Carlos Rodon’s Emergence Sheds Some Light

Carlos Rodon White SoxAs the Chicago White Sox wrap up what appears to be their third consecutive losing season, and consequently miss out on the playoffs for the seventh year in a row, a large cloud of disappointment has begun to loom over the south side of Chicago. This team was expected to not only battle for an American League Wild Card spot, but it was also expected to compete for an AL Central Division title.

With 24 games remaining, the hopes of the Sox reaching the postseason have officially faded away. On the north side of town, baseball fans are bleeding Cubby blue as their team continues to build their lead on the final National League Wild Card spot. Baseball fans on the south side, however, are excited that the NFL regular season starts on Thursday night.

Not only has the 2015 season been a huge disappointment for the Sox, but it has also been frustrating and, for the most part, it’s been a boring season to watch unfold. There hasn’t been much to cheer about and there hasn’t been much to follow this year. Okay, Chris Sale had a historic stretch in June and July in which he came just one game short of setting the major league record for consecutive games with at least 12 strikeouts and consecutive games with at least 10 strikeouts. Also, he is still in the hunt to become the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004 to record 300 strikeouts in a single season.

But other than that, what else has been exciting this year? The team has hovered below the .500 mark for just about the entire season and does not have one player on the roster who is having THAT good of a year other than Sale. After all, Sale was the team’s only All Star.

Thankfully, some light has appeared at the end of the long dark tunnel in recent weeks. That is, the emergence of Carlos Rodon as a dominant starting pitcher.

The Sox selected Rodon with the 3rd overall pick in last year’s MLB Amateur Draft. Obviously, with such a high selection, both the organization and its fans are hoping that Rodon can become one of baseball’s elite pitchers within the next few years. Rodon was promoted to the Sox bullpen in April and made his way into the team’s starting rotation by May. Over his first few months in the big leagues, he struggled with control and got himself in trouble by issuing a lot of walks. But over the past month or so, he seems to have found a grasp on the skill set that made him the 3rd pick in the draft.

In his first 15 starts, he walked 44 hitters in 78 and 1/3 innings. In his last 6 starts, he was walked just 15 hitters in 41 innings. So during his recent stretch, he is walking .366 hitters per inning compared to his first 15 starts where he walked .562 hitters per inning. As a result, his ERA is rapidly improving. Through 15 starts (18 appearances), he had a 5.00 ERA. In his last 6 starts, he posted an ERA of 1.76, lowering his season ERA to 3.94, more than a full run per game.

Sure, the sample size of six starts is small indeed, but at the very least, it sheds some light on what has been a dark season for White Sox fans. The team’s starting rotation is very much up in the air heading in 2016. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are locks to return to the top of the rotation, but other than that, there is a lot of uncertainty. Will Jeff Samardzija sign elsewhere as a free agent this winter? If he returns, will he have another sub-par season? Will the Sox continue to overpay John Danks and bring him back for the final year of his contract? Will Erik Johnson earn a chance to compete in the starting rotation next year with a strong September?

Among all of those uncertainties, it is a breath of fresh air to know that Carlos Rodon appears to be scratching the surface on what could be a career filled with greatness.

PS – On the topic of promising young players, I should also mention Trayce Thompson’s name.