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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Starting and winning a Danks-less exercise

By Christina Kahrl

John Danks made his ninth start Tuesday night, and it was the first time the White Sox won a Danks turn all year, squeaking out a one-run win over the Rangers, 4-3. In other words, not only had Danks endured the indignity of opening the season 0-6, the Sox were 0-8 in his starts.

Not that it makes matters worse -- can you get worse than oh-fer on a season? -- that’s dramatically worse than the record Danks should have based on how he’s pitched and if he’d gotten normal support from his offense, which should be me more along the lines of 4-3, according to Support-Neutral Wins -- a mark that would make him the rotation’s staff leader in victories.

John Danks
Pitcher John Danks has six quality starts this season but no wins to show for them.
Danks has not pitched that badly, of course: He’s delivered six quality starts in his nine turns. Naturally, three earned runs or less and six innings pitched or more doesn’t tell the entire story of a man’s season. Consider Danks’ second start of the year: He pitched six innings, and gave the Sox a quality start through those first six, while allowing seven baserunners and three runs, putting the Sox in great position for a win with a two-run lead -- or, as Baseball-Reference reports, giving the Sox an 81 percent chance of a win. Mission accomplished?

Well, as you already know, not quite, because 81 percent isn't 100 percent. Ozzie Guillen sent Danks back out in the seventh inning, Danks loaded the bases on two walks and a single, Jesse Crain came in and allowed one of those baserunners to score, and voila -- a quality start achieved gets "unachieved." Given the situation -- two-run lead, low number of batters faced, a pitch count well shy of 120 -- Ozzie made a reasonable tactical choice, and Danks didn’t deliver in the seventh.

Contrast that with last night, when Danks got hooked in the seventh after not pitching all that well (he walked six), but he’d still provided the Sox with roughly a 50-50 shot at a win, leaving the game with one out and a man on first, an easier relief situation that Crain nailed down this time around. But with the score tied at three, it didn’t matter: Danks came away without a win, again.

Which gets to the heart of the reason why the Sox are Danks-less in the win column: run support, and the lack of it. After providing Danks roughly 4.5 runs per 27 outs in the last three years in the White Sox rotation, he’s now trying to get by with 2.8 runs of support. As the Sox try to muddle along with an offense that is tied for 11th in the league in runs per game (3.8), Danks hasn’t been the only victim -- Philip Humber has been even less fortunate, getting just 2.6 -- but given his oh-fer in the win column, Danks has been the most egregious.

Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.