White Sox arms race puts team on pace for rare feat

  • Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon pumps his fist after striking out Cleveland Indians' Yu Chang on April, 14 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Rodon, currently sitting at 130 strikeouts, is one of four Sox pitchers on pace to hit the 200 Ks mark this season.

    Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Carlos Rodon pumps his fist after striking out Cleveland Indians' Yu Chang on April, 14 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Rodon, currently sitting at 130 strikeouts, is one of four Sox pitchers on pace to hit the 200 Ks mark this season. AP File Photo

 
By Matt Baron
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 7/10/2021 6:06 PM

They will need to stay healthy, but four Chicago White Sox pitchers could each get to 200 strikeouts this year.

If they do, it will match only one other quartet of teammates, from the 2018 Cleveland Indians, in MLB history.

 

The Sox are led by All-Star lefty Carlos Rodon (130 strikeouts), followed by Lucas Giolito (116), Dylan Cease (111) and fellow All-Star Lance Lynn (105).

Since 2018, the only Indian flamethrower to hit that mark again is Trevor Bauer. Now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bauer leads that staff in Ks (137), and three other L.A. pitchers, including Clayton Kershaw, are in line for 200-plus whiffs.

However, Bauer's future is clouded by sexual assault allegations and Kershaw's health is always iffy -- he's on the injured list with forearm inflammation. Bottom line: the White Sox hurlers have the inside track.

Even if only three Sox pitchers do it, that would put them in select six-team company. The most recent came in 2019, by the World Series champion Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin).

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Key to the South Siders' success is their command. The collective strikeout-to-walk ratio for Rodon, Giolito, Cease and Lynn is 3.7. The entire staff's ratio is 3.29, good for fifth among the 30 major league teams.

It's telling that of the top four teams in this category, three would make the playoffs if the season were to end today: the Tampa Bay Rays (3.46), Los Angeles Dodgers (3.39), and San Francisco Giants (3.33). The other staff is the New York Yankees (3.31).

Analysis of All-Star types

Coming up Tuesday is the 91st Major League All-Star Game. Twice since its 1933 inception, in 1945 and last year, the game has been canceled; from 1959 to 1962, there were two games annually. Overall, the American League holds a 45-43 edge in victories (two ties).

Let's look at the three types of All-Stars: shooting stars, steady stars, and out-of-this world stars.

Shooting Star

These players are bright for a moment, but quickly burn out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Case in point: Bryan LaHair, 2012 Chicago Cubs.

Nine years ago, LaHair had 14 home runs, 30 RBIs, and was batting .286 when he made the team. Thereafter, he barely eclipsed the Mendoza Line (22-for-109) with 2 homers and 10 RBI. Some guy named Anthony Rizzo supplanted him, and LaHair never played again in the majors.

Shooting Star suspects this year include Blue Jay outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, Ranger outfielder Adolis Garcia and Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth. But the most likely LaHair apparent: Mariner pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (6-4 record, 3.48 ERA), whose career record of 14-19 and ERA just below 5 are red flags.

Steady Star

This is the predominant All-Star contingent -- guys we've seen before in the game or are almost certain we will see again.

Case in point: Nelson Cruz of the Minnesota Twins. At 41, Cruz is making his seventh appearance (for his fourth team) since 2009.

In the 2017 contest, Cruz pulled out a cellphone and had Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina take a photo of him with umpire Joe West.

Out-of-this-world Star

Though some Steady Stars have a good shot at becoming Hall of Famers, this is a smaller subset who could become legendary.

Cases in point: Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Angels DH/pitcher Shohei "Showtime" Ohtani.

Ohtani has started 13 games on the mound, with 87 strikeouts in 67 innings, to go along with a 4-1 record and 3.49 earned run average. But those numbers merely serve as an exclamation point on the Japanese phenom's MLB-leading 32 home runs and .700 slugging percentage entering Friday's action.

What are the chances that Ohtani wins the Home Run Derby on Monday, then throws a scoreless inning or two and hits a home run in the All-Star Game? Let's assign the odds of any single such outcome at one-third. To pull off all three, then, is a one-in-27 longshot.

Don't count on him pulling off the trifecta. But you should expect to see plenty of Ohtani -- as well as Tatis and Guerrero -- at All-Star Games in the years to come.

• Matt Baron supplements his baseball brainpower with Retrosheet.org for research.

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