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Wednesday, June 19

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White Sox Sun Mar 11 2012

Sox Turn to Danks to Anchor Rotation

White Sox fans braced themselves for a potential fire sale this winter, with Mark Buehrle leaving as a free agent and veterans such as John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton rumored to be available via trade.

But while Quentin joined the exodus, the Sox didn't jettison everyone.

They made Danks their new ace, in fact, signing him to a five-year, $65 million extension. The deal avoided arbitration, and prevented Danks from becoming a free agent after this season.

Not re-upping Buerhle but locking up Danks is an obviously defensible move. While Buehrle will be 33 by Opening Day, Danks is only turning 27. And despite a few bumps last season, Danks has been a pretty good pitcher. From 2008 to 2010, he averaged a 13-10 record with a 3.61 ERA.

According to his scouting report, the lefty Danks has a solid fastball, a streaky change-up, and a good cutter in his arsenal. Looking at splits over his career, Danks is nearly equal pitching against righties or lefties. His opposing batting average is lower and his strikeout-to-walk average is higher against righties, but he allows more home runs to them and a higher slugging percentage. Danks is slightly better on the road though. With 75 games pitched both at home and away, Danks has allowed fewer home runs, a lower ERA and has won more games away from the Cell.

On the other hand, Danks isn't especially dominant in any area. As I was poring through the rankings of AL pitchers in both traditional and advanced stats from the past two years, Danks didn't appear in the top 10 in any categories.

He doesn't win a ton of games, he doesn't have a high strikeout ratio, he doesn't have a super-low WHIP. He's just a solid all-around starter.

Danks will probably end up the Opening Day starter in 2012, and if he returns to his pre-2011 form, he'll make a huge impact for Chicago.

One last factoid: His WAR (wins above replacement player) production was 6.4, 4.8 and 4.8 in the three years before last season (each top-7 in the AL among pitchers). Since 5.0 is all-star capable, those are some good figures.

If Danks gets back to that level, he could easily anchor this pitching staff for the next five years.

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