Danks and Humber bring the big question of the 2nd half to the forefront

Danks and Humber bring the big question of the 2nd half to the forefront
Pictures of pitcher's faces removed from the context of what they're doing are just insane // Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer

While watching SportsCenter at the gym–there are only around four channels there–I couldn’t help but notice a segment where they listed the White Sox as the 1st place team most likely to miss the playoffs.

“It’s not that the White Sox aren’t playing well,” said the ESPN expert on hand, “it’s that Detroit is coming around.  I was talking to Justin Verlander at the All-Star game, and he said…”

My ears pricked up at this, because if Verlander was about to announce that he had taught everyone on the pitching staff how to throw 100 mph the other day, the Sox could really be in a jam here.

“…that with the way that Delmon Young is hitting…”

Alright, let’s stop there.

Detroit is going to be right in the thick of things in the AL Central, but beyond fear of Young and his career wRC+ of 97 (imagine if someone hit like Dayan Viciedo’s rookie season for 800 games), the biggest issue for the White Sox in the 2nd half is filling out the end of the starting rotation.

Right now, the progression is Sale, Peavy, Floyd, Quintana, and three candidates for how to finish that sentence.  One of whom, Axelrod, has already distinguished himself as being better off in another role.

John Danks is the most appealing option, since under the right circumstances he’s wildly overqualified to be effectively a fifth starter.  He was dreadful early this year, but the combination of velocity loss and a non-existent strikeout rate offers a lot of hope that the ineffective pitcher who started the season was already being hampered by the injury that currently sidelines him.  Once Healthy John Danks arrives, he will presumably slaughter this imposter.

However, Don Cooper says there’s no sign of that John Danks showing up soon.

“John is not feeling so hot, his shoulder is not feeling so good, we’ve made minimal progress with it and from my standpoint — I don’t mean this fully, I love John — he’s not on my radar right now,” Cooper told “The Mully and Hanley Show” on WSCR-AM 670.

“We would love to have John back, but that doesn’t look like that’s happening in the next two-to-three weeks at least.”

That’s a pretty ominous statement to come from a team official, and pushes Danks’ return until August, even in a best-case scenario, and nothing about this injury has adhered to best-case scenarios.

So a rotation turns its lonely eyes to Philip Humber, who just three months ago was the feel-good story of the nation.  Humber’s “elbow soreness” is a lot more common and mild than Danks ailment, and after firing off six quality innings and retiring his last 16 batters in a rehab start Thursday, he’s set to start on Tuesday in Boston and knock Dylan Axelrod to the bullpen.

Rather than ponder why it is that the results of rehab work are dismissed until they become great, the main question is whether Humber over Axelrod is upgrade that anyone can feel good about.

By ‘anyone’ I mean ‘Kenny Williams’, and by ‘feel good about’ I mean ‘not shake the farm system for loose prospects to swing a trade for rotation help’, which he lacks the resources to do in a traditional way anyhow.

Humber doesn’t have the excuses of Danks for his performance leading up to his DL stint; he had a 6.01 ERA despite sporting an excellent and career-best strikeout rate (20.9%).  He’s capable of greatness, but has had success and struggles in equal measure in a White Sox uniform, and it’s not clear which way he leans at the moment.

The success and health of the four starters above Humber can do a lot to keep the standard for his performance at “be better than Dylan Axelrod”, but he’s still auditioning for a more permanent role just a couple of weeks before the trade deadline.

Daniel Hudson thinks thriving in such an environment can be rough, and with that bad memory in mind, it would really serve everyone best if Humber could unexpectedly grab this opportunity by the throat.  That’s at least something he has a good track record of doing.


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