This exercise has become somewhat of an annual endeavor for me, as you can go back and see my 2021 and 2022 versions of this blog. But each year, I enjoy penciling out the 1,400 plus innings the White Sox pitching staff is going to need and where I think it will come from. Below is what the team actually did in 2022. I have blobbed together everyone that threw less than 30 innings for simplicity.
It’s not that we don’t appreciate Dylan Cease. Fwiw, 2022, was sheer terror, with Cease appreciation mixed in. But I think we neglect the fact that Cease takes the ball and that’s a rare trait in the pitchers of recent vintage. Yes, he can be inefficient with his pitching, so until last year he didn’t really rack up innings pitched totals, but he still takes the ball.
In fact in 2020, he made all 12 of his scheduled starts (only a 60 game season). In 2021 and 2022 he made the full accompaniment of starts, 32. All the while increasing his innings pitched per start from 4.9 in 2020, to 5.2 in 2021 all the way up to 5.8 in 2022. I think 2023 is the season I start making sure everyone knows that Dylan Cease is a full fledge BULLDOG in the starting pitcher sense. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program.
Let’s See How Steamer Would Project These Innings
Usually, I just use my super fan instinct and my general conservatism being an accountant by trade to drop down what I think the innings total would look like for the following year. This time, I figured I would just take a peak at what Steamer (which is a projection module widely available at Fangraphs.com) thinks. Below are the results, with 2022, side by side.
Whoa! Something seems off. Giolito’s career high for innings is 178 1/3. Clevinger has exactly 1 season above 126 innings and that was before his second Tommy John surgery. Lance Lynn was excellent for the White Sox in 2021 and threw 157 innings at 34, he’s now 36. Aaron Bummer last threw that many innings in 2019. I don’t think it’s fair to count on Liam Hendriks at this point at all. Joe Kelly last threw that many innings in 2018 when he was 30, he’s now 35. Diekman looked cooked and I would be shocked if he threw 60 innings because of it.
I normally love projection systems and they definitely still have their usages, but it seems like I have stretched the utility of this one, just a tad. Let’s go back to our more normal mode of operations. BeefLoaf, a nerdy accountant visor, a number two pencil and some greenbar!
BeefLoaf’s Innings Projection
A few thoughts. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dylan Cease embraced his more efficient mode of pitching from the second half of 2022 and surpassed 200 innings in 2023, but it’s just too much of an uncertainty for me right now to project that. I think with Giolito and Lynn, the 2023 coaching regime with Grifol at the helm, that they’ll be more cautious with their usage like a normal modern MLB staff and less aggressive trying to push them like LaRussa would’ve, dragging their projections down some. Clevinger hasn’t been durable outside of one season of his career, so I pencil in that number, hoping he gets there, anything more than that is gravy.
This team really needs a Vince Velasquez type. That’s why I got “I WISH WE HAD VV” in the table. They can’t get THE Vince Velasquez, he’s already inked to a similarly modest deal with the Pirates with which he got here. Hype video and all.
In all seriousness, this team lacks starting pitching depth, which you already know. I hear you screaming about it on the regular. But as currently constructed, there are only a few real good ways to accomplish that.
Starting Pitch Depth Hacks
One, you could have a bunch of a controlled young starters coming through your minor league pipeline that have minor league options and can be moved back and forth from the major league team when someone needs rest or is injured.
Two, you could really fuck with the IL and shift guys on and off Dodgers style until you got like 9 starting pitchers. The White Sox have really never done this and now that the rules have changed to requiring a longer IL stint for Starting Pitchers, it’s less of an option.
Three, have a SWINGMAN!! VV was perfect last year, you didn’t really care if you had to press him into starting or you could use him in the bullpen. He was a vet, not someone you were trying to develop, so it was reasonable to do it. I suppose you could try and press Jimmy Lambert into that role, but I’d really hate to see the White Sox try that. He was successful in last year’s role working outta the bullpen and I think leaving him there is his best route to major league competency. Not sure another such guy on this roster exists currently. Maybe there is still time in free agency, this list denotes a few Starters that might fit the bill, even last year’s free agent dumpster dive darling Chad Kuhl.
What about the SUPER BULLPEN?
Bringing back the graphic for ease of use. I think the Super Bullpen is in fine shape, despite Liam’s tragic diagnosis. I didn’t even list Nick Avila in the group above, who was the White Sox rule 5 pick in 2023, he’ll surely figure in. Gregory Santos will also get some run as the White Sox traded for him this off-season from San Francisco. Tanner Banks and Matt Foster are still kicking around in their moderate levels of effectiveness. And every year some guy(s) throws bb’s in Charlotte or Birmingham and we wonder aloud why they don’t promote them to help out. The depth is pretty reasonable here.
The real key is going to be the incumbents and how they perform to fill in for Liam’s dominance. How quickly will Garrett Crochet rebound from Tommy John surgery and who will take the reigns as the dominant lefty at the back end of the pen, he or Aaron Bummer? Which of Lopez, Graveman and Kelly will establish themselves as the leader in the pecking order for saves or high leverage opportunities? Will the new staff understand what Jose Ruiz is and isn’t to consistently utilize him properly? Question marks abound, but depth doesn’t appear to be that big of a concern with this group.
In closing, the White Sox are still badly in need of starting pitching depth, a swingman and a little bit of luck to get to an AL Central Division title with that group. On the bullpen side, the much maligned SUPER BULLPEN appears to have the depth to make it to the end, it just requires a few of these studs to take the reigns and improve status. Who will it be???
About The Author
Low information White Sox Fan.
Big Feet Energy
2019 Opening Day #SoxMath WINNAR