Commentary| With the holidays now behind us, it’s time to look forward to another fast-approaching baseball season. Hard to believe that pitchers and catchers report in just over a month. With that in mind, let me take a look at the pitching staff of the 2013 Chicago White Sox. The Pale Hose may have a couple moves left, but I’m talking about right now–early January.
The Sox rotation is Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana and Gavin Floyd. On paper that looks pretty good, but as we all know, the game is played on the field. The first question I need answered is how will last season’s innings affect Sale and Quintana?
Sale threw an astounding 192 innings in 2012, which is almost 100 more than he threw in his first two seasons combined. In his first 95.1 innings last year, Sale’s ERA was 2.27, while allowing 68 hits. In his final 96.1 innings his ERA was 3.83 and he gave up 99 hits. I also wonder if his (very) lean body is capable of throwing 200 or more innings every year? It’s unfair to say he’ll be like former Sox lefty Mark Buehrle, who’s twirled 200+ innings for 12 straight seasons. But for the Sox to contend, Sale will have to get close to the magical 200 inning mark. And it’s not just the pitching that Sale will have to deal with, he’ll also have to contend with raised expectations from media and fans. I promise you he’ll have a camera or pad shoved in his face every day in the spring. Also, don’t think for one minute that the league won’t make adjustments to his unorthodox style of pitching. From the intensity standpoint, Sale is a miniature version of Jake Peavy so he has the mental strength to persevere. I think Sale will win 14 games.
Jose Quintana is an even bigger question mark. The guy came out of nowhere in 2012 to post numbers that not even the most astute baseball pundits could have predicted. He finished 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA, and he kept the Sox in most games until the end. It’s those last six starts that concern me. In the thick of a pennant race, Quintana posted an ERA of 7.23 in just 31.1 IP. Quintana also allowed 41 hits and 19 walks in the same span. Was he just tired, or did the league catch up to him? I’ll admit, he did pitch a whale of a game against the Detroit Tigers in early September, and a decent one against the fading Los Angeles Angels, but you and I have to be concerned. I’ll also point out that the left-hander pitched 184 innings (combining Charlotte stats with the Sox)–which is just 67.1 innings less than he pitched the previous 5 seasons. Can anyone guess how he’ll fare in 2013? I don’t think so. One part of me wants to say his magic will continue in 2013, but there’s an even bigger part that thinks he’ll be back in Charlotte by June. If pitching coach Don Cooper does what he always does, Quintana could win eight to ten games.
Yes, John Danks is a question mark too. We’ll all know in early February if Danks is the guy who was tapped to replace Buehrle, or the guy who is tapped out. Knowing what kind of person he is and his work ethic, I lean to the positive side. He may not find his rhythm until the second half, but I still think he’ll win between eight to 12 games. That might be a shade low because I guarantee you he wasn’t happy watching his guys battle every day. Another thing to remember is that he’ll be extremely motivated to get back out on the mound and prove he is worth all the money the Sox spent to keep him.
I feel bad for Gavin Floyd. Great guy, good pitcher, but it seems like he can never get comfortable in Chicago. His name has been bandied about for the past few years. He’s headed to the Red Sox, Angels, Padres, who knows. Let me tell you, it makes him less than happy. I know from meeting a lot of Sox fans, they are not happy with him either. He can be maddening–pitch three great games, followed by three duds. At least until this past year, Floyd has always been an innings eater, averaging 195 innings over the previous four. Elbow soreness and other ailments allowed him to only throw 168 in 2012. Is that a sign of things to come, or could it disguise an even bigger problem? Saying he is healthy, and with the team all year, pencil in eleven wins.
Last, but not least, is Jake Peavy. Peavy won eleven games last season, but with a little more run support could have picked up about five more. He was even better at the end of the season, posting a 3.78 ERA in his last six starts. Take out the start against the Angels where he allowed five runs, and his ERA drops to an even three. The 219 innings scare me a tad, but I think he’ll come back even stronger this year. There is no more determined, driven guy in the league. He loves the Sox fans too, and I’m sure he still thinks he has a lot to prove after being injured in his first few years in town. He’ll also want to live up to his new contract. With run support, I believe Peavy will win 18 and finish top five in the Cy Young balloting. Call me crazy, but that’s my thinking.
All told, I think these Sox starter pitchers will win about 58 games–give or take. In my opinion, the Tigers are better. The Royals are pretty good too. I’m not too concerned about the Twins or the Indians, although in the future they could be pretty solid.
Next time I look at the bullpen.