Up, up, and away

Up, up, and away
And here's a photo where the ball looks way too high // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

Danks wasn't locating particularly well Thursday night.  A quick, first-impression analysis is that he was leaving the ball up, but that judgment is affected by a few prominent attention-grabbers.

First, the catastrophic Jason Kipnis home run came on a cutter up in the zone, and as Ventura noted, the lefty-heavy lineup took away Danks' signature changeup.

They were both quick to attribute the evening's events to vertical placement:

Ventura - "He wasn't walking guys, he just got a couple up."

Kipnis - "I was making sure that I saw his pitches up."

But it wasn't all an elevation issue.  Danks isn't a groundball-maven by any means even at his best, and the home run he allowed to Asdrubal Cabrera was at the knees.  Splitting the plate was just as big of a problem as anything else, and as is typical of poor command, the bad results were coming from all over.

One night isn't enough of a sample to go around making diagnoses about, but for fun, let's look at a grid from BrooksBaseball.net mapping out the point at where the ball was coming out of Danks' hand Thursday.

The low cut-off appears right around the 6-foot mark, with almost every other pitch sitting above.  It's pretty spread out horizontally, but without a reference point to his other work, it doesn't tell much

To get an extreme contrast, we could look at the last really dominant Danks outing.  On August 27th, 2011, he threw a shutout and struck out ten Mariners batters.

That's a lot tighter and noticeably lower, which could account for the difference in height, but there's a lot of middle ground.  His release was just as high against Texas on Opening Day without all of the same issues.  The Baltimore start looks like a disaster from how spread out it is, but might have been his best of the season.  Most performances are in the middle, including for example, the two-hit shutout he threw in May of 2010.

Variations in his release point are worth noticing, but are far from a perfect bellweather for his success.  The mile-to-mile and a half he's lost on his velocity this season could be just as big of a culprit.

For his part, Danks made an appeal to the appropriate party to launch an investigation:

"[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] is great at what he does. I know he'll find something, and we'll figure it out."

These struggles do raise the question of what the White Sox are paying for, as Danks' salary is not representative of him being some sort of Don Cooper reclamation project; a player who wouldn't be viable in another team's hands.  He's a left-hander who excels at retiring right-handed hitters; typically an enormous commodity.

However, if lefties are going to post a .865 OPS against him like they have so far this season, it really undoes the benefit of such a skill set, especially in a division with plenty of talent lefty hitters to throw at him.

Contract assessments can wait till at least the trade deadline, the here and now is that the White Sox are lot closer to the top of the division than originally thought possible, and Danks' performance is holding them back.

 

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