White Sox reliever enjoying a surprising start to season, but is he having a more surprising start than a former Cy Young Award runner up?
Over the past decade and a half, no pitcher on the White Sox has increased his production in comparison to the prior year the way Tommy Kahnle has. However, there may be one exception to this rule. Anyone who remembers the 2003 season recalls Esteban Loaiza’s dominance, as he shocked countless fans around the game by finishing second in the league with 21 wins. How does his campaign compare with Kahnle’s dominance so far? Let’s take a look.
As the Sox started the 2003 season, they had a plan in mind. With both Bartolo Colon and Mark Buehrle at the top of the rotation, the club had on of the best one-two punches in the game, meaning if they won their starts, all they had to do was win one of the following three games in order to play .600 ball. However, things did not go as planned. Colon went 15-13 with a 3.87 ERA, while Buehrle posted a .500 record (14-14) and a 4.14 ERA.
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So, how did the Sox manage to hang around without things going as planned? Simple, have someone (that being Loaiza) come out of nowhere to be a Cy Young Contender. While Loaiza did not win the award (finished second), his numbers were quite worthy of doing so. He went 21-9 with a sub-three ERA (2.91) in the steroid era, not to mention fanned 207 batters. Loaiza chewed up innings as he threw 226.1 over the course of 2003.
Now, there are some differences between Loaiza and Kanhle, For starters, Loaiza was on a team trying to win. That there is going to make a big difference, meaning that he would have better players around him. Anytime you have sluggers such as Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, and others, you will have some runs scored for you (220 home runs for team, above A.L. average offense in terms ocomcast.net of runs scored). Given Billy Koch did not produce the way he was supposed to (5.77 ERA, only 11 saves), Loaiza had enough to accumulate wins.
The largest part of this is their role. Kahnle is a setup man, meaning his role is not as significant as a starting pitcher’s. Given it is still crucial, but he doesn’t get the final three outs or cover eighteen plus. If Rick Renteria had a choice, his starter would go the distance or get the ball to Robertson directly. So, the purpose is not to get him involved. No skipper would be upset putting him in the game given how dominant he has been, however it’s just not the goal most nights.
While Kahnle has not completed the entire 2017 season, his dominance is coming into focus. Nearly three months into the year, he has struck out 50 batters but walked only six. To compare that to last year, he has already double his strikeout total (25 to 50), and has walked fourteen fewer men in two more innings at the major league level.
That is something else to talk about. Kahnle spent a significant amount of time at Charlotte in 2016, pitching only 0.1 of an inning more in Chicago (27.1) than at Triple-A. His numbers were far from fantastic at either stop, as he walked twice as many men in the minors (12), than he has in the big leagues in 2017 (six). This is why Kahnle’s season is so surprising, mostly because he was not even dominant at the minor league level.
Loaiza’s rise to dominance was no foreseen either, as he posted ERA’s above five the prior two seasons in Toronto. When combining Loaiza’s wins from ’01 and ’02 you would get 20, which is one less than his total in 2003. Who would have seen elite performances out of either headed into the season? It is doubtful anyone would have, possible even those who acquired them.
Overall, it is key to capitalize on a player when he has a breakout year. You never know when he will do it again, and in Loaiza’s case he never repeated his elite numbers of 2003. The Sox failed to do so that season, as they finished second to the Minnesota Twins in a tightly contested American League Central race.
How could the club convert Kahnle into a valuable asset if he never does this again? Simple, trade him for the highest return possible. With the Sox in a rebuild, this is key considering the deeper the farm gets, the better. So if nothing else Sox fans, Kahnle’s dominance could produce a key player the next time the club contends.