Dane Dunning looks like the starter the White Sox will need

If you want to protect yourself from overexuberance, you can pick apart Dane Dunning’s succesesful seven innings against the Twins and see ways it might go worse next time. He gave up some lineouts early, his effort to introduce the slider his second time through almost derailed him, the changeup wasn’t much of a pitch, and Will Little’s strike zone was enormous. Look at all these called strikes!

But when you look at each of those potential nits, none of those are specific to young pitchers. These are just general pitcher things. The firm contact gave way to less threatening batted balls over the course of the evening. Lucas Giolito also wobbled with his early attempts to establish his slider against Detroit his last time out, and it caught up to him. Maybe the strike zone was huge, but James McCann kept getting those calls, so he kept setting up there.

When I think of shortcomings, flaws or fault lines characteristic of inexperience, I’d say that shows up in tiring quickly, not controlling the running game, nibbling oneself to death, etc. Dunning only looked at risk of the first one when his slider lacked sharpness halfway through, but that turned out to be more of a mechanical wrinkle to iron out than any issue with fatigue. It wasn’t a great pitch at any point on Tuesday, but it was at least enough of a threat to let his two-seamer do the heaviest lifting without collapsing.

Renteria wants to believe in Dunning as much as you do, because he used the three-run cushion to let Dunning pitch a seventh inning, not even pulling him at the first sign of trouble. His faith was rewarded, as Dunning worked around a one-out HBP to finish the frame on 102 pitches. The pitch count wasn’t lost on him.

“That’s the first time I’ve been 100 pitches in probably two years,” said Dunning, who was permitted to throw 102 pitches after post-Tommy John pitch count restrictions controlled his previous outings. “I definitely feel as the game goes on, everything kind of syncs up a little more and more. Especially just because I was able to get quick outs early on, that way later in the game, I was still low on pitch count.”

The White Sox need somebody to believe in behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, provided everybody believes enough in Dallas Keuchel’s back. Major League Baseball released its postseason format, and with teams playing at neutral sites in a bubble-type environment, there are no travel days, and hence no off days.

If the White Sox can hold onto one of the top four spots, they’ll play the best-of-three Wild Card round at Guaranteed Rate Field. Should they advance they’ll head to California to play at either Dodger Stadium at Petco Park for the best-of-five ALDS. San Diego hosts the ALCS, and the World Series will be played at new Globe Life Field in Arlington.

With no need to travel, the teams with four starters are in better position to thrive. However, a team first needs to get past the round that only requires three starters, so while “Dunning or Cease?” will be a short-lived question as long as the White Sox aren’t short-lived themselves, they’ll need to have an answer should they find themselves staring down the barrel after two games at any point.

Dunning is that guy at this point, although James Fegan laid out the way Cease works himself back into the conversation. The thinking to me is pretty simple: If Cease gets knocked out in the third inning of an elimination game, you know how it happened. With Dunning, it requires more imagination.

That’s a unique position for a pitcher like a post-surgery Dunning to find himself in, considering he’s cemented himself in the rotation of a first-place team without even the benefits of a minor-league tune-up. It shouldn’t have been this smooth, which is why it’s logical to guard yourself against regression. I’m also of the mindset that you don’t respond to the threat of regression until you see some stable signs of it. Some guys just find ways to avoid that real reckoning, and it’s not like the White Sox are rich in other options. He’s got two starts to see if anything changes, but here’s one case where staying the course is preferred.

* * * * * * * * *

As for that postseason format, I actually like the lack of off days during the series. I’ve said before that I prefer when a team’s depth is rewarded, rather than something that doesn’t get a chance to play up. It’s not just that managers will have to roll out four starters, but they also can’t ride the same bullpen arms over and over again. This could benefit a team like the White Sox, who have had to mix and match for later innings since Aaron Bummer went down.

As for the rotation, it might be hard to watch Cease, but most teams have trouble fielding more than three healthy, effective starters right now.

The lack of travel days minimizes the time needed to operate under bubble-ish protocols. Players have to stay in hotels unless they’re heading to the ballpark, and family members who join them also have to adhere to quarantining.

Teams are required to submit by Sept. 20 their postseason eligible players, including a 28-man active roster and a 12-man taxi squad, all who are required to follow the health protocols along with their families. Players’ family members who want to join them at their bubble hotels during the postseason also will be required to undergo a seven-day quarantine.

The rules are strict, prohibiting players and family members from congregating in any indoor area of the hotel (bars and restaurants) and traveling only on team charters or private planes.

The only exception for any player to quarantine at his residence instead of the hotel is if the player lives by himself, is living with a pregnant spouse/partner or one that has special medical needs, or have currently lived with their children for a significant portion of the season.

This sounds strict, but the NHL and NBA have had success with their setups, and it makes sense for everybody to hunker down for a month to finish a season that had been threatened at a couple of points. This plan is probably as good as it’s going to get.

There are two things I don’t like, and they’re both coming from Rob Manfred.

First of all, he’s hoping that the later rounds will be able to accommodate a limited number of fans. Puncturing the bubble for general fans/wealthy people at a neutral-site venue seems not worth it, unless this is the only way Fox can get to disperse sitcom stars for its cameras to find in the stands during the World Series, and maybe they pay extra for that.

Also, it sounds like the 16-team format isn’t going to be a one-year thing.

Manfred also said the expanded, 16-team postseason is likely to remain beyond 2020, adding that “an overwhelming majority” of owners had already endorsed the concept before the pandemic.

“I think there’s a lot to commend it,” he said, “and it is one of those changes I hope will become a permanent part of our landscape.”

This is going to change baseball as we know it, as it’ll diminish the importance of the regular season to join the other sports in being entirely oriented for a postseason tournament. It’s a format that works well for other leagues, except because baseball is a sport that has limited control of how many times the best players get to affect events, it takes much longer than three, five or seven games to determine the better team. One study found that Major League Baseball would need to play best-of-75 series in order to ensure the better team advances 80 percent of the time.

We’ve seen what this means in our introduction to the format this season — once you secure a .500 record, the stakes diminish dramatically, especially for teams that have been there before. Maybe home field advantage becomes a bigger deal once fans return, but the most recent World Series watched the road team go 7-0, so there’s another case where other it’s unlike other sports.

This would remove the incentives for scorched-earth rebuilding like the White Sox did, which would help a fair number of markets. However, MLB could’ve tried making sell-offs less appealing by detaching draft order from the strict reverse-standings arrangement. On the other end, it reduces the need to improve a team beyond 83 wins, and it invites load management and lesser workloads for the stars once the standings become apparent. It’s a way for the league to encourage some spending, but not too much.

I can see this bolstering season-ticket sales, if only because it’ll give people priority for postseason tickets, which will be the games that really matter. I’m not sure what this will do for general interest — measured in TV ratings and attendance — especially since there’s plenty else to do in the summer if series in June or July can no longer be considered “crucial.”

As somebody who enjoys regular-season ball more than the postseason version, these changes diminish what makes baseball special for me, which is the quality of a team getting tested by the most grueling schedule in sports. The best team doesn’t always win the World Series, but the number of games a team needs to win to even make the postseason makes just about every champion a worthy one. There’s a lot riding on Manfred and the league being correct, because once the postseason expands, it’s impossible to shrink it.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
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.

Articles: 3917
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
LuBob DuRob

Given the lack of off days, I’d say the Rays and Cleveland have the best rotations for the division series and league championship series. It would be nice for those two to meet up in round one.


Maybe it’s because most of my family is Indians fans (don’t ask), but Cleveland really doesn’t scare me because their offense looks like a mid-2010s White Sox lineup right now. Their starters are great but I could see a low-scoring series that the Sox would be well-positioned to win.

Eagle Bones

I absolutely hate the idea of keeping this expanded postseason format going forward. Yes, it’s neat that the Sox are definitely in the playoffs this year, but it would be a lot neater if these games they’re winning over the twins right now actually meant something rather than just being moral victories. Unfortunately we know the owners are going to ask for it in the next CBA and I can’t fault the players for bending if it gets them something they want in return. And please don’t try to sell this as something for the fans Rob, we all know the reason is more $ for the owners.


I cosign every character in this comment.

Patrick Nolan

I already fixed it. Tell your friends and Manfreds

Patrick Nolan

Another possible wrinkle here is allowing the 1, 2, 3 seeds to draft their opponents from 8, 7, 6. But #4 and #5 Wild Card teams need to be safe and locked into their normal series.


I’d give the top two division winners a bye. Bad teams beat good teams in 3-game series all the time. How shitty would it be to create a 100+ game winning team and lose 2 fluky games to a .500 team and be out.

If they’re worried about giving up a set of games, make the first round 5-games instead of 3.


I think the prize for winning the division should be the same for all 3. Why should 2 get ‘byes’ and the 3rd have to play an extra series ?????? Doesn’t seem equal.


That’s because it isn’t equal. The third first-place team doesn’t get a bye because it isn’t as good at baseball based on their record playing baseball games. Also you need an even number of teams since each game needs 2 teams.


I agree with this in principle, but the top 2 division winners are not necessarily better at baseball. If one division is stacked with good teams, that division winner would often end up with fewer wins than the winner of a division filled with pushover rebuilding teams, because of the opponents they had to face rather than just their independent ability. Since it’s not easy to take strength of schedule into rankings without a lot of controversy, you could only base seedings/byes on a team’s record.


You could also let the top seeds play all three games of the first series at home. Simplifies things by eliminating travel and really makes getting a top seed matter. But that would leave a lot of season ticket holders out in the cold which I am guessing would be an obstacle

Patrick Nolan

This comment should have a +27 rating. Screw you all.


I like it. I had been thinking right along these lines. I even thought about having the division winners play best-of-5/first-to-3 starting with a 2 win lead — i.e., it would still be a 3-game series max (same as the new regular best-of-3 wild card game for the #4 v #5 teams), and the challengers would have to win 3 in a row to advance.

I don’t like the idea of picking your opponent.


I don’t think starting a series from 1-0 is going to be an easy thing to explain to the average viewer. But who knows. I didn’t think starting a runner at 2nd would happen. Maybe starting with a count happens at some point, too.


So two things:
1) Doesn’t the Players Union have to approve the expanded playoffs going forward? My understanding was this was a one time deal due to COVID and a new agreement would need to be in place to make it permanent.
2) It may not be a good idea but I would love to be able to drive down the road and watch the Sox win the World Series. Texas has started to open up a bit more, whether its a good idea or not, so by the time the World Series happens they may be able to fill 30% of Globe Life.


I’m in San Diego and I have a buddy who lives across the street from Petco Park – I may go to his rooftop to watch the ALDS if the Sox make it.

Eagle Bones

To your first question, yes that is my understanding. However, I think a lot of people see some kind of permanent playoff expansion as an inevitability as (1) the owners obviously want it, (2) it benefits the players to agree to it in exchange for something they want in the next CBA negotiations, and (3) I could be wrong, but I don’t see why the players would really be against more teams in the playoffs (assuming it gets them something they want). Obviously most fans are probably going to hate this, but I doubt the players would really care, right? Like I’m sure they’d rather give on this than a bunch of other things the owners want like a hard cap, etc.


I would prefer something similar to the NFL post season model. 6 teams from each league. The top two division winners by overall record get byes. The remaining division winner along with the other 3 teams with the best records play a 3 game set. That leaves 4 teams to compete on a best of five and then the World Series or a best of seven and then the World Series. I think 8 teams is too much.


I like the “6-team w/ top two getting first-round byes” scenario way better than the “8-teams with everyone playing 3-game first-round series”. One concern is whether a first-round bye would hurt a team’s rhythm more than the time off would allow injuries to heal, starters to get lined up, and relievers to get rested.


I think the prize for winning the division should be the same for all 3. Why should 2 get ‘byes’ and the 3rd have to play an extra series ?????? Doesn’t seem equal.


I think the prize for winning the division should be the same for all 3. Why should 2 get ‘byes’ and the 3rd have to play an extra series ?????? Doesn’t seem equal.


Hey Denny!

What are your thoughts on if all division winners should be treated equal? Do you think it’s ok if 2 get a ‘bye’ and the 3rd doesn’t?


Sorry to interrupt but I have the same question for @denny


Sorry guys. Got carried away. Won’t happen again.

But there’d be some belly-achin’ here if the W Sox won the Central but had a worse record than T Bay and the A’s and had to play one more round of games than the other two. Just doesn’t seem fair to me .
Over and out.

Just John

In the 12 team format, pool all the games among the 3 division winners and use the best Win% to determine top two for byes. This guards against a scenario where the best two teams in the league share the same division beat up on one another, thereby ending up with 3rd/4th place records.

It’s a hefty weight put on a small sample of 12-18 games per team, but it’s much better than any 16 team format, in my opinion.

Now that I think about it, This would actually add a cool dynamic to non-divisional regular season games between teams vying for their division leads.

lil jimmy

Will the Sox know by September 20 if Bummer and Rodon will be available? America wants to know!


I’m not particularly keen to expand the playoffs, but it sounds like something that makes financial sense.

First, I think the expanded playoffs would necessitate a slightly shorter (and more balanced) regular season.
You could probably lop off 20 or so games and no one would really care. I do think it makes sense to keep baseball’s marathon nature as a feature in how the playoffs are structured. If it’s 8 teams from each league, then maybe something like

5 seed vs 8 seed and 6 vs 7 in 1-game knockouts
Then the winners facing 4 and 3 respectively in a 5-game series.
Then the winners of that facing 1 and 2 respectively in a 7-game series.
And finally those winners in the league championship 7-game series.
And on to a 7-game World Series.
Maybe it’s all played consecutively (unless series end early) to reward higher seeds and make it more daunting to for the 5-8 seeds.
1 and 2 seeds need to win 12 to win it all.
3 and 4 seeds need to win 15 to win it all.
5 thru 8 seeds need to win 16 to win it all.

Keeps a lot of emphasis on regular season and depth and makes the volatility a *little* less pervasive.
Plus you only get days off by winning.


Hey @everybody chiming in on the playoff byes (didn’t know who to respond to):

what if they gave *4* teams a bye–three division winners + top wildcard team. Then have the remaining four in a first round or play-in or whatever. That way, there’s no debate about fairness to division winners, there’s incentive to winning the division, and Manfred gets his 8 teams. This seems a perfect compromise to me (but what am I missing)…


You end up with an awkward number of teams in the 2nd round — 4 byes plus 2 first round winners leaves you with 6 teams, and you really need 8 or 4 or 2 teams to be able to work your way down to 1 in a traditional bracket format.


Hmm good point. Totally forgot about that. My other idea is 3 byes and then 4 wildcards play two one-offs to get it to one wildcard, but typing that out now it seems too complicated.


You only need three starters in the first round if you lose a game!


Expanded playoffs have ruined the NBA and they would do the same to MLB.
1. No one cares about the last half of the regular season. That’s 3 months of daily baseball games that are mostly meaningless. Good luck reversing attendance declines.
2. Making the playoffs is less exciting. Teams will make the first round all the time so it isn’t such a big deal. Late-season champaigne parties are ho-hum.
3. The playoffs themselves are less exciting. They take forever and the stakes are lower. 3-game series might sound more exciting, but not if the reward is still just a 1/8 chance of winning it all.
4. Teams are built strictly for playoff success. Why would a team care about its 4th or 5th starters if the top 3 are good enough to get you into the postseason and win once you’re there?
5. Top players get run into the ground. An extra round of playoffs is even more wear-and-tear after a grueling season.
6. Tanking is worse than ever. It probably won’t get quite so bad in baseball, but I think those expecting deep rebuilds to go away are kidding themselves.

The NBA survives because top talent still wins out in the end. In an MLB where the first playoff series is a coin-flip, where even the best regular season gets you a 1/16 chance to hoist a trophy, why would teams work hard to go from good to great? Why would fans care about how good their team is when it barely affects their chances? Why would they care about baseball at all? I like marble-racing…for a couple minutes. But I can’t watch it for 500 hours a year.

Please, Rob, don’t kill this sport.


Bit late to the party for this but I think permenant playoff expansion should wait until league expansion. MLB going to 32 teams seems to be a question of when, not if. At that point it’s easy to see massive realignment along geographical lines: 4 divisions of 8 teams. East and West leagues. 6 teams from each league and 12 total. Division winners get a bye and the 4 wild cards duke it out in a short first round. Gives incentive to win the division and adds and extra playoff round without completely devaluing the whole thing.

Of course, MLB will not do anything like this and will just be content to make more money even if it makes absolutely no sense.


Here’s an idea. All teams could play a bunch of fun, relevant games against regional rivals. At the end of the season you could have all the managers vote on who the champion is. And all the writers. Some years they’d agree, while other years there would be a lot of people who totally lose it over the ambiguity of a split championship.

At that point, the most logical thing to do would be to get a computer algorithm involved. The computer would rank teams too, and then sometimes the writers, managers, and computers would disagree about who is the champion.

And that is where a quick playoff series in Texas, California, or Florida will come in handy. That way you can determine which Texas, California, or Florida team is the best.

In all seriousness, Rob Manfred is an idiot. His solutions don’t line up with the problems he is trying to solve, and he is ruining the game of baseball. But hey, that’s just one fan’s opinion.

Josh Nelson



I don’t like the idea of the higher seeds getting a bye in the first round. You can make it however many best of games you want. The reason I don’t like a bye is baseball is played everyday and if a team has 2 or 3 days off it throws a players timing off.