Dylan Axelrod afterthoughts


It's really hard to make 30 starts in the big leagues

On one hand, it seems a little early to start eulogizing Dylan Axelrod, if only because some White Sox cast-offs never really shake loose. Zach Stewart looked like a memory when the Sox dumped him on Boston, only to return on a minor-league contract and make 28 starts for Charlotte last year. Hector Gimenez just rejoined the team on a minor-league deal. And then there's Dewayne Wise.

Because the Sox are short on full upper-minors rosters, there's always room for organizational players -- especially players they like having in the organization, for one reason or another. They may never be on the major-league radar, but they're always just one phone call away from being back in our lives.

Axelrod would seem to fit that bill after his non-tendering, should he struggle to find a better situation elsewhere. The Sox sure seemed to like Axelrod. Enough to give him 30 starts and 198 innings, even though he posted a 5.36 ERA.

Then again, that stat doesn't quite paint an accurate picture of the Dylan Axelrod experience, and that's what's worth remembering fondly at this point. His starting career is more precisely represented by this split:

  • First 22 starts: 4.07 ERA over 126 innings
  • Last 8 starts: 9.66 ERA over 36⅓ innings

He hit a wall as a starter, and his stuff never worked out of the bullpen, so it looks like the Sox saw the entirety of his life cycle. If that's his career, it's a longer one that you'd expect from a guy who bounced to and from the Windy City Thunderbolts, and without a big arm that would garner him attention.

That 22/8 divide paints a pretty good picture of what he personally accomplished, because even if his career only lasted those eight rough starts, he still could brag about more MLB experience than plenty of well-regarded prospects. Hell, the Sox used three consecutive first-round picks on starting pitchers. Those three pitchers -- Lance Broadway, Kyle McCulloch and Aaron Poreda -- combined to make two career starts. Eight starts is one level of accomplishment, no matter who you are.

But on top of that, Axelrod had a 22-start stretch where he looked like -- or escaped like -- a major-league pitcher, and that's way harder. It allowed him to get through two seasons, as he completed a successful tour of AL East stadiums in 2012, and hold his own against Felix Hernandez, David Price and Jon Lester in 2013.

It's great for Axelrod that he racked up enough service time to get health care for life and qualify for a pension, but the most difficult thing he earned was the benefit of the doubt from a major-league organization. Sure, he ended up exhausting it, but how many pitchers get leeway to begin with? How many pitchers like Axelrod get it? On theoretical contenders?

The Axelrod experience -- at least this incarnation of it -- ends at a logical point. He was there to buy the Sox time as John Danks built up his shoulder and Jake Peavy recovered from a broken rib. The Sox failed to make use of it, and then Axelrod faltered afterward. Only the first party should feel bad about it.

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