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A Look At John Danks

Is White Sox lefty John Danks for real?  Let's attempt to figure it out.  The early returns:

4 starts
23.2 IP
5.92 IP/start
3.04 ERA
1.01 WHIP
6.08 K/9
2.66 BB/9
2.29 K/BB
6.46 H/9
.250 BABIP
0.00 HR/9
0.0% HR/flyball
48.5% groundball rate (up 13.7% from '07)

Many factors have come together for his hot start, which is comprised of three stellar outings and one bombing at the hands of the Twins. 

Danks' control wasn't horrible last year at 3.5 BB/9, but this is a nice improvement.  He matched his current walk rate in April, July, and August of last year.  It's hard to say if he can keep it up all year.

His .250 BABIP is off his team's .303 mark, but not ridiculously so.  Danks was at .317 last year, but he would've given up more than a hit per inning even adjusting for that.  Best case is probably 8.5 H/9 or so.

It's the home run rate that's truly unsustainable (obviously he will be homered upon at some point).  This was a huge problem for Danks in '07 and his home park didn't help.  The greatly increased groundball rate says he can be at least league average in this regard.

Qualitatively, we know that Danks has a new cutter this year.  In a Baseball America profile from '07, they rated his changeup and curve as above average and noted number two starter potential.  He is only 23 and has often been young for his league.  Maybe '07 was his adjustment period and he really has arrived.

I can see Danks posting a 3.90 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP this year.  One consideration is that he was cut off at 139 innings last year and is unlikely to exceed 170 this year.  In a ten or twelve team mixed league Danks is worth using as one of your last starters.  I'm more interested to see what he can do with 200 innings in 2009.

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