Who is this Ross Detwiler? White Sox might have to find out

Before the season, the mudslide claimed the contemporary, LEED-certified marvel that is Michael Kopech. Last week, it swallowed Reynaldo López. On Monday, it moved in on Carlos Rodón, and he’s tilting on the brink of collapse while city engineers cross their fingers.

Ross Detwiler’s modest inland cottage suddenly has ocean views, and it’s a pleasing development in a terrifying larger picture.

Rodón left his start after two innings due to shoulder soreness, although Rick Renteria said after the game that the problem seemed to stem from Rodón’s neck.

“Once he came in, he just said he was feeling a little something in his neck and the ball wasn’t coming out of his hand right, which is what we could see,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said.

Rodón’s had neck issues before — June 2016, to be specific — and that was the year only year he’s managed to qualify for the ERA title. Then again, that problem wasn’t tied to a major in-game drop in velocity, after a pair of surgeries on his shoulder and elbow. Rodón’s health is going to be an active concern regardless of whether he makes a start the next turn through.

The White Sox still managed to win the game because of Detwiler, and one of the goats of the 2019 season now looks like the White Sox’s best hope for emergency depth from here on out. Detwiler has 8⅓ innings of shutout ball to his credit, scattering two singles and zero walks while striking out seven. One of those singles was a palpable hit, while the other scooted under the glove of Nick Madrigal.

In most seasons, the emergence of Old Hoss Detwiler would be a neat little luxury. But with the White Sox down four starting pitchers a little more than a week into the season, Detwiler becomes the natural candidate for Rodón’s rotation spot.

Part of it’s a lack of options. Jimmy Lambert’s forearm strain could be a cautionary tale for elevating Dane Dunning after his own Tommy John surgery, and Jonathan Stiever hasn’t pitched above Winston-Salem. Beyond them, it’s a bunch of non-roster invitees, with Drew Anderson being the headliner.

Or maybe Clayton Richard’s the headliner? The White Sox added him to the mix in Schaumburg on a minor-league deal, and it’s not 100 percent desperation. Back in April, FanGraphs documented in detail Richard’s attempt to reinvent himself from a sinker-slider guy to somebody who could compete better higher in the zone (he shared videos and photos in the comments). If he’s not able to adjust his arm angle at the age of 36, it won’t be for a lack of trying or thought.

* * * * * * * * *

Either way, we’re back to Detwiler. There are a few ways he’s different beyond the results. He mentioned surgery on his landing hip after the season, which he says is a reason why his sinker sinks again.

That’s understating it, though. His 68.4% ground ball rate leads the American League, and that’s a number that doesn’t fit anywhere in the context of Detwiler’s history. His 51.9% rate last year was the second-highest of his career, so I wouldn’t count on him continuing to keep two-thirds of batted balls on the ground.

That said, that improved sinker might be playing up in confluence with other factors. While his fastball velocity isn’t markedly different, he’s getting a higher spin rate on it, it’s having more success in the top half of the zone, and so far, last year’s line drives have turned into lazy flyouts in 2020.

And perhaps with a more useful sinker, he’s freed from using his best breaking ball like a fastball. He’s gone from throwing an 88-89 mph cutter to an 83-84 mph slider, and the league hasn’t successfully put it into play yet.

The emergence of a slider seems like it could be correlated to his relief role, where he faces a higher percentage of lefties than he would a full lineup designed to face him. That’s been true, but then again, he had to face the right-handed heart of Milwaukee’s lineup to throw a scoreless seventh, and although the White Sox defense made him record the equivalent of five outs, Detwiler prevailed because three of them were K’s.

Both of those non-sinkers helped. Here’s the four-seamer putting away Keston Hiura:

And Detwiler got Avisaíl García to swing over the same slider twice, although James McCann only caught one of them.

It’s been fun watching the fan reaction — mine included — morph over Detwiler’s five appearances in 2020, with resignation giving way to ironic appreciation, which has given way to genuine curiosity.

Knowing full well that we’re vulnerable to recency bias, and three weeks from now we’ll be making fun of ourselves for believing Detwiler had staying power, I’m comfortable saying these three things are true:

  1. This is an improved Ross Detwiler.
  2. An improved Ross Detwiler still doesn’t seem like a great bet to succeed facing an order more than once.
  3. The White Sox may have no choice.

On an ideal depth chart, mystery might continue being an option for Detwiler. I’m thinking about the position-player side, where Adam Engel has as much fan support as he’s ever had, partially because Nicky Delmonico was so rough, and partially because he’s getting deployed in favorable situations. My sense with Engel is that if fans want him playing more, he’s actually playing the right amount.

Detwiler could be in the same situation, where his improved stuff excels further in the limited situations Renteria uses him. Assuming Rodón has to miss time, I wouldn’t mind seeing the White Sox dip into their Schaumburg ranks to buy an unlikely success while seeing if Detwiler’s dominance continues in the bridge innings of close games. Detwiler says he’s comfortable in relief, maybe because the White Sox aren’t asking too much of him.

However, if the NRI types are who we think they are, and if the risk-reward ratio isn’t right for a guy like Dunning, Detwiler may have to take those starts, with Richard or Adalberto Mejía or some other Schaumburg arm replacing him in long, hopefully useful relief. It feels like a trap, the Peter Principle in action, but throwing away a game every five days takes its own toll on the staff, and the erosion of depth has eliminated the time and resources for further consideration. Sometimes you have no choice but to make an unwise decision. Sometimes you have to look a gift Hoss in the mouth.

(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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The Wimperoo

Kudos Jim on the Old Hoss Radbourn shout out. He of the 80 grade mustache and 488 complete games. One of the all time best nicknames as well.

Eagle Bones

And best twitter accounts.


the mudslide claimed the contemporary, LEED-certified marvel that is Michael Kopech.

Kopech uses too much power to get LEED certification.

Eagle Bones

I just looked at his advanced stats for the first time today and I have to say I’m cautiously optimistic. There are real changes here as you mentioned Jim. In addition to the elevated groundball rate, those changes are also driving a pretty drastic increase in swinging strike % (12.6% so far, previous career high of 7.9% during a 6 inning sample in 2018) and drop in contact % (76% so far, previous best of 83.6% in 2015). He’s obviously staring regression in the face no matter what (a 0% BB rate, 0% HR/FB rate, 100% strand rate and .105 BABIP aren’t going to continue), but a 1.36 FIP, 2.43 xFIP and 1.74 SIERA say it’s not all luck.

If they need a Rodon replacement, maybe piggyback him and Dunning? Detwiler can follow and go additional innings if Dunning doesn’t have it that day to make sure he doesn’t get overtaxed.


I’m glad there are numbers to back it up, too, because by the eye test he looks much improved. His command really seems to have taken a step forward, for some reason. I wonder if there is a reason?


The As and Rays are competitive every year not because they have the best talent, but because they self-scout and put the talent that they do have in the best possible position to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Detwiler is best when hitters don’t see his 91mph fastball more than once in an outing. Just my opinion.

If they go this route they really should consider using one of Cordero/Foster/Hamilton as an opener. They should be doing this for Gio Gonzalez anyways but that’s neither here nor there…


I like the idea of an opener (two innings?), then hand it to Detwiler for a few. Foster, Clayton Richard could fit that role.

Outside of their top three starting pitchers, I dont think they should tell any guy “We need 5 or 6 innings from you tonight.”

Eagle Bones

I like the idea of using an opener, but Richard probably isn’t a great fit as I’m not sure the look hitters would get from his is as different from Detwiler as you’d like in that kind of setup.


That’s a good point about Richard/Hoss.


With a 15 pitcher roster I would leave Detwiler right where he is. Let him keep having success. The bullpen has been better then hoped. I would almost rather the sox go with an opener like foster or hauer , then go to ross, and have a bullpen day every 5th day. Sox have 3 off days between now and the 27th gotta figure some type of development happens where either Lopez or Rodon are back, Dunning is ready to come up or a trade could even be made to fill the vacancy after that date. Just gotta get by for a bit longer. I feel like 500 is getting into the post season so at 6-4 the sox can keep treading water .


Give Dunning a chance. I was honestly surprised how quickly Rodon and Lambert were “able” to get back on the mound, but Dane had 3 or 4 more months of recovery than either of them. He should be fine. He’s also a 25yo prospect, already on the 40-man, projected to be a starter long-term, and he looked perfectly fine during summer camp. Either Rodon or Lopez will probably be back at some point, so this feels like the perfect time for Dunning to get his feet wet.

Detwiler has been excellent and seems satisfied in a role that most pitchers don’t want. As soon as we promote him we’ll be looking for someone just like him. Let’s not mess with what’s working.


This is exactly where I am at. Dunning has had more time to ramp up than the others along with more time since his surgery. If everything went right this season and probably next you likely won’t see him at all. Now is the time to see what Dunning is and if that allows Detwiler to stay where he is – even better


Two things I’m wondering about here but could not speculate on:

– Would a strict pitch count limit help here? Then again, ReyLo flamed out very fast. And if he can only go 2-3 innings, is that valuable enough for the risk and/or roster spot?

– Is giving him more time in Schaumburg longer actually helpful for getting warmed up/stretched out? If you were gonna call him up this year, seems like you wouldn’t necessarily want to wait too long so he could acclimate. But if you don’t *strictly* need him ASAP you’d want to extend that ramp up for a little while.


Re: Intensity
Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. I don’t know how you regulate that in a young player trying to prove himself in the biggest test of his career to date. Probably why I’m not a coach. “Hey go out there and give a solid 70%”

Greg Nix

I don’t trust it. Reminds me of Dylan Covey’s brief flirtations with effectiveness. If Rodon misses a start, I vote for an opener (Hamilton probably) and Detwiler can throw three in relief. But asking him to start is asking for a return to his 2019 form, imo.

Eagle Bones

Hamilton would seem like a good foil in an opener setup.


This does seem like the right time to try using that pitching depth in an opener scenario. So long as he is not over-exposed, what difference does it make if Detwiler opens the game, or enters a few innings later?

Eagle Bones

Let’s just assume a team like the Rays is planning to stack their lineup with righties to attack a guy like Detwiler. If you throw a guy like Hamilton first, he gets to pitch to three or however many righties before you turn it over to Detwiler. If you start with Detwiler, the righties get their hacks at him and then they can pinch hit once the Sox go to the pen for a righty.

Greg Nix

Say they’re playing Cleveland. You’re more likely to get effective innings from Detwiler if a guy with better stuff like Hamilton gets Lindor and Ramirez out in the first inning. Then Detwiler can pitch several innings and only pitch to Lindor/Ramirez once, while facing guys like Roberto Perez and Greg Allen twice.


With the 30 man roster (and even the 28) I think you could consider sending out a reliever like Heuer to start the game, then if they stack the lineup with righties assuming that Detweiler is gonna take over, have a second righty prepped to go the 2 times through the order instead of Detweiler. Basically no matter how they set up their lineup it’d be wrong. Would be a nice way to introduce someone like Dunning (or Stiever if you prefer) to the majors too if they aren’t going to bring him up to pitch in relief this year to get his feet wet.

Eagle Bones

This seems odd. Easier names to cut than Basabe and they choose Lail of all the arms to call up?

White Sox place Carlos Rodón on the IL with shoulder soreness, DFA Luis Basabe and call up Brady Lail

— James Fegan (@JRFegan) August 4, 2020


I really wonder if there’s something not public that led to cutting ties with Basabe. He seems like one of the better candidates as an emergency outfielder.


Agreed this doesnt feel like a baseball reasons move.


Its hard to think a switch hitting legit CF’er at age 23 who was a former semi high end prospect isnt going to really garner some attention. I would of parted ways with seb, delmonico, or an arm. I am actually also lower on Rutherford and Adolfo then I am on Basabe too but I think I am in the minority on that one.

John SF

I mean, I really would have thought he still had trade value. He’s still a 35+ FV prospect at minimum.

We couldn’t cut someone else and use Basabe as part of a bundle to get another starter or long relief arm?

LuBob DuRob

Definitely surprised me. Still had some hope for him.

Ted Mulvey

Sox DFA Basabe (!?) and call up Brady Lail:

If you want a blurb about Lail, read Jim’s NRI post from the spring:


As Cirensica

I think the White Sox migh need to trade for some warm body that can pitch 3 or 4 innings. Somebody like Ivan Nova or Kendall Graveman.

LuBob DuRob

Twins v. Pirates in a delay due to an drone. Never seen this before…


Apparently the Sox also added Andrew Dalquist to the 60-player pool (per MLBTR). Is this just for Schaumburg reps? Or is there a real chance we see him in Chicago this year?


Looks like the Sox are sending out an SOS (save our staff?) pour DeTwirler