well.
If Danks’ start alone were the problem for the Sox it would be bad enough. for the rotation has been less than stellar. Advanced metrics tell a similar tale, though one not quite so blood-curdling. While focusing on results over the past month look much more encouraging, excluding the performances of Chris Sale and John Danks (before Sunday’s start) proves plenty blood-curdling as the rest of the rotation has surrendered 51 earned runs in 87.1 innings pitched, producing an ERA of 5.26.
The White Sox need a lot to legitimately contend, so before the deadline they must make a decision about whether or not they are really contenders, and before they decide that, yes, they can legitimately contend they need to start playing as though they can.
I doubt that will happen.
I know how harsh the last sentence is, but the White Sox have not shown themselves to be legitimate contenders over the past two weeks. Oh, they are still hanging around in the division, but that has more to do with the Detroit Tigers stumbling than it does with their own performance.
Rick Hahn pretty much said the same thing in the Tribune article linked above, although he said it indirectly and (much) more discreetly. To put it simply, the White Sox need to play like contenders to justify dealing for help at the deadline. Without improved play, whatever deadline dealing they do will be in the role of sellers.
As Daryl Van Schouwen wrote in the Sun-Times following Saturday’s game, the decisions Hahn makes will be easy ones given how the White Sox have played to begin their current roadtrip. The help for which Hahn deals will almost certainly be acquired with an eye for 2015 and beyond. A lot of what drives this thinking centers on players whose contributions to the offense have faded as the season has moved forward:
The back of the rotation has also slumped, though they were never as hot at any point this season as the White Sox lineup was in the early weeks. Saturday’s starter, Andre Rienzo, has been particularly appalling in his last few starts:
Losing pitcher Andre Rienzo, who has allowed 17 runs and 22 hits in his last three starts spanning 14 innings, couldn’t finish the fifth. The big hit was a two-run double by Joe Mauer that cleared the glove of left fielder Alejandro De Aza, who didn’t take a great path on the ball retreating to the wall.
The problem for the White Sox is that they do not have an immediate replacement for Rienzo in the rotation. The man he replaced, Scott Carroll, performed poorly as a starting pitcher. Additionally, Carroll has been an asset in the bullpen, bolstering a unit whose performance has been “uneven” over the course of the season. (Characterizing the bullpen’s performance as “adventurous” captures the flavor of things, though it has been the sort of adventure that in popular entertainments ends poorly for the protagonists with Prometheus an interesting example.)
Stephen Forsha asked Saturday if the White Sox are contenders or pretenders, and I myself have (oh so foolishly) gone on record claiming they can contend in the division. Maybe my formerly premature optimism now rebounds as bitter and childish pessimism, but after watching them flounder in Minneapolis, I am not so sure it is simply petty feelings of bitterness on my part, and I am coming to believe that the Sox should perhaps look more to the future, by which I mean the next few seasons as opposed to the rest of this one.
While this might amount to “punting,” the fact they seem destined to be a .500 team should make all fans of the South Siders pretty darn happy after 2013’s debacle.
With extreme parity characterizing Major League Baseball in 2014, there will likely be fewer teams selling at the trade deadline. Fewer sellers and more prospective buyers should–on a theoretical level in an ideal place where the logic of markets prevails–produce a sellers’ market, with returns higher than they otherwise would be.
The question would remain of what pieces the White Sox should be looking to sell. My guess is that infielders will be traded, though as wrong as I am about everything all the time, no one should be surprised were the Sox to start buying instead.
Do you think the White Sox should be looking to sell?