Behind John Danks' poor start to 2011

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Behind John Danks' poor start to 2011

John Danks' 0-8 record through his first 11 starts last season wasn't indicative of his struggles -- W-L records never are. Danks pitched well enough to deserve to win at least three of those starts, but thanks to poor run support and a blown save, he went winless through Memorial Day.

More reliably, Danks' struggles were epitomized by his poor strikeout-to-walk ratio (4625) opponent on-base percentage (.355) and home runs allowed (11). That's why his ERA sat at 5.25 at the end of May.

In the remainder of his starts in 2011, though, Danks was his usual solid self. He posted a 3.69 ERA with 81 strikeouts, 23 walks and eight home runs allowed, all while holding opponents to a .690 OPS. Interestingly enough, luck had nothing to do with Danks' struggles and successes -- his BABIP sat at .315 through both his first 11 and final 16 starts.

But we can dive a little deeper into what Danks did differently beyond the results thanks to Texas Leaguers' pitch fx database. And it centers around using his cutter with a higher frequency.

From April 3 through May 29, Danks threw his cutter on 22 percent of his pitches. From June 6 through the end of the season, he threw that pitch 28 percent of the time. Danks threw the pitch better, too, throwing it for more strikes and generating more swings on the pitch.

There was also a small difference in Danks' fastball and changeup velocity in these two blocks. Compared to his first 11 starts, Danks threw his fastball harder and his changeup slower in his final 16 outings, although both differences were less than 1 mph.

But Danks generated about 9 percent more swings and misses on his changeup in his final 16 starts, so there's probably something to that drop in velocity.

This isn't groundbreaking stuff: Danks has to have a good cutter and changeup to be successful. He found that out the hard way last April and May.

Four top prospects among 19 players invited to White Sox big league camp

Four top prospects among 19 players invited to White Sox big league camp

Four of the team's top-10 prospects and a former All-Star are among the 19 nonroster invitees to White Sox big league camp this spring.

The team announced Monday that prospects Michael Kopech, Zack Collins, Zack Burdi and Spencer Adams have all been invited to camp next month. Everth Cabrera, an All-Star in 2013 for the San Diego Padres, Cody Asche, Cory Luebke and Geovany Soto are among the eight minor league free agents who also received an invitation. Pitchers and catchers report to camp in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 14 while the team holds its first full-squad workout on Feb. 18.

Kopech was acquired in the Chris Sale trade in December while Collins and Burdi were both selected in the 2016 amateur draft. Adams was drafted in 2014.

Signed earlier this month, Soto is expected to earn a spot on the 25-man roster. Soto, who played for the White Sox in 2015, finished last season with four home runs and an .809 OPS in 86 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Angels.

Cabrera, who produced 4.6 Wins Above Replacement between 2012-13, hasn't played in the majors since he appeared in 29 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2015. Luebke, who has twice had reconstructive elbow surgery, finished with a 9.35 ERA in nine games for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Asche blasted 31 homers with a .240/.298/.385 slash line in 1,287 plate appearances since 2013 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Other minor league free agents include: left-handed pitcher David Holmberg, right-handers Blake Smith and Anthony Swarzak, and catcher Roberto Pena.

White Sox minor leaguer pitchers Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry and Matt Purke, infielders Nicky Delmonico and Danny Hayes, and outfielder Courtney Hawkins also have been invited to camp.

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