With all the talk this year about how different Robin Ventura's style is from Ozzie Guillen's, the few strategic holdovers stick out like gangrenous thumbs. They might as well mandate that the phrase "six-man rotation" can only be read aloud in Don Cooper's Brooklyn accent.
The White Sox are heading back to the six-man starting rotation--pretty much the only interesting tactical move they made last season--but for entirely different reasons.
Last season, unease about Jake Peavy's health upon his return from unprecedented surgery coupled with a desire to keep a productive Philip Humber in the rotation prompted the move. This season, unease about the health of...nearly everyone is keeping Philip Humber in a rotation his performance might have otherwise dragged him out of.
Robin Ventura offered the qualifier that the set-up is "for now", but with the number of problems its addressing, it's hard to see the road back to five.
- Chris Sale's flagging velocity: The Sox have assigned the "dead arm" moniker to Chris Sale's loss of zip and decline in effectiveness, and concerns about his endurance as he drags past the highest-inning totals of his life were probably already going to provoke frequent rests. But Kyle Boddy of The Hardball Times has a word for those assuming this is a problem that will just go away in due time.
"One thing's for certain, though: Sale's precipitous drop in velocity is a real problem and highly indicative of some sort of injury to the pitching arm. Just because he's not reporting pain doesn't mean he's not injured - plenty of pitchers throw while injured though they display no symptoms."
- Jose Quintana is also pretty tired: There's no wonky mechanics or startling velocity loss for the young left-hander, but as we covered earlier this week, he's also marked the passing of his career-high in innings with a marked loss of effectiveness. Endurance concerns combined with the general concern that he might have been overachieving when he earned his spot should keep him on close watch for the rest of the year.
- Both Floyd and Humber have been on the DL: They lack red flags because they're veterans with unremarkable mechanics, but both have had elbow tendinitis flareups this season, and served as reminders that pitchers just get hurt constantly. Also, neither one has been effective enough to earn a rotation slot for life.
- Liriano isn't entirely normal either - Tommy John surgery was eons ago, but part of Francisco's nightmare 2011 was brought on by velocity loss and shoulder problems that pushed him to the DL. He's been fine this year, and that awful start and trip to the bullpen really helped to keep his innings down.
-Jake Peavy is going to set a career-high in innings - Amazingly, there's been nothing wrong with Peavy all year. His velocity has been stable and his production has been right as rain--the slight tweaks he's made to his performance to remain dominant merit their own post.
Ventura rides his starters hard, which Jake has clearly been a fan of, but it only hit me now that the inning load he's shouldering actually goes above-and-beyond his San Diego days. Peavy is on pace for 230 innings pitched, which sounds like an absurdity for anyone who's followed the last three seasons of his career, but even more so given that he's never topped 225.
While the last six-man's failing was its abandonment of its purpose (Jake Peavy got moved up in the rotation), this one has a more traditional drawback--inferior pitchers will be getting more work as a result, and the problems that have provoked the move may be far too big for the band-aid that is an extra day of rest.
The early finagling of the Thursday off-day to push Sale and Quintana as far away from a start as possible displays a great clarity of purpose, but this is quite the laundry list of issues, and the loss of Danks leaves only Philip Humber to plug the holes that might arise.
Getting through 162 games with the Sox depth while holding off the Tigers was never going to be easy, but at least with the talent here, there's the potential for things to swing hard either direction, like an Addison Reed save situation.
That's a good way to think of it, since like Addison, the Sox are struggling against an oncoming threat in a diminished state, and also like Addison, they'll probably make it through, blood pressure problems spikes be damned.