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You Haven't Changed, Neither Have I: Next Series Pitchers Preview: Chicago White Sox

The Jays continue their homestand with a four-game wrap-around series against the Chicago White Sox Friday 15 May through Monday 19 May.  The White Sox should be coming into Toronto hungry for revenge after the Jays beat them for two of three in Chicago earlier this year, including a 14-0 thrashing in Brian Tallet's second start this season.

Brett Cecil starts for the Jays in Friday night's game and John Danks will be pitching for the White Sox.  On Saturday afternoon, Robert Ray goes for the Jays and the White Sox send Bartolo Colon out.  The Doc will be pitching Sunday and trying to beat the White Sox for the second time this year and his eighth win overall.  We'll see if Gavin Floyd can prevent that.  And from what I've read, it's unclear whether the Jays think Casey Janssen needs one more rehab start, but it is looking that way, so Scott Richmond probably goes for them in the getaway game on Monday afternoon, while Clayton Richard will be on the hill for the "Good Guys."

As I said earlier, the Jays won two of three from the White Sox in Chicago, so another series win would be nice (though a four-game sweep would be even sweeter, particularly to wash away the memory of the last two losses).  The game they lost was not-coincidentally the first Brian Burres start, so hopefully the kids (Cecil and Ray) pitch well, Richmond returns to his early-season form and Doc simply remains brilliant.  Last time we previewed the White Sox, the post title came from Built to Spill's "Strange" so I figured this one from "The Source" was appropriate.


15 May

John Danks

The Jays were fortunate enough to miss Danks (2-2, 3.41, 1.194 WHIP), who was absolutely on fire at the time, when they were in Chicago earlier this season.  Since then, he's pitched 15 innings over three starts and given up 11 runs on 22 hits, though his K/BB ratio is still an excellent 15/3 (though that is largely driven by his six inning, 10 K, 1 BB performance last time out).  Interestingly, over his first three starts (19 innings), his strikeout- and walk-rates were both worse (though his homerun rate was better).  Overall this season, Danks has struck out 31 (8.5 K/9) and walked ten (2.7 BB/9) over  34 1/3 innings.  After some trouble as a rookie, the 24 year-old Danks has really settled into his role with a solid 2008 season and a strong start to this year.  He faced the Jays once last year and although he couldn't get through five innings, he struck out five and only allowed two runs (but did give up seven hits and walk one).

Over his brief career, the Texan southpaw has exhibited almost no platoon advantage, being about equally effective against lefties (.263 / .331 / .415; 2.18 K/BB) as righties (.262 / .320 / .429; 2.81 K/BB).  In fact, he was slightly better against righties last year, though this was probably strongly influenced by luck (a 35 point swing in BABIP between righties and lefties).  He's dominated lefties so far this season (9 K and 1 BB), but he's only faced them forty times,so that could change.

With a four-seam fastball in the low 90's, Danks does not really overpower anyone but he does have enough velocity to keep batters honest, particularly since his best pitch is probably his change.  It will be interesting to see whether or not league-scouting catches lefties up to him as they did last season.  Since he generally uses his changeup against righties, Danks might be a good choice for letting Overbay and Snider see some at bats against a lefty.  He also throws a slurvy-type breaking pitch.


16 May

Bartolo Colon

Colon (2-3, 4.88, 1.436 WHIP), is a former Cy Young Award winner (and we thought Doc got jobbed last year, how was Johan Santana third?), which is one of the nicer things we can say about him for right now.  I wouldn't say that he's not at all useful, but I certainly don't think the Jays would have a place for him (though they did give Burres two starts).  So far this season, the rotund Colon has PQSed 3, 3, 0, 5, 3 and 0.  A disaster (PQS 0 or 1)-rate of 33% is unacceptable, but hopefully Colon doesn't plan on turning his season around against the Jays.  Colon was a solid pitcher in his prime, but youth does not last forever and although David Wells seemed to, aside from appetite, he did not have much in common with Bartolo Colon.

Throughout his career, Colon always exhibited normal platoon splits for a righthanded power pitcher (.254 / .311 / .389, 2.46 K/BB vs. righties; .265 / .333 / .440, 2.13 K/BB vs. lefties).  As he's reached the twilight of his career, his splits have become even more exaggerated.  Look for lefties to try to tee off on him.

At the beginning of his career, Colon used to overpower hitters with a four-seamer in the mid- to high-90's, but he can't do that anymore.  He now relies on his two-seamer as much as the four-seamer, though neither pitch is good enough to blow hitters away.  He'll mix in something off-speed every once in a while, but it's mainly just the two types of fastballs, because he's had some trouble throwing his off-speed stuff for strikes.


17 May

Gavin Floyd

I covered Floyd (2-3, 7.32, 1.881 WHIP) last time, so I'm not going to do too much on him now, but let's review what's happened to him since he was roughed up by the Jays back in April.  Over three starts, he's struck out just eight and walked seven over 16 innings.  He's also allowed 27 hits, seven of which were for extra bases and particularly discouraging are his 25 grounders to 41 flyballs and 16 linedrives.  He has been victimized by some bad luck (.368 BABIP), but his 4.64 FIP (actually lower than it was in 2008) isn't impressing anyone.  As long as his luck stays bad against the Jays, I don't mind if it evens out later in the season.


18 May

Clayton Richard

Richard (0-0, 5.40, 1.850 WHIP) is a big lefty who the White Sox are trying to convert from the bullpen to a starting role in order to replace the demoted Jose Contreras.  Richard does not have much of a major league resume, just 67 2/3 innings.  With a 5.5 K/9 career strikeout-rate, Richard is not dominating hardly anyone, but his 2.8 BB/9 shows that he can limit his walks relatively well.

His career major league WHIP of 1.650 cannot be very encouraging to White Sox fans, but he did have an excellent K/BB ratio splitting time between AA (53/16 over 83 2/3) and AAA (33/4 over 44 innings) last year.  He was less successful after being called up by the White Sox, though his 5.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 are not particularly damning (and really aren't much different than what Jesse Litsch has done).  So far this year, his 57.5% groundball-rate and 19.0% infield fly-rate shows that he may be able to turn his season around.

Like many pitchers with low strikeout-rates, Richard has not shown much of a platoon advantage against lefties in his minor league career, and has, if anything, been worse against them (5.25 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) than righties (5.75 K/9, 2.36 BB/9).  Righties have killed him in his brief major league career so far (.328 / .376 / .528; 1.43 K/BB), but he has limited lefties (.290 / .330 / .383; 3.00 K/9) reasonably well.  Both lefties and righties have insane BABIPs of .349 and .344, respectively, against him, especially considering his excellent groundball-rate and high infield-fly rate.

As you would expect from his ground-ball numbers, Richard is a sinker-baller, who lives mainly off a two-seamer that he can dial up into the low-90's.  He was a quarterback for the University of Michigan Skunkbears, so he still hasn't developed the best breaking stuff, but he does throw a cutter and a slider with regularity.  In order to keep batters off-balance, he has relied more heavily on his changeup than his breaking pitches this season, throwing it 19% of the time.