As everyone knows, the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 primarily on the strength of their lights-out starting rotation. The front four starting quartet of Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, and Jose Contreras all won at least 14 games and all had ERAs of 3.87 or lower. The dominance of the quartet was underlined most clearly when each pitcher tossed a complete game in order in the Sox’ 4-1 triumph over the Angles in the ALCS.
In 2006 the rotation was supposed to be even stronger thanks to the addition of one-time ace Javier Vazquez as the 5th starter, but whether you want to call it regresion to the mean or fatigue from all those innings they threw in 2005, the original quartet all regressed in ’06, as all four saw their ERAs into the 4′s and threw much fewer innings.
But don’t look now (or *do* look, if you are a White Sox fan like Alejandro), because the White Sox rotation is getting back to its ace-laden look of the 2005 world champions. Freddy Garcia is gone now, having been shipped to the Phillies in the offseason, but Javier Vazquez is looking more like the pitcher that dominated as the ace of the Montreal Expos than the pitcher of recent years who looked very mediocre in stints with the Yankees and D-Banks, and rookie John Danks (acquired from Texas for Brandon McCarthy) is pitching much more like a veteran third starter than a rookie fifth starter.
Last season, White Sox starters had a 4.65 ERA, but this year they are a full run lower, at 3.65. Garland’s 8 1/3 innings against the Royals last night marked the 17th game in a row that the White Sox starter went at least 6 innings. Indeed, so far this season the White Sox are second in the American League only to the Red Sox with 6.25 innings pitched per start, and trail only the D-Backs, Giants, and Reds in the National League, despite the fact that NL starters don’t have to face the designated hitter.
Perhaps most amazing of all, all five White Sox have allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, and as a whole they have allowed the fewest hits and the lowest batting average against in all of baseball. And it’s not like they are walking a lot of guys either, as they have yielded the fourth fewest walks of any rotation.
Although the Sox have gotten off to a somewhat lackluster start in the extremely competitive AL Central, if their rotation can keep this up all year, they will have a good shot at turning it around and making a run.