So Long, And Danks For All The Hits

Is there any hope for John Danks at this point? I’ve written about why I'm skeptical that Danks can even be usable on a team that has playoff aspirations.  And while we only have one start in 2015 - and I think it's fair to say pitchers aren't always fully up to speed on their first outing of the year - we have about 340 innings and 2.5 years between now and the shoulder injury that changed his trajectory from solid #2-3 starter to liability.

In my January article, I wrote the following in the comments section:

I think what I’m scared of is the wheels falling off completely, because he’s muddling through with zero margin for error as is, and if he loses any more he may not be playable.

Quoting yourself is satisfying; I recommend it to anyone who, like me, has a warped sense of self.

But just because Danks has been durable and scraped together ERAs under 5 for the last two seasons is no guarantee that he is usable anymore. Let's take a look at yesterday's outing:

Danks threw only four curveballs and six cutters the entire start. Given that his cutter doesn’t have any life on it anymore, he essentially has been reduced to a fastball-change up pitcher and his fastball tops out at 89 miles per hour now. This isn’t a sustainable model for a starting pitcher. He can’t go through a lineup three times playing coin flip games where hitters only have to sit on one or two pitches.  And, because the pitches themselves aren’t good and rely entirely on the surprise factor of changing speed, this approach is even less viable. 

Then there is this to consider: 

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Seriously, that means 25-33% of his pitches yesterday were just mid-plate mid-thigh or belt high fastballs or change ups. It's a miracle he only gave up four runs in 5.1 innings.

In 2013 when Danks was coming back you could at least see some sort of plan which was, "Do not walk anybody, have pinpoint command, and try to minimize the damage." Instead of his velocity and the life on his pitches taking a step forward as he recovered from injury, it looks like his stuff is what it is, and now his command may be regressing. 

Danks can survive for short stretches of time, based largely on the fact that yeah, the change will work sometimes, especially the first time a hitter sees it that day, and also because hitting baseballs is really hard.

So what's to be done at this point?

You've already gone this far with Rodon in the minors, and you might as well stick by that plan for a couple more starts. The natural progression for a guy who can't hack it as a starter is to go to the bullpen. I'm skeptical of Danks gaining any velocity in short stints, although I suppose it's not impossible. Still, one can imagine that at least only having to face hitters once as opposed to three or four times would help. 

Danks is owed $15.75 million this year, and another $15.75 million next year. Given how terrible he looks it's hard to imagine any takers in a trade (maybe you could fool the Twins or something?). If Danks can't transition to the bullpen he could force the White Sox to make some decisions they really don't want to make. Or Hector Noesi could be even worse and he could be safe by default. 

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