Remember last season when the White Sox were throwing out David Holmberg, Mike Pelfrey, Chris Volstad, Derek Holland, and Miguel Gonzalez to start games?
Those were some good times. Well, not really but either way, it seems like such a long time ago that the White Sox appeared so far away from being any kind of exciting, even though it was just last season. The Boys in Black ended the 2017 season with Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Covey, Pelfrey, Carson Fulmer, and Volstad starting their last five games.
Fast forward 11 months later, the next four White Sox games will be started by Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Carlos Rodon. This could very well be the rotation of the future Sox and according to the 2020 projections, it’s arrived almost two years early.
They are not nearly as polished as scouting reports predict them to be in the future but seeing any one of those pitchers on the lineup card almost every day is almost as comforting as watching them pitch, which lately has been a sight for very sore White Sox eyes.
Rodon has been fantastic since the start of July and has been one of baseball’s pitchers in that span. The only pitchers with a lower ERA than Rodon’s 1.84 since the start of July (min. 50 IP) are Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola and Trevor Bauer. He also has the lowest opposing batting average, lowest opposing wOBA, and the lowest WHIP in the American League (.150 OBA, .237 wOBA & 0.93 WHIP/min. 50 IP) in that span.
Right behind Rodon are Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have both struggled mainly with being consistent and being consistent together at the same time. Recently, however, the pair of former Nationals prospects have been starting to turn the corner. With the exception of one awful outing each had (Giolito: 7 ER in 5 IP – Lopez: 6 ER in 2 IP), the two have recently been exceptional every fifth day.
Since July 8, with the exception of that 7 ER/5 IP game, Giolito is 5-1 with a 3.24 ERA. In his last three starts, he’s 3-0 with three quality starts and a 3.32 ERA. The White Sox have also won seven of his last eight starts, the only loss coming in that 7 ER/5 IP performance against the Yankees. Since June 16, he’s manage to lower his season ERA from 7.19 to 5.85.
In August, Lopez has been very solid – again with the exception of that 6 ER/2 IP performance. Taking that game out of his month of August, Lopez is carrying an ERA of 3.34 with two games of at least seven innings pitched and two earned runs or less.
So at this point of the season, the White Sox have three starters firing on most cylinders, improving with every start. And then came the arrival of Michael Kopech.
The buildup leading up to his debut was similar to Yoan Moncada’s debut, possibly even more exciting than Moncada’s. The White Sox faithful went nuts when Moncada drew a walk in his first at-bat in his debut. And it was no different for Kopech’s debut. The atmosphere was absolutely electric.
Kopech only pitched two innings in a rain-shortened outing, but he showed exactly why he was such a highly rated prospect. He hit 98 on the speed gun, he struck out four of his six outs, and he looked very comfortable despite an incredible amount of pressure.
But on Sunday, Kopech was even better and finally gave White Sox fans hope in the rebuild. In front of a sold-out Comerica Park crowd, Kopech had his first full start and he was great. Over six innings of work, Kopech struck out another four batters, gave up only one run on seven hits and earned his first career win, his first of many. He pitched five scoreless innings and only allowed three hits before a shaky 6th inning. He was overwhelming and commanding, and possibly could have gone seven innings if not for that 6th inning. He finished the game with only 86 pitches and he has still yet to allow a walk in the Majors.
Lopez, Giolito, Kopech, Rodon. This looks to be like the rotation for remainder of the season and it finally means the White Sox are not only watchable again, but actually kind of fun this time around. Great pitching is one of the best things to watch in baseball and the White Sox have been getting that more than a few times each a week. It’s been awesome to watch the progression, the development, and the success of the starters, regardless if you label yourself a rebuild skeptic or a rebuild apologist.
The White Sox have won four consecutive series for the first time this season and they are currently having their best month of the season with 15 August wins. The last time the Sox won 15 games in a one month was last September. Before that was September of 2016. With a few more August games to go, they could possibly tie or surpass their best mark set in April of 2016 with 17 wins.
Much of the success the Sox are currently enjoying have plenty to do with the guys in the lineup, but when your starters are consistently putting up great performances and quality starts, the wins come around a lot more often. And as the great Ozzie Guillen once said, “fun is winning and winning is fun.”