Phil Humber could have made the damn All-Star team. It was July, he had a 2.69 ERA, with one start against the light-hitting Twins before the break. It would have been great for him. After all, he can really give an interview.
Instead he got singled into oblivion by the Twinkies, got hit with a line drive in the face, has posted a 6.15 ERA for the rest of the year while the Sox have lost in 8 of his 10 starts. So yeah, tale of two seasons, right?
Well, except that the main critique of Humber was that he was a just-throw-strikes control guy who happened to be riding an absurd streak of luck on balls in play (.223 BABIP) during his torrid start.
Balls have been falling in for hits on him at a .383 rate since, so it would appear that his luck has returned to normal, when really it's done a complete 180.
In his 10 start slide, Humber is sporting an above-average strikeout rate (7.52/9 IP) with even better control (1.88 BB/9). He reads like a very good pitcher getting unlucky rather than an average guy breaking even.
Now, he's also given up 1.2 HR/9 during this time, and that kind of damage lends a lot of credence to how much he's been getting tagged recently, but his post-All Star break funk is hardly the refutation of Humber as a rotation member that it appears to be.
Perhaps the innings-load is wearing on his command, but his velocity has remained there. This is a role he can handle.
As much as it would break my heart to see Buehrle walk away, bringing him back out of fear of the super-cheap Phil in the No. 5 slot is not sound. They'll have to come up with a better reason than that.
Just like Ara Parseghian promising a spot to Rudy shortly before resigning, so has Ozzie Guillen taking a strange liking to Josh Kinney, handing him 17.2 IP of work since he was recalled barely more than a month ago.
A recent spate of blowout losses may have as much to do with it as anything (3 of Kinney's 13 appearances have come in games closer than 3 runs), and Kinney's 6.62 ERA probably doesn't provide heaps of excitement. Nor did his outing Thursday night in Cleveland, where he missed spots like he was, I donno, Shane Lindsay or someone.
Still, for a team that could possibly be cutting costs in a lot more unpleasant areas in 2012, Josh Kinney would be a good way to avoid paying the 5th guy out of the bullpen $2 million again.
He's struck out over a batter an inning since arriving in Chicago, and his history at least suggests the possibility of him being able to throw strikes in a manner that merits paid compensation.
With the assumption that Chris Sale enters the starting rotation, strikes out 300 batters, wins 30 games, and drags an otherwise moribund White Sox squad to the title and whatnot, the 2012 bullpen might shake out like so:
RHP Sergio Santos - A set closer, a good enough thing to have
LHP Matt Thornton - Hopefully not that far on the decline
RHP Jesse Crain - Hopefully drastically out-pitching his peripherals for a 3rd straight year
LHP Will Ohman - Still under contract!
RHP Addison Reed - Strikes out a lot of people, which is a good start
RHP Zach Stewart - Hey, why not?
RHP Josh Kinney
If that looks shaky, then whatever, it's the bullpen. The White Sox got over 2 full games worth of sub-2.00 ERA work from Jeff Gray and Hector Santiago this season. Their best reliever is a shortstop. This is not the most worthwhile portion of the roster to stock assets in.
That list presupposes that Jason Frasor's control problems aren't worth picking up his $3 million option for, and that the Sox won't bypass Kinney's shaky results for some other guy with shaky results who's not entering arbitration.
Josh is getting the longest look of anyone at the moment though, and solid peripherals and a swing-and-miss slider should be enough to earn the last chair behind the left field fence. Especially if they're building this thing on the cheap.
And man, it could get chee-e-eap.