The Forgotten Southpaw

This is Jordan’s first post since officially joining YCPB, though he has written a couple of guest posts before. He was briefly a contributor to the now-defunct soxandpinstripes.com and you probably know him better as commenter JGS

Since Cliff Lee put it all together at the beginning of the 2008 season, he has been the best left-handed starter in baseball by a decent margin, accumulating 16.5 wins above replacement. Cy Young winners Johan Santana and CC Sabathia are high on that list as well, but neither of them is in second place or even third. Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game, Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly have put in solid efforts, and Cole Hamels has delivered postseason heroics, but none of them are in the top 3 either. The second and third spots are a tie at 14.7 WAR between Jon Lester (this one is pretty predictable, as 2008 was his breakout season and he has been a beast ever since), and…John Danks of the Chicago White Sox.

When asked to name the best southpaws in baseball, very few people would list Danks and yet there he is, tied with Lester for second best over a span in which he has thrown over 500 innings, so there are no sample size issues to contend with. A good part of the reason for this is that his W-L record is a decent but hardly elite 36-28 and the White Sox’s record in his starts is an unimpressive 46-40. That, as always, doesn’t tell the whole story. This year alone, Danks had a stretch in May in which he went at least 7 innings in three straight starts, pitched to a 2.91 ERA and 1.154 WHIP, and lost all three games when the White Sox managed just six runs. All told, he has had five quality starts in which Chicago lost this year, on top of the fourteen he has suffered over the previous two years. All told, since 2008 he has a 3.51 ERA (130 ERA+), 1.225 WHIP, less than a hit per inning, 7 K/9, and a K/BB over 2.3. That is a fine résumé, and one that should put Danks in the conversation as one of the better pitchers in baseball, but things have just not gone his way. Them’s the breaks in an unpredictable game.

(all WAR values are from baseball-reference.com)

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