This weekend and Monday’s doubleheader offered a long look at the lower rungs of the White Sox starting pitching depth, and until some happy blockbuster drops in their lap, this is the group from which they need to sort out the last two spots of their rotation:
“Inconsistent” is usually just a term tossed around when it seems impolite to say “bad,” but look at Miguel Gonzalez’s White Sox career and think of the first word that comes to mind:
–5.1 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
–5.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 4 K,
–4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, K
–6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
We’re coming off his best outing of the season and are naturally warmer to him, and when he’s locating perfectly as he was Saturday, his stuff–full of pitches 85-92 mph that dip out of the bottom of the zone–looks sharper and stronger than any starter not named Chris Sale, Jose Quintana or Carlos Rodon. But it was Gonzalez’s unprompted postgame mention of Don Cooper’s central tenet of “standing tall” through his delivery that was eye-opening.
“Once you collapse you start flying open, your pitches are going to be in the zone a little longer, and there’s a better chance of making a mistake. So that’s really important and we’ve been working on it in the sides.”
Adherence to Cooper’s dogma can’t save Gonzalez from poor results or revive diminished stuff, but I’d pick the fringe starter who is eating up Cooper’s words over the one that is not.
The departure of John Danks and some spot start opportunities have at least cleared up Johnson’s place as the No. 6 guy for now, but he’s been loath to display any potential to do much more. Johnson flashing some good sliders and racking up strikeouts early Monday night before the slow ebb of his velocity and command swallowed him up added more to the feeling that he might be a good reliever one day than confidence that he’s not far away from a quality start.
After Monday, Johnson has now allowed 19 home runs over 98 career major league innings. A below-average fastball–that he’s very reliant on–that can’t live in the zone without being hurt is something better to have someone show you they can succeed with elsewhere, before giving them the chance to prove it on your time.
If “smoke and mirrors” is not applicable to how Latos is currently getting his way through starts, the term might need to be taken out of operation and be reviewed. Without the pedigree of being Mat Latos and being just three years removed from a season that was as good as anything Jose Quintana has ever produced, his statistical record might launch a good argument that he has the worst outlook of this group.
Latos just has nothing to hang his hat on at the moment. He has the worst strikeout rate of any qualified pitcher in baseball, he has a high release from the top of his six-foot, six-inch frame yet has an unremarkable 45.1 percent groundball rate, and while his walks aren’t a huge problem (8.1 percent), they are at the highest rate since the year of his major league debut. Since Pitch F/X says he’s lost a mile off his fastball since last year–FanGraphs thinks he has lost two–and is coming off a wretched stretch of health that saw him suffer numerous setbacks with the meniscus in his plant leg, this is not a bizarre, inexplicable loss of ability.
If saying I prefer Gonzalez out of this trio reeks of extreme recency bias, it’s because it is. Everyone in this group seems very fringey and anyone who looks like they may have found something in their last outing has a big head start. For Gonzalez, it’s likely not much more than perfect location, and the best solution for determining which two out of this group to pick is to find a way to only have to pick one of them.
Lead Image Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki // USA Today Sports Images