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White Sox face a new man in McCarthy

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The White Sox will face Old Friend Brandon McCarthy tonight. However, they probably won't recognize him.

After losing the better part of three years due to various injuries, McCarthy has reinvented himself -- with help from the expansive foul territory at Oakland Alamedia County Network Associates McAfee Coliseum (seriously), I'm guessing -- as a control maven.

Opponents are hitting .287 off McCarthy this season, but he has only issued eight walks over 48 2/3 innings. Moreover, he lowered his arm slot, after realizing what the White Sox did four years ago -- his straight overhand delivery was not conducive to getting cut or sink on his fastball.

With more movement on his fastball and the introduction of a cutter, he's getting groundballs nearly half the time, which is a massive improvement. That's helped him severely slash his gopher ball rate -- he used to allow one every five innings while with the White Sox; he's 10 times as good this season.

The good news is that the White Sox are catching him mid-regression. Perusing his game log, he started the season by allowing just 30 baserunners and seven earned runs over his first 30 innings (2.10 ERA), but is leveling out after taking a beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels on April 26. (also: Tyler Chatwood befuddles Oakland fans, too). He's even walking multiple batters in a game now!


I always liked McCarthy, who seemed to get a bad rap for preferring to start and hanging out with Brian Anderson. He's married now, so he clearly learned the error of his ways, I guess. It'll be interesting to see how he has reinvented himself.

He'll be facing Philip Humber, which wouldn't be that interesting if Humber weren't the last piece in a six-man rotation. As Mark Gonzales notes, the White Sox entertained the idea of going with a six-man rotation in 2006 to both give McCarthy a full-time spot, and to prevent the previous year's starters from overheating after a strenuous October. Instead, they went with the traditional five-man setup, and McCarthy was a square peg in a round hole ever since.

But there's no use crying over the past in this case. McCarthy had survived with the straight-overhand fastball and curveball with the Sox, and he hadn't suffered any health issues. The changes he's made usually only come after a career-at-a-crossroads moment.

Plus, you know, the Sox got John Danks in return. Even though McCarthy has one more win to his name this season, I think the Sox still came out ahead on that one.