White Sox First Half Player Grades: Starting Pitchers
Chris Sale has lead a White Sox starting pitching staff that is hard to handle when at their best, but struggles to find consistency. As the first half draws to a close we take a look at how the White Sox starting pitchers performed over the first three months of the season.
As we have now reached the observed midway point of the season (81 games would officially be half but the White Sox and most other teams have played a few games more than that mark) it’s time to look back over the first half of the 2016 schedule and see how the White Sox performed. Fellow staff writer Brian Draus kicked off the grade posts with his review of the catching corps and in this post we will take a look at how the starting pitching staff looked in the first half.
The White Sox starting staff began the season with a string of solid outings across the board. The starting pitchers as a whole allowed just 54 earned runs (60 total) during the month of April – pretty solid for a staff that was not projected to do too well. The numbers slowly climbed as the starting staff allowed 76 earned runs (79 total) in May and 98 earned runs (99 total) in June. For perspective the White Sox as a team allowed 76 runs in April, 120 in May, 144 in June, and 40 so far through July. So far through July, the numbers are back down as the starters have allowed just 28 runs (31 total) over nine games. While the starting staff has been doing its job to allow minimal runs its clear by the stats that the bullpen has given up their fair share of potential victories. The bullpen performance will be covered in more detail later in the week.
Join me for a wonderful romp through basic statistical analysis as we take a look at the 2016 Chicago White Sox starting pitching staff over the first 87 games of the season.
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Chris Sale (14-3, 3.38)
Chris Sale started the the All-Star game for the American League on Tuesday, the first White Sox starting pitcher to be given such responsibility since Mark Buehrle did it in 2005. Though Sale’s earned run average is high for an ace of any staff his dominance cannot be denied. Aside from Chris’ two starts so far through July, his stats have looked nothing short of Cy Young award-worthy. He leads MLB with 14 wins, and is third in the AL with 123 strikeouts. His 125 innings pitched are first in the AL, and his 1.04 WHIP is fourth best in the AL. These statistics place him in the top tier of starting pitchers in the American League. Sale came into the season with an altered pitching philosophy, looking to tone down his velocity in exchange for better command of the strike zone and his secondary pitches. When Sale has fallen back into his old ways and tried to go for velocity this season is when he has gotten into trouble. White Sox fans knew what to expect out of Chris when the season started and he has delivered. The few days off for the All-Star festivities should prove beneficial for working out any kinks in his mechanics. Hopefully his performance will earn him that Cy Young award when the season comes to a close. Final Grade: A
Jose Quintana (7-8, 3.21)
The 2016 season has been a tough one for Jose Quintana, but that is no different compared to seasons prior. Quintana has yet to have a winning record in a season mostly due to the fact that he gets little to no run support despite his career earned run average of 3.43. Jose has a career 1-34 record in games where the White Sox have scored two or fewer runs, but is 21-7 in games where they score three or more runs and 18-1 if they score more than six. Quintana is arguably a second-tier ace-type starting pitcher if he can stay on top of the opposing team’s offense, and more often than not he delivers that type of performance. To no fault of Jose, it just seems like the offense falls asleep on games when he takes the mound. If the White Sox come out of the break and give Quintana the run support he need,s we may finally see Jose finish a season with a winning record for the first time in his career. Clearly he only needs three runs minimum to give the White Sox a good chance at a notch in the win column. Final Grade: B+
Carlos Rodon (2-7, 4.50)
Carlos Rodon remains a mystery in this pitching rotation. Taken as the third pick overall in the 2014 amateur draft, it is obvious the White Sox had high hopes for this young left-hander. Rodon rushed through the minor leagues making just eight starts before his Major League debut on April 21st, 2015. He ended up finishing the 2015 season with a respectable 9-6 record and a 3.75 ERA. So far through 2016 Rodon seems like a completely different pitcher. Makes you wonder what the White Sox saw in Rodon that deserved a quick call-up that they don’t see in the young Carson Fulmer, who continues to develop in the minor leagues. Rodon has the potential to be good at the Major League level. His 3.1 BB/9 and 8.9 K/9 are solid numbers and not too far off from Quintana (2.1/8.0) and Sale (1.9/8.9). If the White Sox are to continue to contend, then pitching coach Don Cooper needs to spend some time improving Rodon’s confidence. Carlos will come out of the All-Star break on the White Sox 15-day disabled list. Final Grade: C-
James Shields (4-10, 5.42 overall / 2-3, 7.68 with White Sox)
The deal to bring James Shields to Chicago will end up being, at best, a low-risk/medium-reward trade for the White Sox. Erik Johnson is struggling with the San Diego Padres and Shields has a long reputation of coming up clutch in big games. I covered Shields’ journey to the White Sox more deeply in a preivous post, but suffice to say if Shields ends up being the “Big Game” James of old then this trade will look like an absolute steal. Shields has allowed just five runs in 20 1/3 innings over his last three starts, which is refreshing considering the 21 runs he allowed in 8 2/3 innings in his first three starts. As much as I doubt those kinds of outings will continue in the second half, a small part of me wants to believe he can keep it up. If he does? Watch out. Final Grade: C+
Miguel Gonzalez (2-4, 4.39)
Miguel Gonzalez has been surprisingly steady so far through the 2016 season. Even though Gonzalez allowed seven earned runs to the Detroit Tigers on June 14th, and eight earned runs to the Toronto Blue Jays, two starts later those are really the only two blemishes on his game log. Miguel allowed just nine earned runs in four starts in the month of May. In his last outing against the New York Yankees, Gonzalez completely shut down the New York offense. He held the Bronx Bombers to five hits over seven innings of shutout baseball. Before that, Gonzalez held the Houston Astros to two runs off three hits over seven innings pitched. Easily the dark horse of the rotation, Miguel Gonzalez could be the secret weapon that teams are least expecting. Final Grade: B
Next: White Sox First Half Player Grades:Infielders
There you have it. The White Sox starting pitchers through 87 games. Mat Latos pitched well for the first month and a half, but looking at his advanced statistics made it clear that he was bound for regression. John Danks had one of the sadder departures of the season, telling the Chicago Tribute that “it’s a win-now league and I wasn’t helping the team win.” The rotation seems to be set now. We have our five guys in place. On Tuesday, Chris Sale will take to the big stage to throw an inning or two for the American League in the All-Star game, and I hope we can all take a break from worrying about a pennant race to cheer him on.
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