Carlos Rodón entered the season as one of those guys you could mentally account as a midseason acquisition. The White Sox filled out a rotation over the winter as if Rodón wasn’t going to be a part of it, but if Rodón could return to something resembling full strength by the All-Star break, the White Sox could treat him like a $20 bill inside a winter coat.
The pandemic tried to put Rodón on a different timeline, because with the season starting in late July, he had enough time to recover for the greatly delayed Opening Day. He could pitch a full season without actually pitching a full season, the calendar finally meeting him on his terms for once. Alas, because natural forces seem hellbent on relegating Rodón to “concept” status no matter the circumstances, Rodón suffered a sore shoulder in his second start.
Throwing over in Schaumburg, Rodón is back in his most experienced role, which is a pitcher who might be able to help in Rick Hahn’s favorite time frame: “the not-too-distant future.” And the White Sox are back in their uncomfortable position of needing him more than they’d want to admit, because Hahn couldn’t find a way to supplement the rotation at the trade deadline.
The White Sox weren’t in an ideal position to deal. The lack of minor-league baseball prevented their farm system from restoring some substance to a top-heavy farm system. The Padres could throw a boatload of guys at the Indians and Mariners for immediate help because they won’t have room on their 40-man roster anyway, whereas the White Sox basically need every decent prospect they have on hand. If Hahn didnt want to deal a Benyamin Bailey for a past-his-prime starter, I can’t say I’d blame him. The scars are too fresh.
There’s just going to be a unsatisfying tension for the next few weeks, because the hopes for starting pitching help are going to rest on people who have exhausted faith. Rodón has some work to do in order to prevent his ERA from rising for a fifth straight season.
- 2015: 3.75
- 2016: 4.04
- 2017: 4.15
- 2018: 4.18
- 2019: 5.19
- 2020: 9.53
And then there’s Reynaldo López, whose fastball is starting to have a decent amount of carry, only to lose a tick or two of needed velocity to make his approach work multiple times through the order. The White Sox might still hold out hope for a breakthrough because panic and Gio González are not options, but you’re allowed to be more discerning.
A few other players who are under the gun:
Dylan Cease: The uncertainty over the last two rotation spots would be more tolerable if Cease could stabilize in the third spot. He’s working on the world’s ugliest 3.00 ERA, throwing more starts with six walks (one) than six strikeouts (zero). The inconsistency is forgivable, what with this being his first full season and all. He was just supposed to be able to work out these kinks in the fourth or fifth spot, rather than being the brightest hope for acceptability after Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.
Dane Dunning: The aforementioned Cease-sickness could diminish if Dunning keeps doing what he’s doing. It’s just a little unreasonable to expect a 40 percent strikeout rate from a guy who hadn’t thrown a pitch in anger for two years, especially since his velocity dropped from his first start (94.4 mph max fastball) to his second (92.7 mph). Every adequate outing is a blessing.
Ross Detwiler: Hahn elaborated on Aaron Bummer‘s situation, saying the biceps strain has healed, but a nerve issue has surfaced in its place. Bummer could be placed on the 45-day injured list in order to open a roster spot, because he’s already more than halfway into serving the duration. He wouldn’t be out for the season, but I wouldn’t count on seeing last year’s high-leverage revelation for the rest of 2020.
In the meantime, it’d help if the White Sox could figure out what they’re doing with Detwiler. It seemed like Renteria originally pulled Detwiler from long relief to save for late-inning situations, but Jace Fry’s recent roll as a full-inning threat made another lefty less necessary. That’s great, but now it’s probably time to figure out how to reapply Detwiler more usefully, because he was pitching too well to be used in garbage time.
There’s a stat called leverage index, which measures the importance of a relief situation based on its effect on win probability. A LI of 1.00 is neutral/medium-leverage, while a typical save situation rates between 2.00 and 2.50. Here are Detwiler’s over his last five outings:
As long as González is on the shelf with a groin strain, and as long as the White Sox have three right-handed starters with in-game endurance issues, the Sox have better ways to deploy a multiple-inning lefty.
Nomar Mazara: The White Sox bypassed the opportunity to add outfield help, so Mazara is going to be expected to hold up the larger half of the right-field platoon the rest of the way. His production continues to take a bizarre shape, as he’s hitting .242/.333/.288 with three doubles over 75 plate appearances, but he’s cushioned the larger disappointment by hitting 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and with strong plate appearances as a midgame replacement.
There are signs of a revival in his legs, as he’s raised his sprint speed from 24.7 feet per second a fortnight ago to 25.7 ft/s. That’s still below his career standards, but he’s managed to make a couple catches I didn’t expect based on his earliest displays of his range.
His average exit velocity (87.8 mph) and launch angle (4 degrees) remain flaccid. Overall, his tenability is as fragile as Cease’s, although he at last has four seasons of being a 20-homer guy with the Rangers to expect him to find some sort of power in time. The Sox will need him to rediscover that swing.
Danny Mendick: Yoán Moncada has an acute case of “vague leg,” which means Mendick is still getting playing time even after Nick Madrigal booted him from second base. Mendick has responded by going 1-for-13 with eight strikeouts over his last three games, and his once-enviable plate discipline is starting to crumble. Overexposure is a threat for the 22nd-round pick, so it’d be terrific if Moncada were ultimately able to avoid a stint on the injured list without moving like he left his cane on the other side of the room. Failing that, Mendick will have to patch up the leaks that have sprung in his plate coverage. Yolmer Sánchez provides some experienced support, sure, but he also hasn’t faced full-bore competition in 2020. Mendick seems more cut out for being the guy behind the guy, even if he isn’t.
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
Yoán Moncada has an acute case of “vague leg,”
Love that line
I just hope they diagnosed the vague leg in time so that it doesn’t progress to a case of grim limb.
I’d be interested to see a strategy where Cease/Dunning/Lopez are paired with Rodon/Gonzalez/Detwiler with each guy going 3-4 innings. Forcing other teams to deplete their benches early or suffer through bad match-ups. Unfortunately they can’t get all 6 guys healthy at the same time.
I literally scrolled down to the comments to say the same thing. If they can get them all healthy, match them up for piggyback roles for the last three spots. Maybe three spots is overkill, but two maybe? Other than Dunning, I don’t have much confidence in any of these guys in a traditional starter’s role right now (and even Dunning is taking a fairly sizable leap of faith). This really seems like the best way to limit the damage and keep them in games.
I wouldn’t want it to be the plan going into a season that they’d do it with 3 rotation spots because any plan that depends on 6 pitchers all staying healthy is doomed. Penciling it in for one spot and being opportunistic about expanding it would be good.
For this season with the team they have, I think it would be useful once everyone’s healthy.
Yeah I’m talking about for the remainder of this season (regular season that is) only.
Two or three tandem starting combos is the kind of thing you can give a go with a 28 man roster that you couldn’t with 25 (last year) or 26. It’s worth a shot. You won’t need all three of those back end rotation slots in the postseason either, gives you extended looks at all of them to see what your optimal postseason roster might look like.
I think you just made Ricky’s head hurt with all that talk of innovation. Personally, I like the idea of it.
TJS-recovery or not, Dunning is clearly the third best starter on this team. He should be out there every fifth day, even if it’s only for 80 pitches. He has the best command of anyone on the pitching staff not named Keuchel and the curve looks legit.
Lopez would be more useful out of the bullpen, but they should at least consider just pairing him and Gio for the foreseeable future. I don’t think the “he just needs to work on his concentration” excuse works anymore. His secondary stuff has just plain failed to develop. The slider is flat and the change doesn’t fool anyone. Yes, he can be effective as a starter the 3-5 times each year that his fastball command is on point, but the same could be said for about half a dozen of the fireballers in the Sox bullpen.
Cease is an enigma. Unlike Lopez, the stuff is excellent. But losing 3 K/9 year over year is odd for a 24-year-old to say the least. I think he suffers the most from the shortened season as he could have really benefited from a full slate of 30 starts to iron out his approach.
Give us more of Ross the Boss!
Edit: Forgot that Gio is on the IL. Point still stands that Lopez is not a prototypical starter.
I’m thrilled with what Dunning is done, but I’m not sure he’s “clearly” the third best starter on this team. Prior to a few weeks ago, he hadn’t faced any major league caliber hitters—and after facing the Tigers and Royals, he still hasn’t faced many. At this point, although Cease has been, as you say, an enigma, I think he’s the third starter in a playoff series if I started today.
A guy who faced two bad teams and lost 2 mph of velocity isn’t who I am counting on. I’m over the moon with what he’s done so far but I am not penciling him into the playoff rotation yet.
I guess I’m not worried about the reduced velocity since (1) it didn’t hurt his effectiveness at all and (2) the velocity in the second game squares more with what I think we were all expecting. Seems like the bump in the first game was maybe from overthrowing / adrenaline it being his first start and all.
I’m not giving up on Cease, and I’m not granting TOR status to Dunning, but I’d trust Dunning over Cease if they are pitching tomorrow. I think that’s more a statement of where Cease is at developmentally than where Dunning is.
I’m not giving up on Cease either and I don’t think Dunning is ever a TOR starter, let along this year. I’m saying the same thing as you, that Dunning is more trustworthy right now than Cease.
Honestly, I’m with MrStealYoBase on this one. Yes, it’s only been two starts, but I think Dunning is clearly ahead of Cease at this point and substantially so. The command is light years ahead which, despite significantly more mediocre stuff, allows him to be much more effective. The one thing with Dunning so far that’s surprised me has been the amount of whiffs he’s getting, but even without that he looks like a very solid starter. He’s limiting the walks, getting grounders at a solid clip and getting enough Ks to be effective. Obviously he’s a little over his head right now in terms of his surface numbers, but based on the eye test and the underlying data, there doesn’t appear to be anything unsustainable here. The one thing to watch is probably the quality of the opponent since he’s only faced KC and Detroit so far, but what he’s done so far will play against most teams if he can duplicate that execution.
Again – I’m thrilled with what Dunning is doing, but I still think it’s an overreaction to say Dunning “is clearly ahead of Cease at this point and substantially so.” It’s true Dunning’s two starts were “substantially” better than what Cease has been doing, but, put simply, we’re talking about two starts—and against weak opponents.
While Cease has failed to capitalize similarly against weak opponents, Cease has something Dunning doesn’t: success against playoff teams. His start against the Cubs and second start against the Indians were both plagued with command issues and walks, but they still come out as: 11 IP, 9 K, 6 H, 1 HR, 2 ER.
Here’s how I’m thinking about this: what’s my confidence level that either goes 5 IP, 2 ER or less against a playoff team right now? I’d probably give Cease a 3 or 4/10 and Dunning a 2/10.
I mean I guess if you’re just going off what weve seen this year? But that’s not all the info we have. Weve known for years that cease has / had command issues. Some prospect pundits like Longenhagen have dinged him significantly for that. So it’s not like this is unexpected. Likewise, weve heard for years about how advanced dunnings command is. I’m looking at this year more as a confirmation that dunnings game just plays better at this level (at least in it’s current form, ceases command could obviously improve). If you watched those two games from dunning, you saw that the stuff obviously plays when its commanded fairly well (and again, we have scouting reports that support good command). I dont think better teams suddenly makes those nasty breaking balls completely ineffective. Might make his numbers look more human than otherworldly, but I dont think he suddenly implodes unless something else changes.
I think we largely agree on Cease—I’m also not confident in his command. What I’ve been saying is: people are overreacting to Dunning. The results have been encouraging, but we’re talking 9 IP against bad offenses. In this comparison, Cease is getting dinged *because he’s actually been pitching more.” Cease *certainly* has weaknesses, but Dunning does, too. He just hasn’t pitched long enough, or faced a team good enough, for them to be exploited.
Let’s at least give Dunning like, what, five starts—and at least one playoff caliber team—before we crown him the obvious #3 behind Giolito and Keuchel.
I agree that teams will probably adjust somewhat to dunning. I just think that takes him back to decent rather than bad. I’m not sure if anyone is trying to say dunning will always be better, I thought we were just talking about confidence level now.
I am talking about confidence level now. A lack of track record, especially against good teams, is a reason to lack confidence now. Cease has at least shown competency against good teams—and an ability to reliably get through 5 or 6 innings.
I really hope we continue to see more of the same from Dunning, but until we do I’ve got Cease penciled in as starter #3 in the first round of the playoffs.
Fair enough, I was replying to your last post:
I guess I just dont see what cease has done other than get very lucky with his ERA to earn any kind of confidence. But to each his own. Let’s see how the next couple starts go.
Just to reiterate, lest I become perceived as the Cease guy: “I think we largely agree on Cease—I’m also not confident in his command.“
I’m not confident Cease is a solid #3, I’m just a little less confident Dunning is right now. Maybe (hopefully!) he becomes that, but 9 innings against the Tigers and Royals shouldn’t lead people to think he is now.
One more question and I’ll let this die. You mentioned above that “dunning has weaknesses too”. Would be cutious to know what people think those are besides health and I guess velocity? Just curious.
Yeah, I would say velocity and “stuff”—that’s not to say those will be debilitating in the future, but my point was just that it’s easy to point to Cease’s flaws because he’s actually been pitching. It’s too early to know what we’ll get from Dunning—but the early results are certainly encouraging!
I’m a bit late here but I think you guys got caught up in the semantics of what I said a bit. Dunning isn’t a “#3” starter in the truest sense of it. But I think he’s definitely the third best option on the team at the moment. The only real debate seems to be whether you’d put Cease ahead of him still and I can see your points backing that up. But it’s my opinion that I’d have more trust in the guy who has a better than 50:50 shot of throwing the ball anywhere close to where he wants to, rather than 3 feet away. Limited track record be damned.
The whiffs on his fastball make me think there’s something unusual in its movement. Guys who throw 92 don’t generally get whiffs like that on a 4 seamer. The slider has looked like a true put-away pitch though.
Cease has faced KC and Detroit twice each this season and hasn’t had a start anywhere near as good as Dunning’s. Is Dane likely to keep it up? I have no idea. But Cease hasn’t exactly inspired confidence this season. He’s knocked almost 3 runs off his ERA this season but they all went to his FIP.
Good point about Cease’s opponents, hadn’t even thought of that.
As you added, Gio is on the shelf right now, but I agree with your general point. And ditto on Dunning, keep running him out there until he shows he doesn’t deserve it. He certainly looks like he does so far.
One of the biggest differences I see between Cease and Dunning is confidence on the mound. Dunning looks completely comfortable being a low-90s pitcher who can use his command/control to get batters out, an approach we are used to seeing from much more experienced pitchers. Cease, on the other hand, looks nervous all the time, hoping that his near-100mph velo will manage to miss bats but terrified that it won’t. It might take 2 consecutive strong outings from Cease for him to go into a start confidently, and accordingly for me to be confident in Cease’s start. I’m not sure there’s enough time left in this season to expect that to happen.
Bummer has a nerve issue?
All three prospects in the Eaton trade are more or less occupying slots in the rotation, but what differences among them….
It will be really fun to look back in a few years to see which trade (Sale, Eaton, or Quintana) turned out best. Here’s where things currently stand.
Traded Sale (17.4 fWAR); Returned Moncada (10.1 fWAR), Kopech (-0.1 fWAR) [ADV: Red Sox, +7.4]
Traded Eaton (4.6 fWAR); Returned Giolito (7.1 fWAR), Lopez (5.1 fWAR), and Dunning (0.4 fWAR) [ADV: White Sox, +8.0]
Traded Quintana (7.3 fWAR); Returned Jiménez (2.8 fWAR), Cease (0.5 fWAR) [ADV: Cubs, +4.0]
Obviously, these are going to continue to swing in the Sox favor. The contracts the Sox traded are, after this season, expired. I’m not going to figure out the $/fWAR, but all three could already be in the Sox favor for that.
It’s tough to bet against Giolito in the Eaton return, but I think my money is on the Sale return being the best when it’s all said and done.
Don’t forget though, we got Basabe in the Sale trade and now we have that sweet, sweet cash.
Two kinds of cash. Cash received and cash not spent.
The fabled double cash? Pack it in boys, we’re done here!
The trades also turned out well for the Red Sox and Nationals. The players they got ended up being key contributors to World Series champs.
In one of the other threads someone suggested Vaughn could be deployed at third for 3 solid left-handed at-bats and then replaced by Yolmer or Mendick. I’m intrigued. It could be a way of using him next year: some first, some DH, some spelling of Moncada.
Also, Mazara’s at-bat last night was his best of the season. He spoiled some tough pitches and then hit a hard liner to his pull side. I found myself hoping it’s a signal that he’s ready to start hitting like an adequate major leaguer.
I bet Detwiler is the expected companion to Lopez tonight. If Lopez surprises, then maybe Detwiler pairs with Dunning in his next start.
Lopez is tomorrow, Keuchel tonight. But yeah hopefully they pair them up like you said.
“I knew that,” he said sheepishly.
I felt the same way about Mazara’s at-bat. He knew it, too, which is why he was so excited.
I read somewhere that he’s been working with Menenchino on going to the opposite field and becoming a more complete hitter. Those oppo hits have been coming, but at the expense of all his pull-side hits and power. Last night was the first time I’ve seen him with a clutch hit pulling the ball, so I take it as a good sign.
Luckily the rest of the lineup is doing well enough that we can patiently wait for a still-young Mazara go through a transitional phase. Here’s hoping we get to see the butterfly emerge before the playoffs start
No Moncada again, but we get the Yolmer.
I don’t get batting Encarnacion in front of Eloy and Robert. Why keep a clunker in the middle of our Murders Row?
Agree. I don’t know what the necessary threshold is for a move down the lineup with Edwin or a move up the lineup with Luis.
Eloy has been regularly ahead of EE, so not sure what’s up there. Edwin mash Pineda?
10 for 33, a HR, .737 OPS – so just continued faith in Edwin. I’ll hope for the best.
I had to double check that EE wasn’t left handed because there is no reason for it. Even if you expect EE to rebound, you’d still expect Eloy to be better than him.
I think it keeps the pressure off young Robert—let’s not mess with what’s working.
It also makes better use of Robert’s speed. He can do much more with singles hitters behind him than EE
A clunker? Edwin is off to a slow start, no doubt. However, he’s still at close to a 30-homer pace for a 162-game season. He has been very consistent during the past decade, and we shouldn’t rush to judgment off of a 35-game stretch. I remember that Jermaine Dye got off to a very slow start in 2005. Thankfully, the Sox kept him in the lineup and he was able to get untracked.
Once Edwin gets his timing down, he’s more than capable of hitting something like five homers in eight games.
As has been suggested before (including by me), you have to wonder if Moncada’s “vague leg” is at all COVID-related, if only slowing his recovery time. And I similarly wonder, if Mazara’s performance has been affected by COVID (he had COVID, right?).
Mazara did not have COVID. He just sucks.
Mazara had strep.
I stand by my statement.
Nah, Moncada has had recurring issues with his Hammy since last season at least.
So who is the guy, behind the guy, behind the guy?