As White Sox pitchers get ready to report to spring training, it’s a good time to take a look at a starting staff that has the potential to carry the team, but could also put a lot of pressure on the offense to score runs.
Mark Buehrle: The opening day starter came through with his eighth consecutive season of 200+ innings pitched. He also posted an ERA under four and 15 wins.
So what does that mean for this season? Well, based on the fact that he’s only 29, and has had very consistent numbers during his nine-year career, it’s reasonable to expect similar numbers to last year.
Unlike a lot of teams, the Sox aren’t built around a traditional “ace”. Instead, they count on their top of the rotation guys to be consistently solid. If they happen to be better than just "consistently solid," well, that’s when a deep run in the post season can happen.
Projected totals: 15-10 3.65 ERA 140 K
John Danks: The 23-year old lefty comes off a season where arguably the most important game he pitched was game 163. On a chilly night in September, at a packed US Cellular Field, Danks through eight innings of two-hit ball as the Sox beat the Twins 1-0 to claim the AL Central crown.
On the year, Danks posted a 3.32 ERA and 12 wins. Danks is a lot like Buehrle in that he won’t ever be a guy with 200 K’s in a season. However, he did sit down 159 guys last year. If he can achieve a similar number this year, he should see his ERA remain in the mid to low threes, and his win total rise to 15+.
Projected totals : 16-7 3.50 ERA 150 K
Gavin Floyd : Hands down, the emergence of Gavin Floyd was the biggest surprise of the 2008 season. His previous high for wins in a season was four in 2006 with the Phillies. That year, he also put up a 7.29 ERA in 11 starts. Contrast that with last season, where Floyd collected 17 wins along with a 3.84 ERA.
Floyd is another guy that doesn’t strike a lot of guys out (145 K’s in 206 innings), but he uses his off-speed pitches to fool hitters, and he forces a lot of weak ground balls. I have some concern that Floyd might have been a one-year wonder. However, as a third starter, even if his number regress a little, he’ll still be a very valuable member of their staff.
Projected totals : 14-10 4.00 ERA 130 K
The fourth and fifth starter spots could very well decide where the Sox finish this season. As of right now, Bartolo Colon will fill the No. 4 spot. In seven starts with the Red Sox last season, he had an ERA under four, as well as four wins.
The White Sox are counting on him to stay healthy at least until Jose Contreras comes back. Colon won’t be pushed like some fourth starters are. Instead, he will essentially be another fifth starter who is given a rest whenever the schedule permits.
Colon’s last great season was in 2005 with the Angels. He won 21 games that year, but since then, he’s only won 11 games combined in the last three seasons.
Projected Totals : 11-5 4.20 ERA 140 K
The firth spot is up for grabs amongst Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez, and Lance Broadway.
From what Kenny Williams has been saying, it seems to me that Marquez is the favorite to win the job. Kenny has said that he views Marquez as the next Jon Garland. Marquez has a good sinker that he’ll need to use to get ground balls, especially at US Cellular Field.
If Marquez doesn’t get the job, it would make sense that Richard would be have the next opportunity. Richard did some fill-in work with the big club in the second half of the season. During that time, he posted a 6.04 ERA.
However, it’s what he did in the playoffs that has Sox fans hopeful that he might be the answer at the back end of the rotation. In six innings in the playoffs, he limited the Rays to one run on five hits, while striking out six
It’s likely the No. 5 spot will end up being filled by a few guys during the course of the season. For the Sox to be successful, they’re going to need 10+ wins and an ERA around four from this spot in the rotation.
Overall, the Sox have three very solid top of the rotation starters heading into the season. Can Richard, Poreda, or Marquez be the next Gavin Floyd for the Sox? Only time will tell.