There are some questions about the White Sox roster. One area where the White Sox don't have as many question marks is the starting rotation. The White Sox have three starters who have full seasons in the last three years with sub-4.00 ERAs. Also, John Danks and Gavin Floyd lead a crew of at least three reliable starters.
To see how the White Sox rotation stacks up against the rest in the AL Central, here's the breakdown.
5. Minnesota Twins, Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Liam Hendriks, Scott Baker
The Twins rotation is filled with question marks. Liriano and Baker suffered arm problems last season. Liriano has faced injuries at various points in his career. Baker is starting on the disabled list after elbow tendinitis persisted in the spring.
He was sidelined with elbow injuries last August.
Blackburn is struggling to build himself into a reliable starter. He had a 4.49 ERA last season in only 148.1 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was less than 1.4, which is a harbinger of bad pitching.
Pavano might have seen his glory years pass. After posting a 3.75 ERA in 2010, Pavano put up a 4.30 ERA, with 102 strikeouts. Pavano did show great endurance with 222 innings, and he only walked 40 batters. His 1.62 walks per nine innings impressed.
Still, Pavano might not be able to keep runs off the board at age 37.
With Liriano figuring to be an injury risk, the Twins might have to pin their hopes on Liam Hendriks to join Pavano for front-end reliability. Hendriks, 23, had a 2.70 ERA at Double-A New Britain in 2011, and posted a 6.17 ERA in 23.1 innings for the Twins.
He just might be able to give the Twins some hope in the rotation.
4. Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Luis Mendoza, Danny Duffy
The Royals are hoping that new pitching coach Dave Eiland, who previously served the role for the New York Yankees, can work some magic in Kansas City. The Yankees were a strong strikeout team under Eiland.
Meanwhile, the Royals have been in the bottom five in that category for 13 of the last 15 years. His major project will be adjusting Jonathan Sanchez, who the Royals acquired from the San Francisco Giants in November, for Melky Cabrera to American League hitting. This will be a tough task for Sanchez, especially since he’s coming off a year in which he only pitched 101.1 innings.
His 1.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio was worrisome.
Bruce Chen looks to repeat a fine 2011 season. He went 12-8 with a 3.77 ERA in 155 innings. Chen was a White Sox killer, beating the south siders three times. Luke Hochevar will hope to make something of his once-promising career. He hasn’t done anything nice, posting ERAs above 4.60 in each of his full seasons.
Last season, he had a 4.68 ERA in 198 innings.
The back end of the Royals rotation is nothing to be thrilled about. Danny Duffy is nothing more than a spot starter on any team with a full rotation. Luis Mendoza has bounced around the minors, making occasional major league appearances. He’s a four-A player, to be sure.
3. Cleveland Indians, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Ubaldo Jimenez, David Huff
Justin Masterson is a pitcher to watch. He quickly went on the rise last year in his first year with the Indians, lowering his ERA by 1.51. Jimenez is trying to rebound after posting a career-worst 4.68 ERA in 2011, including a 5.10 mark in 11 starts after going to Cleveland from the Colorado Rockies.
2. Chicago White Sox, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Chris Sale, Phil Humber, Jake Peavy
The White Sox have close to a complete rotation. Danks and Sale will form a solid 1-2 punch.
Before a down year in 2011, Danks had three straight years with 190 innings and sub-4.00 ERAs. Sale is a solid strikeout pitcher, who’s in his first year as a starter in the majors. He started at Florida Gulf Coast University before being drafted by the White Sox in 2010. He’ll transition into his starting role just fine, and likely be better than Danks while pitching just more than 180 innings.
Floyd is a value starter who may not keep runners from scoring. He has great control, walking 2.1 batters per nine innings in 2011. Also, he puts in a good amount of work, having pitched 180 innings in each of the last four seasons. The White Sox will hope to see Humber pitch like he did in the first half of 2011, when he had a 3.10 ERA. Meanwhile, Peavy will need to try to stay healthy enough to pitch more than 25 starts for the first time since 2008.
If not, Zach Stewart, who started nine times in 2011, will fill in the rest.
1. Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Drew Smyly
Led by Verlander, the Tigers have a rotation that is unmatched by any in the AL Central. Verlander is coming off an incredible season in which he won the Cy Young and MVP awards. He had a remarkable 250 strikeouts in 251 innings. Earning almost a quarter of the Tigers’ wins, Verlander was a huge reason why the Tigers were in the playoffs.
Fister helped seal the deal for the Tigers. Acquired before the trade deadline, he looked like just another arm. However, Fister managed a sub-2.00 ERA to finish the regular season. While some would have readily dismissed his fiery run as eating up wins against bad teams, Fister stretched his run in the playoffs. He’ll be out to prove he can repeat his fine year.
Porcello and Scherzer had high ERAs, but they still put out more than 180 innings. Scherzer is a strikeout machine, having struck out more than 170 batters in the last three seasons.
Drew Smyly won the spring training battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. After being drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, he posted a 2.07 ERA in 126 innings with 130 strikeouts and 36 walks between High A-Lakeland and Double A-Erie.
The Tigers are the only AL team that can say for sure that it has four starters it can count on for 180 innings, along with a fifth that just might be able to push that number.