As our own Luke Stanczyk said after his most recent start, “John Danks has had by no means a glamorous start to the season, as his velocity is down and his command has not always been there.” But eight starts into his 2014 campaign, no matter what numbers you point to, you cannot argue the fact that the results have been there for the 29 year old southpaw.
Through those eight starts, Danks has picked up five quality starts while pitching mediocre once and pretty awful the other time out – at least by my metrics. It’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t acknowledge the uninspiring numbers he’s posted thus far. It is very fair to factor those into the discussion.
Danks has a 4.88 ERA, a 1.458 WHIP and like we said, has struggled with his control. A year ago he walked just 1.8 batters per nine innings pitched, by far the best rate of his then seven-year career. This year that number is way up at 4.3 BB/9, which would be the worst of his career. I expect that number to come down some, but even if it does wind up around, say 3.5, it wouldn’t be out of line with the rest of his career.
I’m not aiming to give him excuses or diminish the value of getting the ball over the plate … I certainly wouldn’t want to do that. It’s more of just a, “Well, that’s what you get with Danksy” kinda thing. But when you consider that his struggles with command aren’t really anything too new, it puts 2014 in perspective with his career and, after you delve deeper into the numbers, may even convince you that his recent success might be the start of something legitimate.
Last year, Danks saw his WHIP drop to 1.287 in what was ultimately deemed a ‘waste year’ for the Texas native. In that regard, he was back in his 2008-’10 form, A.K.A the best form of his career. Though that number has risen significantly in 2014’s early goings, it’s not so discouraging when you break the stat down further.
As we mentioned, Danks has issued 4.3 BB/9. That number is pretty atrocious but I think it’s very reasonable to expect it to come down somewhat, maybe even by a full 1.0. Wishful thinking? Maybe … but it’s not unthinkable. And if that does pan out, his numbers across the board could come way down.
From ’08-’10, he let up 8.4, 8.0 and 8.3 hits per 9.0 IP respectively. The past three years it’s been 9.6, 9.6 and 9.8 … but this year it’s back down at 8.8.
Danks has been throwing his fastball at about 86-87 MPH consistently of late. That’s down from what most expected as reports in the spring were that he finally had his arm fully back. But even with his pitches taking a bit longer to get to the plate, hitters ain’t hitting ’em any better.
Guys have only hit .253 off of him this year, down from his .259 career mark. And because hitters are at just .282 BAbip (down from career .290), it shows that when he is getting it in the zone, he’s hitting his spots better than we’ve become accustomed to.
So the strikes are there, if you will. Danks is letting up home runs and overall hits at a lower rate than he has since his heyday, but hasn’t really dazzled thanks to the walks.
Simply put? If he gets the ball in the strike zone, big-time results could be right around the corner. And it’s hard to get much better than tossing a quality start 75% of the time you’re sent out there, which Danks has done this year. For reference, ‘Mr. Quality Start’ Jose Quintana himself was at just 51.5% (17-for-33) last season.
So while you may point to the inflated ERA or WHIP and argue that Danks has just luckily stumbled upon six quality starts to begin the season – suggesting rough seas ahead for the veteran lefty, digging deeper into the numbers may suggest otherwise.
It’s certainly tough for most to keep up such a solid pace once they lose a lot of the zip off of their pitches, but it’s far from impossible. Just ask Mark Buehrle (7-1, 2.04 ERA).
Maybe, just maybe, Danks is on his way back to being one of the most under-appreciated and undervalued assets there is in the form of a lefty hurler around the game.