To be sure, 2011 (8-12, 4.33 ERA) and 2012 (3-4, 5.70) were mostly forgettable for the former first-round draft pick, but his performance this upcoming season may determine whether the White Sox are playing postseason baseball.
First of all, Danks is capable of being a very good pitcher. As recently as 2010, he was a 15-game winner who threw 213.0 innings.
Like every other team in the AL Central, the Pale Hose will need at least four of their starters to reach double digits in wins if they hope to unseat the reigning champion Detroit Tigers.
Last year, only three starting pitchers—Chris Sale (17-8, 3.05), Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.37) and Gavin Floyd (12-11, 4.29)—were able to get to the 10-win threshold. After them, the starter with the most victories was Jose Quintana, and he only had six.
That will not do.
Also, if Danks can give the White Sox 25 starts in 2013, it should prevent them from going with a six-man rotation as often as they did in 2012.
That will directly impact how effective the bullpen is.
Because relievers were routinely asked to start last year, guys like Matt Thornton (74 appearances), Nate Jones (65) and Addison Reed (62) were used an awful lot. There is no doubt that, at times, each did not pitch to his capabilities as a result.
The more rested the power arms in the ‘pen are, the better.
Reducing their workload will also allow manager Robin Ventura to focus more on the matchups, rather than going with the guy who has not been used each of the last three days.
How many starts will Danks have this season?
Bullpen benefits aside, Danks immediately makes the White Sox better against the Kansas City Royals. He owns a 5-0 record and boasts a stellar 2.74 ERA in 12 career starts against them.
It should go without saying that any improvement on last year’s dismal 6-12 record against the Royals would be welcomed.
Now, none of this matter if Danks is not ready when the season begins. But if you trust the news out of Glendale, he appears on track to do just that.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales, Danks “made the most of a soggy situation Wednesday morning by facing hitters for the first time, albeit in the batting cages at Camelback Ranch.” He ended up throwing just over 50 pitches, while reporting no discomfort.
This follows two bullpen sessions the previous week that produced the same results. Gonzales continued by noting that Danks is in line to face the San Francisco Giants on March 4, which would be his first game action since last May against the Chicago Cubs.
While Danks may never be able to live up to the five-year, $65 million contract he signed in 2011, he can have a measurable impact on how well the White Sox do this season.
*Statistics courtesy of BaseballReference.com