December 23, 2006, 07:33 PM ET
by Nate Silver
Leave it to Kenny Williams to break the monotony of one of the slowest weeks in the baseball news cycle: the Brandon McCarthy era has come to an end in Chicago before it ever really began.
McCarthy’s name carries a lot of weight in sabermetric circles, and Williams had declared him all but untradable as recently as this summer, when he’d been bandied about as part of the potential booty for Alfonso Soriano. Publicly and privately, the desire to ensure that McCarthy had a job in the starting rotation was a big part of the White Sox‘ justification for moving Freddy Garcia earlier this month.
So why the sudden about-face? The answer is likely the same as it usually is with Williams: he saw an opportunity to add value and he took it. And on that score, he’ll probably wind up on the winning side of this deal.
McCarthy has just one major flaw as a pitcher, but it’s potentially a fatal one: his Eric Milton-esque tendency to give up home runs. McCarthy yielded home runs at a rate faster than all but a handful of pitchers in the big leagues last season. He’s a flyball pitcher, and his home run rates have been high throughout his professional career, both in the majors and the minors. I watched video of a fair number of McCarthy’s home runs on MLB.com, and it was clear that they were coming on bad pitches, fastballs left up in the hitting zone or hanging curveballs thrown on bad counts. While there’s certainly an element of luck involved in giving up home runs, in McCarthy’s case there’s every reason to think that this is a real and persistant problem.
Add it all up, and McCarthy’s PECOTA projected EqERA as a starting pitcher next year is an uninspiring 4.97. The raw ERA projection is higher than that, of course, since Texas is a bad environment for a pitcher with gopher ball issues, just as Chicago was.
John Danks has had his own problems with home runs, and his EqERA projection is 5.07, which isn’t any better. Still, the White Sox win this trade on tiebreakers. Danks is nearly two years younger than McCarthy, which isn’t as important for pitching prospects as it is for hitting prospects, but still counts for something. He’s a year and a half behind McCarthy in service time. And he wasn’t the only arm the White Sox picked up in this deal.
Danks might also be a better fit for pitching coach Don Cooper. It is Cooper who would have been the key to McCarthy’s development, who could have gotten him away from the bad habits that led to all those longballs, but one senses that the White Sox viewed McCarthy as stubborn, perhaps to the point of being uncoachable. They also don’t run the risk of upsetting Danks if he starts the year in Triple-A, which should produce a genuine competition in spring training between Danks, Gavin Floyd, Charlie Haeger, and perhaps even Lance Broadway.
That is, if Williams doesn’t have another surprise up his sleeve first.