One of the old sayings in baseball is that pitching wins championships. When you look back over the years and analyze the most successful teams on a year-by-year basis you will find a core group of solid, consistent pitching that stood out among the rest of the pack and propelled their team to success.
Even a ball club as recent as the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros, led by a pitching staff featuring the likes of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton, were able to claim a title thanks to their pitching. Pushing passed immensely talented teams like the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees when everything was on the line was a tall order, and then besting the Los Angeles Dodgers and their equally respectable pitching staff sealed the deal.
Not to beat a dead horse with the 2005 comparisons, but that season saw four pitchers put the team on their back over the course of 30+ starts each, and they took their game to a whole new level when the playoffs came around. The guys the White Sox have lined up to become the rotation of the future could look pretty similar to everyone in that ’05 rotation, but better.
Like meticulously designed robot versions of those guys. As if someone took those archetypes, perfected them, and created Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer. Don Cooper is “Professor Utonium”, and these pitchers are his “Powerpuff Girls”. Yeah… yeah, that’s a good analogy.
If the White Sox want to see success in this upcoming season they are going to need to lean hard on their young pitching staff. If you haven’t read David Wildman’s Spring Training starting pitching preview,I highly recommend the article.
The White Sox offense will be capable of a lot this year. Yoan Moncada will be entering his first full season in the big leagues, Avisail Garcia set the bar high in 2017, and will have to follow that up somehow or his time on the South Side may be limited, Jose Abreu will most likely be Jose Abreu, and now the addition of a slugging catcher in Welington Castillo will further solidify the offense.
Add in the eventual arrivals of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and others — and the White Sox offense looks pretty solid moving forward. Those things are all well and good, but if the pitching staff can’t keep the opposition in check, then nothing matters. Of course that isn’t news, that’s just how the game of baseball is played.
Trade rumors were swirling this offseason and names like Giolito and Fulmer were being tossed around so it is clear the White Sox already know who is disposable and who isn’t. If things don’t quite go as planned in the first half of the season, worst-case scenario is the White Sox could unload a prospect or two in order to bring in someone a little more reliable. Any good general manager is always entertaining offers on all players and if those names were available once, they’ll be available again if the right package comes along.
Most outlets and analysts are projecting the White Sox to be playoff contenders in 2019 at the earliest, while some are saying they could sneak into a wild card spot this season. I’m sure the White Sox front office is focusing on 2019 first and foremost and would be happy with whatever the outcome of 2018, but having one more year before pulling all the stops puts some pressure on the young pitching staff. Carlos Rodon will be coming off of major surgery and will need some time to get back in his rhythm, we’ll see a full season out of Giolito, Fulmer, and Lopez, and Kopech isn’t too far behind.
Having your first full year in the major leagues be the year your team is the favorite to make a serious run at the World Series would be too much to handle for most, but this season gives everyone an opportunity to have a year of experience under their belt before turning it up next season. Miguel Gonzalez will be returning to the rotation this year and could also spend some time in the bullpen depending on how things go. James Shields will be on the mound doing whatever it is James Shields does every five days. The veteran presence in the rotation is there – as uncertain as it may be – but this is the year the young guys need to show everyone what they are capable of.
We got a glimpse of some promising potential over a handful of starts last season but having these pitchers as members of the rotation from Opening Day forward will be a different experience entirely. A full year’s workload should paint a clearer picture on what to expect when the time does come for the team to make their run in 2019 so all eyes will be on what these young guns can do.
After all… pitching does win championships.