With as bad as the White Sox 2013 season is going, there have been more bright spots than you'd expect.
What's up, starting rotation?
After a very consistent and impressive under-the-radar minor league career, Robin Ventura, Don Cooper & co. figured it was time to give Dylan Axelrod a chance at a regular big league job. And for a while, Dylan was impressing us all. But those times have come and past, as 'Axe' has been a mere shadow of himself of late.
First of all, I have to mention how much I dislike writing about this. Dylan is a kid who's never been able to get by on pure talent of 'stuff' alone, yet he's battled and made it all the way to the major leagues. You have to tip your cap to every guy that accomplishes that feat.
And when you see some the things that run through his head, you can't help but like him even more …
So trust me, I'm going to be as positive as I can. But I love giving it to you guys how it really is, so I'm going to stick to my guns and be brutally honest.
First, let's look at the numbers.
As we stand right now, Dylan's ERA is up near 5.00 (4.97 on June 10th). But it's been a story of two 'Axes' throughout the first half of the season.
In April, Axelrod made five starts and despite not picking up a win due to the team's poor offense and defense, posted a 3.95 ERA. He then went 3-3 with a 4.10 ERA through six May starts, and it looked as if we'd know exactly what we'd get from Dylan: a no.5 starter that almost any big league ball club would be very happy with.
Through those 11 starts, hitters couldn't manage anything better than a .250 BAA and a sub-.700 OPS. When you pair those numbers with his WHIP around 1.200 and the fact that he only walked about 6% of the batters he faced, you're going to get nothing but solid, consistent results no matter how hard you throw.
He was changing speeds and hitting his spots which as we all know good and well thanks to Hawk, is all a pitcher needs to do.
But then June came along.
Suddenly, those spots were no longer being hit. He almost doubled his walk rate, as well over 11% of opposing hitters drew a free pass. His WHIP also jumped to 2.038 and he let up more home runs (8) in June's five starts than he did in all of April and May's 11 starts (7).
And in his first start in the month of July, he couldn't make it out of the second inning, as he let up nine hits and five runs against the Tampa Bay Rays. He'll wrap up the month of July with starts likely against the Tigers and Indians, so it's not as if anything is going to be given to him too soon.
With all of those numbers in the back of your mind, you can really start to analyze how long the leash on Axe is.
What to Do?
With youngsters Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, and Chris Sale surely staying in the rotation, there may not be room for Axelrod once Jake Peavy returns from the disabled list, which will likely happen right after the All-Star Break next week.
Earlier in the year, Hector would have been the odd man out. But now, with the Sox out of contention and in rebuilding mode, it only makes sense to keep the guy (Santiago) that should play a bigger part in the team's future, has a higher up-side, and has been the much better starter.
So unless Peavy (or Danks, I suppose) is dealt before the trade deadline (or even before August 31), it looks like Axe could be out of his big league job.
And I'll get this out of the way – I don't see him being moved to the bullpen.
Again, with the Sox out of the playoff race, you may as well dig into the farm system to bring up a guy like Andre Rienzo, Jake Petricka, Santos Rodriguez, or Daniel Webb and let 'em get a feel for the majors (like they're doing now with Simon Castro) instead of sticking Axe in a non-important long relief role.
"But if Dylan does turn it around, will the team surely keep him up?" I'm sure you're wondering. Unfortunately, unless he starts throwing absolutely lights-out, nothing is set in stone.
At this point in time, it doesn't look like the White Sox are going to be in a position to contend in 2014. Maybe they can wind up being one of those young, lovable teams that fights through adversity to stick around all season (like in 2012), but it's not something I'd count on. And because of that, along with the fact that three or four of the team's current starters will be back with the team next year, guys who have the ceiling of a consistent inning-eater like Axelrod may just not be the best fit.
Again, I want to make myself clear that I'm a big 'Axe' fan and I'd love to see him stick around. As long as he can get back on track sometime soon, I'd have no problem holding on to him and giving him another shot at a starting job next year or shopping him in the offseason.
But with this never-ending downward spiral that is the 2013 White Sox, it may be getting close to that time where you have to give some more youngsters the chance to impress at the big league level.
In other words, the low risk/moderate reward of Axelrod may just not be worth it for this mess of a baseball team … at least not right now.