White Sox 2019 Grades: Pitchers

To complete the grading process, which started with the previously-published position player review, here are assessments of the 2019 White Sox pitchers. To reiterate some context from that post, these grades are more art than science due to the subjective nature of how much expectations for a player should affect their grade. My goal is to balance actual player performance against their expectations and probable role (both short-term and long-term) entering the season.

Per usual, I consider an average grade to be someplace on the C/C+ borderline.

To keep the length of this list similar to that on the position-player side, only pitchers that logged at least 25 innings will be included. To orient you, Ryan Burr was the most-used player to miss the cut.

Hector Santiago (SP/RP): 11 G, 25.2 IP, 27.2% K, 13.6% BB, 7 HR, 6.66 ERA, 6.10 FIP, -0.1 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR

Hector’s long been a favorite of mine, but he just didn’t get the job done this season. He was mostly charged with mop-up duty, and other than an okay-ish spot start on August 17 against the Angels, he didn’t really have any success to point to while a game was in doubt. Walks are what has held him back throughout his career, but the juiced ball might be this flyball pitcher’s new mortal enemy. Grade: F

Carson Fulmer (SP/RP): 20 G, 27.1 IP, 18.8% K, 15.0% BB, 5 HR, 6.26 ERA, 6.29 FIP, -0.2 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR

There might be a good pitcher in here somewhere, but it’s looking like the White Sox won’t be the team to unlock him. Despite a few promising outings in 2019, Fulmer remained the “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” guy and wasn’t able to elevate himself beyond that status. High spin rate or not, the strikeout rate never quite caught up with the stuff, and Fulmer’s control was generally a mess. If this feels like it’s being written with an air of finality, it’s because Fulmer is finally out of options heading into 2020, and the White Sox are (hopefully) out of patience for watching him fail. Grade: F

Juan Minaya (RP): 22 G, 27.2 IP, 21.4% K, 9.5% BB, 4 HR, 3.90 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 0.2 fWAR, 0.4 bWAR

Minaya was out of options, and the Sox wound up designating him for assignment after a couple rough July outings. 40-man space must have been a concern, because Minaya never returned from Charlotte despite the front end of the Sox bullpen finding itself in dire straits. Familiarity breeds contempt, which might be why Minaya’s presence with the club the last four years has created a perception that he’s worse than he is. There’s a problem if he’s a key component of your bullpen, but there’s worse guys to have to call on in a pinch over a 162-game grind. Grade: C-

Carlos Rodon (SP): 7 G, 34.2 IP, 29.1% K, 10.8% BB, 4 HR, 5.19 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 0.9 fWAR, 0.4 bWAR

Carlos Rodon’s three calling cards are strikeouts, inconsistency, and spending time on the disabled list. In that sense, given how much all three of those were exaggerated, you might call 2019 the quintessential Rodon season. Rodon has ace-of-staff potential, but it’s looking increasingly likely that his body won’t allow him to fulfill that role over the course of a full season. Prior to getting shut down, his stellar numbers were tarnished by the Tigers and Orioles (of all teams), leading to the ugly ERA you see here. It’s really hard to slap a grade on such a short season. The Sox were counting on Rodon and he couldn’t stay healthy for them, and if you want to dock his grade more than I did for that, I would understand. Grade: C

Jimmy Cordero (RP): 30 G, 36.0 IP, 22.0% K, 7.8% BB, 3 HR, 2.75 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 0.4 fWAR, 1.0 bWAR

That went well. After an uneven start, Cordero began to ascend the bullpen pecking order primarily by avoiding dangerous contact, keeping the ball on the ground, and limiting free passes (compared to the rest of the staff, anyway). Cordero’s look made him a fan favorite just as much as his 7:1 shutdown-to-meltdown ratio. A weird fact: Cordero basically stopped striking people out in September (just six in 13.2 innings), but he didn’t allow a single run the entire month. Grade: B+

Jose Ruiz (RP): 40 G, 40.0 IP, 17.7% K, 12.1% BB, 6 HR, 5.63 ERA, 5.36 FIP, 0.0 fWAR, -0.1 bWAR

The Sox just couldn’t kick their Jose Ruiz habit, as the 24-year-old remained on the roster for the vast majority of the season. Every time the Sox sent him down, including at the beginning of the year, he’d find himself back up with the big club after close to the minimum amount of days. Ruiz didn’t do particularly well at any facet of pitching, and although he was mostly a mop-up guy, he faltered in enough big situations to have the lowest Win Probability Added (WPA) in the Sox bullpen, at -1.58. The righty was throttled by same-handed hitters to the tune of .366/.447/.580, leaving open the question of what situation could ever arise that would make a manager feel good about putting Jose Ruiz into the ballgame. Grade: F

Manny Banuelos (RP): 16 G, 50.2 IP, 18.7% K, 14.0% BB, 12 HR, 6.93 ERA, 6.57 FIP, -0.4 fWAR, -0.4 bWAR

If an 18.7 percent strikeout rate, a 14.0 percent walk rate, and 12 homers in about 235 plate appearances sound like the stats of a good power hitter with excellent strike zone command, it’s because they are. Grade: F

Evan Marshall (RP): 55 G, 50.2 IP, 19.6% K, 11.5% BB, 5 HR, 2.49 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 0.5 fWAR, 1.8 bWAR

Marshall played in his first game for the White Sox on May 1 and didn’t allow an earned run until June 22, which kept his surface-level stats looking nice and rosy the rest of the way. Other than Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome, Marshall was the guy in the pen that Renteria trusted the most and had a big hand in the bullpen’s remarkable success at holding leads in the first half. Even though blow-ups increased in the summer months, Marshall was able to finish the year strong in September and figures to have made himself a lock to start next year in the bullpen. The relatively low .266 BABIP and relatively high 4.30 FIP suggest that it would behoove the White Sox to find a way to relegate him to lower-leverage work, but as far as 2019 was concerned, Marshall gave the Sox’ pen some much-needed out-of-nowhere stability. Grade: B+

Kelvin Herrera (RP): 57 G, 51.1 IP, 22.6% K, 9.8% BB, 8 HR, 6.14 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 0.4 fWAR, -0.4 bWAR

Herrera’s peripheral statistics suggest that his ERA was partially the product of unfortunate sequencing, as a few innings snowballed on him. 10 of his 35 earned runs on the year were concentrated in just two appearances that lasted less than a full inning. His oblique injury complicated matters through most of the summer months, and it was fair to question how often he was really healthy. If we want to hold some optimism going forward, Herrera relied more heavily on his cutter in September and he finished his season on a tear (9.1 IP, 15 K, 3 BB, 1.93 ERA). It wasn’t enough to save his season, but there’s at least a little hope the Sox might salvage the second guaranteed year on his deal. Grade: D-

Jace Fry (RP): 68 G, 55.0 IP, 27.1% K, 17.1% BB, 7 HR, 4.75 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 0.0 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR

Fry was one of the very few bright spots on the 2018 White Sox, as he turned in an outstanding season by holding righties in check while absolutely obliterating left-handed batters (.143/.217/.190). Lefties had just as much trouble squaring up Fry in 2019 with one key caveat: many of them didn’t have to. More than one of every six lefties to face Fry this season simply walked to first base, en route to a .352 OBP despite a .265 slugging percentage. He led the team with 14 meltdowns despite having plenty of appearances in which he looked unhittable. The career of a non-elite reliever is fickle; here’s hoping Fry can recover his control and get the magic back in 2020. Grade: D

Dylan Covey (SP/RP): 18 G, 58.2 IP, 14.6% K, 10.0% BB, 12 HR, 7.98 ERA, 6.06 FIP, -0.1 fWAR, -1.2 bWAR

You broke my heart. Grade: F

Alex Colome (RP): 62 G, 61.0 IP, 22.1% K, 9.2% BB, 12 HR, 2.80 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 0.6 fWAR, 1.0 bWAR

Players that have a sharp divide between the quality of their results and the strength of their underlying numbers can be very divisive. On the surface, Colome’s 2019 was a strong one. He converted more than 90 percent of his save opportunities and posted a low ERA. Up until June 5, he only allowed four runs, and all four came in blowouts. He began to regress in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to ruin what was a year of good results.

On the flip side, Colome posted the highest FIP of his five-year career as a reliever. His strikeouts and walks crept in the wrong direction. His xwOBA increased for the third straight year to .324, suggesting a contact profile that does not fit a good back-end reliever. His BABIP-against (.215) was exceeding low, and reflected the shocking propensity of even well-struck balls to find a glove. Alex Colome was a lucky pitcher in 2019, and he cannot expect these results to repeat themselves unless the actual quality of his pitching improves.

All of that said, this grade is about what he did in 2019, and in 2019, he got the job done. Grade: B

Josh Osich (RP): 57 G, 67.2 IP, 22.4% K, 5.5% BB, 15 HR, 4.66 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 0.0 fWAR, 0.5 bWAR

You would have never — and I mean never — guessed it, but Josh Osich was the White Sox’ 2019 leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio, barely edging out Lucas Giolito. Shocking, right? Another interesting fact: Osich held lefties to a .171/.200/.351 line this season. Those two facts point to a guy who could be successful in a niche role. Unfortunately, the Sox’ starting rotation was in such turmoil that they often needed to turn to Osich to pitch full innings (and sometimes multiple innings), and righties ate his lunch. Osich generally succeeded when given the right situation, and seemed to be emerging as a decent LOOGY candidate…just in time for MLB to institute a three-batter minimum on relievers next season. Grade: C-

Aaron Bummer (RP): 58 G, 67.2 IP, 22.9% K, 9.2% BB, 4 HR, 2.13 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 1.3 fWAR, 2.8 bWAR

Coming into this season, Bummer had been underlooked in the White Sox’ plans. Despite the fact that Bummer has always been good at his alleged role of retiring lefties, the Sox practically fell over themselves to throw the Caleb Frares of the world ahead of him in the lefty pecking order. Bummer responded in 2019 by starting to dominate righties as well (.188/.299/.264). FIP (and therefore fWAR) doesn’t do Bummer justice. He posted an astronomical ground ball rate of 72.1 percent, which was second in the majors only to noted wormkiller Zack Britton. There’s only so much damage opponents can do off of a guy when nearly three of every four batted balls are beat into the dirt. Bummer was a clutch fireman, posting a WPA (3.55) nearly identical to that of Cliff Politte in 2005. We saw from Jace Fry that one-year relief breakouts can be fleeting, but Bummer did absolutely everything he could to raise our hopes. Grade: A

Ross Detwiler (SP/RP): 18 G, 69.2 IP, 14.6% K, 8.6% BB, 20 HR, 6.59 ERA, 6.92 FIP, -0.6 fWAR, -0.5 bWAR

Ross Detwiler. Grade: F

Dylan Cease (SP): 14 G, 73.0 IP, 24.9% K, 10.7% BB, 5.79 ERA, 5.19 FIP, 0.7 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR

Like many prospects with tantalizing stuff, Cease was something of an enigma in his first half-season in the major leagues. His big fastball and snapdragon curve were loudly on display, but as the above line suggests, the results were uneven. A typical Dylan Cease start involved him either cruising through a game and then imploding in one bad inning, or running into one bad early inning and then righting the ship afterwards. He finally came through with a dominant start in his last one of 2019, albeit against the lowly Tigers. We’ll have to wait until 2020 to solve this puzzle. Grade: C-

Lucas Giolito (SP): 29 G, 176.2 IP, 32.3% K, 8.1% BB, 3.41 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 5.1 fWAR, 5.6 bWAR

The White Sox were fortunate enough to get two franchise-altering seasons in 2019, and of the two, Giolito’s was by far the less predictable. There have been few one-season turnarounds in the history of baseball as dramatic as this one. Giolito’s re-worked delivery was much cleaner, which resulted in a dramatic improvement in command and control. He leaned into the new trend of ditching the two-seam fastball and throwing four-seamers with high backspin up in the zone, and it worked to great effect. The results speak for themselves, and Giolito’s numbers should garner him plenty of down-ballot Cy Young votes. He pitched like an ace, and should continue to do so in 2020. Grade: A

Reynaldo Lopez (SP): 33 G, 184.0 IP, 20.9% K, 8.0% BB, 5.38 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 2.3 fWAR, 0.5 bWAR

Sometimes, xFIP gets it right. In 2018, Lopez posted a 3.91 ERA last season with a 5.22 xFIP, and the latter correctly predicted that he couldn’t repeat the former with a “plan” of inducing lots of dangerous, deep flyouts. Some of it was the juiced ball, but Lopez saw a nearly 50% increase in his homer/flyball ratio over 2018. The result was Lopez leading the major leagues in earned runs allowed.

That said, there were bright spots to his season. Sometimes, he would come out and carve the opposing lineup to pieces. If you go by Game Score, he threw nine starts that were as good or better than Dylan Cease’s aforementioned best start. He offset those outings with nine ‘disaster starts’ (defined as allowing more runs than innings pitched). Repeatedly, Lopez attributed his struggles to “focus”, which could be interpreted as either good (he has the talent and just needs to get his head in the game) or bad (he’s not able to make himself give 100% at all times). Another possibility is that “lacking focus” is a way to spin “can’t consistently command pitches.” Whatever the explanation, this year was a step back for Lopez. Grade: C-

Ivan Nova (SP): 34 G, 187.0 IP, 14.1% K, 5.8% BB, 4.72 ERA, 4.98 FIP, 2.0 fWAR, 2.1 bWAR

He took a roundabout way to get there, but when all was said and done, Nova provided the season of league-average innings-munching for which the Sox acquired him. After the Blue Jays ballooned his ERA to 7.42 on May 17, Nova posted a 3.80 ERA the rest of the way, mixing in two complete games (including a shutout). He led the American League in hits allowed, but was able to manage all the singles by using the double play to his advantage. The stat line might seem mundane, but let’s face it, this Sox rotation was in shambles all year long, and I’d hate to see what it would have looked like had Nova not been around to provide some sense of reliability. Grade: B-

The Class Rank:

  1. Lucas Giolito, A
  2. Aaron Bummer, A
  3. Evan Marshall, B+
  4. Jimmy Cordero, B+
  5. Alex Colome, B
  6. Ivan Nova, B-
  7. Carlos Rodon, C
  8. Dylan Cease, C-
  9. Juan Minaya, C-
  10. Reynaldo Lopez, C-
  11. Josh Osich, C-
  12. Jace Fry, D
  13. Kelvin Herrera, D-
  14. Jose Ruiz, F
  15. Hector Santiago, F
  16. Carson Fulmer, F
  17. Ross Detwiler, F
  18. Manny Banuelos, F
  19. Dylan Covey, F
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Patrick Nolan
Patrick Nolan
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knoxfire30

I would probably knock Nova and Cease down half a grade and Colome up a half, but this is a pretty solid assessment!

A surprising number of F’s but they were well deserved.

mikeyb

I wonder if it’s time to try Rodon in the bullpen. I don’t know if that’s the answer or not. I just know I want to watch him pitch, because his slider is my favorite pitch thrown by any White Sox player this decade not named Chris Sale.

Jason.Wade17

It would be great if the Sox can sign two good rotation pieces in the offseason. They could start the year with Giolito, Cease, Lopez, and FA signings #1 and #2. Then during the year as Kopech, Rodon, etc come back from injury, the best 5 can start, the rest can give the bullpen a boost.

I think Lopez, Rodon, and maybe even Cease would be great pieces for a bullpen.

Neat_on_the_rocks

When I bring this up, people smarter than me tend to respond with the fact that theres not actually much proof that pitching from the pen can keep you healthier.

But I dunno, I’m with you. The dude just cannot stay healthy at all. He could be a good and unique weapon out of the pen.

Soxfan2

I wonder of a Lance McCuller’s like role would work best for Rodon. Cap him at 120ish innings. Though, the Astros can do that because they have absurd pitching depth. 

zerobs

Please God no. I’m not putting a walk-prone pitcher into the bullpen to pitch in even higher-leverage situations. Sometimes that slider is great, sometimes that slider misses badly and the walkathon commences.

lil jimmy

I agree right across the board. Good work.

Jeff

I’d bump Rodon down – only 7 starts and ERA+ of 89.

Seems to have great stuff – slider is great – but career underwhelming. ERA+ of 101, 8.8K/9, K/BB of 2.7 and WHIP of 1.4. Plus, only 90 starts in 5 years – 23, 28, 20, 12, 7. Still only 26, so who knows? But, hard to count on much from him.

egib52

I’m starting to feel like his best case scenario is an Arrieta type later career improvement, including the different organization.

35Shields

I’d give Rodon an F. The primary concerns coming into the season were his durability and his ability to progress from decent #3 to something more. He once again failed the first one and the second one is still undetermined.

He can’t be relied on to be a part of the org’s long-term plans. All of next year will be more or less lost to TJS recovery/rehab. And then he’s got one more year.

karkovice squad

Nova was 2 different pitchers: the 1 who opened the season with reduced velocity and the 1 who found 2 ticks mid-season.

The Sox might have something of an information advantage in knowing what caused both of those things to happen. But without that knowledge and confidence the velocity will be there to open the season I don’t see how anyone can want to bring him back on anything other than a minor league deal with incentive clauses.

If I’m Nova, I’m doing intensive velo training over the offseason then hosting a showcase for league scouts.

lil jimmy

If you feel, as most do, that we need to bring in two starters. Nova could be a fit on a one year deal. Higher level starters will require a multi year contract. He fits in well, good pace, ground baller.

By 2021 you have your 1) multiyear starter,2) Gio, 3)Lopez, 4) Kopech,5) Rodon,6) Dunning,7) and Cease.
Plus Lambert, Stiever, Flores and Pilkington close at hand.

karkovice squad

My concern is that the biggest need the Sox have on a 1-year deal will be covering April through June when Nova is most likely to be ineffective if his 2020 is like his 2019. They’ve got guys on rehab and development paths who might be available as 2nd half upgrades. Or hopefully they have enough talent and depth available to make a deadline trade.

If signing multiple multi-year talents leaves them with surplus, that would also still be a good problem to have.

PauliePaulie

For a Nova “type” signing- someone to possibly hold down a starting spot until Kopech proves healthy, or give 130-150 starter innings if things go poorly, I’d prefer an arm who could make a good transition to the bullpen. I just don’t see Nova’s stuff playing there.

They’d possibly be more pricey, but, in that scenario, Lyles or Roark seem like better fits for this team.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Tanner Roark is a name i’ve been circling as a solid target for SP#2

texag10

So 1 and 2 should be a good starting point. Lopez should never be your 3rd best pitcher. Rodon can’t stay healthy. Kopech, Dunning, and Cease are all gigantic question marks. I don’t know what to do this offseason. My brain says we sign two good starting pitchers and let the last two rotation spots sort themselves out when everyone is healthy. My gut says Kopech and Cease can hold down rotation spots and a combination of Lopez and Nova as your number 5 is not the worst thing in the world when it frees money up for position players.

zerobs

I’m not bringing in a guy with a WHIP over 1.4 on a major league deal unless it’s Groundhog’s Day and I’ve lost out on every other target.

burning-phoneix

I’d bump Osich to at least a C+ simply because he was the Bullpen leader in Innings Pitched. Considering the load he had to carry he acquitted himself well.

Neat_on_the_rocks

c

karkovice squad

The question for Colome is how long he can sustain the results. If there’s a change in talent level, there’s reason to question how much past is prologue.

The increases in exit velocity, solid contact, and launch angle suggest maybe past results won’t hold. The main cause for concern is whether the decline in velocity is the start of a trend.

metasox

Poor Covey. Could at least bump him up to #14 on the list

metasox

Not really important but I would move Detwiler out of an F (give him a D-) for coming out of independent ball to pitch all of 69.2 inn and save us from even worse pitching

metasox

Despaigne

metasox

It depends. Is the grade for the White Sox or for the pitcher? The Sox deserve an F for being in this position. But an independent ball pitcher pressed into service did as much an anyone could expect. That should be worth something. Otherwise, just grade on WAR and skip the analyses.

burning-phoneix

Ross deserves a D because the few instances he outpitched the opposing pitcher I can use the fact he was in Indy ball to clown on the opposing fans in online discussions for having a pitcher who can’t win against an Indyballer.

joewho112

I tend to favor accounting for context. He was pulled out of independent ball to be the 9th man up. He did that job about as well as can be expected. Give him a D+

iowasox1971

Rodon deserves an F. When you enter a season as the ace of the staff and only pitch 34 innings with an ERA over 5, you didn’t do your job. Durability is a key asset for a starting pitcher, and he shouldn’t be rewarded for lacking it.

Colome deserves an A. He pitched extremely well this season and his fade toward the end of the year could be attributed to over-use linked to others’ ineffectiveness. When you have multiple saves of more than an inning during the middle of the season, or being used in both games of a doubleheader, that tends to catch up with a closer at the end of the year.

Nova should have had a C at best because of his poor first half. If he had pitched better earlier, we would have been over .500 at the break and perhaps we would have been playing some meaningful games in August. We still wouldn’t have made the playoffs, but at least the second half would have been more interesting.