MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins

South Side Morning 5: Holy crap, that White Sox starting pitching

1. The White Sox have settled into the cellar of the AL Central, sitting comfortably with the Oakland Athletics as the bottom two teams in the American League. This is both unsurprising and inconsequential given the team’s goals both for this year and long term, but what is surprising is that the White Sox, according to advanced metrics, have actually been somewhat unlucky this year.

Their run differential following Wednesday’s 4-2 loss in Minnesota is now zero, which is somehow second best in their division, and their Third Order Winning Percentage entering the day was .495. Put simply, the White Sox performance to date is more in line with approximately a .500 team.

That difference also only equates to about three wins, so we’re not saying the White Sox have been unlucky to a substantial degree, but this illustrates by larger point. The White Sox are somehow playing better than their record despite their staring pitching performing like utter trash.

First, the season stats: Entering play Wednesday, White Sox starters have thrown the third fewest innings in the American League, ahead of just Minnesota and Baltimore. Their 4.85 ERA is ahead of only the aforementioned pair and Seattle. Their HR/9 is tied for third worst with Seattle, ahead of only Minnesota and the LA Angels. They’re striking out batters at the fourth worst rate in the league, and they’re walking batters at the second highest rate in the league.

Using an arbitrary end point, in 18 games since the calendar turned to June, the White Sox have had only one starter go seven innings and only five times have they gone six innings. Starters have only lasted as much as five innings in half of those 18 games.

You get the point.

We knew coming into the season that the White Sox pitching depth was thin. The fact that as we approach the halfway point, the only starters who started the season with the team and have yet to spend time on the disabled list are Jose Quintana and Derek Holland — and neither have been particularly good — means we’ve seen a whole lot of Dylan Covey, David Holmberg, and Mike Pelfrey, hardly a trio that elicits a whole lot of confidence. What’s funny is that those three more or less held their own, relative to expectations, but Holland, Quintana, and Miguel Gonzalez have all been underwhelming.

2. Really, it’s been a credit to the White Sox bullpen that the White Sox are merely the second worst team in the American League and not on par with, say, the Philadelphia Phillies. They currently sport the fourth best ERA in the American League and sixth best K/9.

This, of course, is not sustainable, and Rick Renteria is well aware.

“These guys are trying to give us length,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It just hasn’t happened. I get it. I don’t anticipate that’s what’s going to continue to happen as we move forward. I don’t think anybody could sustain over a long haul using your starters for three or four innings. It’s impossible. You would wear out your arms in the pen. Today we were fortunate in that we just used two guys for quite a few innings and outs. … They did a very nice job. That type of work is unsustainable.”

One of the crazier aspects of the White Sox bullpen’s stellar performance is that it hasn’t come from the guys you would’ve expected coming into the season. David Robertson has been better than last season, but Nate Jones and Zach Putnam have both been injured for most of the season, while Tommy Kahnle could be an All-Star and Anthony Swarzak has been lights out for long stretches of the season. Likewise, they’ve gotten competent innings out of the likes of Chris Beck, which I never would’ve imagined coming into the season.

3. We worried at the start of the season that the White Sox pitching depth issues would lead to premature promotions for any of the heralded prospects. That, uh, hasn’t been a problem.

Once the White Sox acquired Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, Fulmer fell down the totem pole a bit in terms of pitching prospect upside, but the White Sox top arms taking longer than normal to look major league ready is at least worth keeping an eye on. The plus side of having no interest in winning is that their struggles simply mean they get more time at Triple-A to develop, while the downside is that, ya know, they’re struggling.

4. Tim Anderson committed his 16th error of the season in Wednesday’s loss, which is the highest total in baseball by any player at any position.

Errors don’t tell the whole story, of course, but FRAA has him at -2.1 on the season, which is 26th out of 35 qualified shortstops this season (although above bigger names like Jean Segura, Xander Bogaerts, and Brandon Crawford) and right in line with how they viewed him last year (he finished at -4.7 last year in a little more than half a season).

Anderson’s struggles are noticeable, but also given his athleticism and what we’ve seen from him when he’s at his best, they’re likely mental. I’d fathom a guess he’ll break out of his defensive funk sooner rather than later.

5. The White Sox announced the signing of first round pick Jake Burger on Wednesday to a signing bonus worth $3.7 million. They also reportedly came to terms with second round pick Gavin Sheets on an over-slot deal worth approximately $2 million.

They saved approximately $500K on signing Burger under-slot, and also reportedly got third round pick Luis Gonzalez to sign for $119K less than his slot, so some of those savings went to Sheets. It’s nice to see the White Sox avoid any type of draft pick signing drama, and all of their top picks should be reporting to short season ball soon enough.

For full coverage of White Sox draft pick signings, our friends at FutureSox are a great resource.

Lead Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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