It's finally September, and that means the misery is almost over for Chicago White Sox fans. The fate of this season was decided long ago, but the schedule is six months long, so the fans have had to endure several months of painfully bad baseball.
However, despite the fact that they have one of the worst records in baseball this season, there is reason for optimism in the near future.
That reason is pitching, specifically starting pitching.
Yes, the White Sox have the makings of a pretty formidable starting rotation in 2014.
Everyone knows about the abilities of ace Chris Sale, but it looks as if he may have a pretty solid group following him each week in 2014.
And White Sox fans won't actually have to wait until next year to get a glimpse of the possible candidates that will round out the rotation. Manager Robin Ventura recently told MLB.com's Scott Merkin that they will probably stick with a six-man rotation to close out the season in order to give recent call-ups a chance to show what they've got and also to monitor the workload of some of the other guys.
"We have enough guys now that it's probably more modified with having six guys being able to do it," Ventura said. "I wouldn't think anybody would be out there with four days. I'm talking about a guy that throws the regular amount [of pitches]. You're not going to see a guy on four days' rest."
So what this means is that September will basically be a preview into next year's starting rotation. Here's how it looks to break down.
2014 Rotation Locks
Chris Sale L
John Danks L
Jose Quintana L
In The Mix
Hector Santiago L
Erik Johnson R
Andre Rienzo R
Charlie Leesman L
I think it's safe to say that Chris Sale has secured the job as the White Sox No. 1 guy in the rotation. After having a dominant first season in the rotation in 2012 (17-8, 3.05 ERA), Sale has followed that up with another solid season.
Although his record has suffered (10-12) due to lack of any offensive support for most of the season, Sale has an ERA of 2.97 to go along with a WHIP of 1.06. Those numbers are both currently better than last season and both among the top 10 in the American League for starters.
John Danks has actually pitched better than it appears since returning from his shoulder surgery in late May. He has posted 12 quality starts in 20 tries, and though his record stands at 4-12 with a 4.45 ERA, Danks has shown good control (24 walks) in just over 127 innings pitched.
He has also increased his velocity as the season has gone on, and the hope is that by spring training next February his shoulder will be fully recovered. If that's the case, there's no reason not to think that Danks can get back to 12-15 wins with an ERA around four.
After going 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA in his rookie season, Jose Quintana has put together another strong season in 2013, as he currently stands at 7-6 with a 3.70 ERA. He should easily have more than 10 wins at this point, but he has an unbelievable 16 no-decisions due in large part to the Chicago's inability to score runs. Outside of Sale, he has probably been the most consistent White Sox starter, and they are certainly hoping for more of the same in 2014.
In the Mix
Hector Santiago is yet another member of the 2013 White Sox pitching staff who should have more wins than he does. He is currently 4-8 with a 3.44 ERA and has been dominating at times this season.
The main issue with Santiago is his control, as he has a high walk total (67) in 138.2 innings to go along with a 1.385 WHIP. If it weren't for his control problems, Santiago would probably be a lock for next year's rotation. He definitely has the stuff to be part of the rotation, but he will need to prove next spring that he can get the ball over the plate consistently.
Erik Johnson is a guy who has certainly turned some heads in the minor leagues this season, as he has combined to go 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA between Double A Birmingham and Triple A Charlotte this season.
In his big-league debut last week against the Yankees, Johnson was understandably a little shaky and didn't have his usual control as he walked three and gave up three earned runs on five hits over six innings in the loss. Overall, not a terrible first outing for the big right-hander, but there's room for improvement.
If Johnson can get his control back and make a good showing in his next couple of starts, it will leave a good impression heading into next spring and help his chances of making the rotation.
Andre Rienzo was called up at the end of July to take the spot of the injured Jake Peavy and has had a quality start in four of his seven appearances. He is another guy whose main issue is control, as he has posted 21 walks in just over 39 innings pitched with a pretty robust 1.551 WHIP.
Some have also questioned Rienzo's demeanor on the mound and questioned whether he is ready to pitch at the major league level. He shows a lot of emotion, which can be good and bad. However, he may need to show that he can keep his composure on the mound in check in order to gain the trust of Robin Ventura going forward.
In two seasons with Triple A Charlotte, left-hander Charlie Leesman has gone 16-13 with a 3.02 ERA. He was called up in early August to pitch in a double-header against the Twins and had a solid performance. He got a no-decision going five innings, giving up four hits and one earned run with eight strikeouts, but did have five walks.
Leesman was recently brought back as part of the September call-ups and has one appearance in relief. He was again solid in his four plus innings of work, but he still had the control issues with four walks. Much like everybody else on this list, Leesman needs to work on limiting his walks if he wants any shot at the rotation. Unlike everybody else on this list, Leesman isn't currently part of the six-man rotation, but he should get some opportunities to prove his worth in the last few weeks.
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