When a team finishes 36 games below .500, along with a last place finish in their division after finishing second the year prior, experts and fans are left scratching their heads in confusion. On September 25, 2012, the White Sox and Detroit Tigers were tied atop the Central Division. Detroit ended up winning the division by three games over the Sox. One thing to look at is both team’s pitching. The Tigers have stars, while the White Sox pitching rotation is still in doubt.
Since that tie at the top of the division, Detroit is 105-65 with a World Series appearance, two MVP awards (both from Miguel Cabrera) and two Cy Young Awards (Justin Verlander in 2012 and Max Scherzer last season). The Sox in that same time-period are 66-104 with just a solid All-Star Game performance from Chris Sale in New York last July.
The main difference between the best the organization in the Central Division and the White Sox is starting pitching. Sure, having the game’s best hitter always helps, but it also helps having two Cy Young winners and an AL MVP at the top of your rotation.
The point is, for the White Sox to be able to compete for division titles again, the pitching rotation has to become a model of consistency. Baseball’s a pitcher’s game. With good pitching, you can compete with anyone.
Let’s take a look at who will probably be the five-man rotation for the team in 2014:
Chris Sale – No. 1
If you took a survey with some of the best hitters in the game, most would have Chris Sale near the top of their list of guys they would least like to face. Don’t believe me? Ask Joe Mauer, one of the best hitters of the past decade.
Sale had a down year in 2013 like most, largely due to poor run support. Sale was still really good in spurts all season, including six 10+ strikeout outings. The Sox ace went 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA (7th in the American League) and 226 strikeouts. His four complete games were tops in the AL last season.
Jose Quintana – No. 2
The Sox will most likely turn to 25-year-old Jose Quintana to follow Sale in the rotation. Quintana went 9-7 last season with a 3.51 ERA. The lefty from Colombia finished in the top six in the AL in games started (33 – 4th) and WAR for pitchers (5.4 – 6th). With some run support for Quintana and Sale, they both could fall into that 13-17 win range.
Felipe Paulino – No. 3
After Quintana and Sale, the rotation seemingly drops in production (and projection for that matter). The safe and smart bet to be the middle guy in the Sox rotation would be off-season acquisition , Felipe Paulino. Paulino, a big 6’3″, 270 pound power pitcher, signed a one-year deal during this past offseason. With two lefties at the top of the rotation, Paulino provides a sense of balance and in the rotation with Erik Johnson being the only other right-hander that could crack the rotation.
John Danks – No. 4
With four sub-.500 seasons in his seven seasons in Chicago, John Danks is seemingly on the hot seat in terms of being in the White Sox rotation. What’s tough about what to do with Danks is, he’s in the third year of a five-year, $65 million extension he signed after the 2011 season. Since the shoulder issues that cut his 2012 season short, Danks just hasn’t been the same as before the shoulder capsule tear.
Erik Johnson – No. 5
If you’re looking for a wild card in the Sox rotation, look no further than Erik Johnson. After rising somewhat quickly through the farm system, Johnson went 3-2 in the last month of season in 2013. Johnson’s the other right-handed possibility for the Sox in rotation along with Paulino. With limited options behind him, why not give the 24-year-old a long-term chance in the bigs?
Baseball’s a team sport. You could have one of the best lineups in the entire league like say, St. Louis. But without reliable starting pitching, you’re a 63-99 organization.