After a brief three-game losing streak that had many similarities to the struggles of 2015, the Chicago White Sox have won back-to-back games largely in thanks to the outstanding pitching performances of Mat Latos and Chris Sale. After Carlos Rodon's debacle, the Los Angeles Angels have only scored three runs in the last 26⅔ innings against the Sox.
The series finale today features two pitchers who yearn for the days of old where they were able to hit 90+ mph on the gun: the White Sox' John Danks versus the Angels' Jered Weaver.
A big reason why the White Sox are 10-5 and currently a half game ahead of the Kansas City Royals for first place has been the outstanding results they are getting from the pitching staff. They're leading the American League with a staff ERA of 2.45, only trailing the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs in all of Major League Baseball.
John Danks? He's given up 10 earned runs in 11⅓ innings. That computes to a 7.94 ERA. He is the White Sox pitching staff outlier.
Two starts is an extremely small sample size, but something fans should pay attention to when Danks is on the mound is pitch location. For Danks to survive his outings, and by survive I mean getting to the sixth inning without giving up more than four runs, he needs to be able to establish the low strike. Of course, that is easier said than done because it may require an umpire to give him as low of a strike Danks needs.
Here is a chart of the number of pitches Danks has thrown after two starts in 2016 and where they land in the pitching zone.
It's pretty obvious what the game plan has been for Danks after two starts. When Danks lives that low in the zone, hitters haven't been successful hitting those pitches, as they are batting .188 on low pitches. A couple of issues for Danks, though:
- Compared to the number of pitches thrown, hitters are not swinging that often at the majority pitches Danks is throwing.
- Often these pitches are called for a ball, and that leads to Danks falling behind hitters in the count, which often results in pain.
So does pitching within the strike zone.
Hitters are 24-for-53 (.453) on pitches in the strike zone against Danks. For an Angels lineup that is last in the American League in OPS at .590, Danks could be the remedy to get them back on track. Or the opposite could be true, and Danks can take advantage of a lineup that is very slow coming out of the gates. Today's result will largely depend on well Danks can establish the low strike, and the lower the better.