It's only been 10 games. And what happens in the first 16th of a Major League Baseball season does not determine the remaining 94 percent of the campaign to follow. If it did, Chris Shelton would have won an MVP and the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers would be remembered as the greatest team in baseball history.
So all assessments at the 10-game mark need to be taken with a hefty helping of sodium chloride.
But through the first 10 games of this season, White Sox pitching has been very, very not good. After Tuesday's 10-5 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, the South Side staff owned the highest ERA in baseball, at 6.72, moving ahead of their Crosstown rivals, whose pitching staff generated sky-is-falling delirium on the other side of town in the season's first week.
Now it's the White Sox turn to experience a string of pitching nightmares. Through the first five games of the current homestand, South Side pitching allowed 44 runs, an average of nearly nine a game. The starting rotation is to blame for 29 of those in an eye-poppingly small number of innings, just 20, an average of four innings a start. Reynaldo Lopez kicked things off with five innings in the home opener, the only win on this homestand to this point. Lucas Giolito followed with 4.1 innings, Ivan Nova with 2.1 innings, Carlos Rodon with 4.2 innings. Ervin Santana's White Sox debut went poorly Tuesday, and he lasted just 3.2 innings, still tagged by the Rays for seven runs. The quintet’s ERA the last turn through the rotation is a hideous 13.05.
The bullpen hasn't been much better, with 15 runs coughed up in the five games. Few innings have gone worse for that relief corps than Jace Fry's startling 46-pitch top of the ninth Tuesday. He gave up two runs on three hits and a couple of walks, one of the bases-loaded variety, watching his ERA balloon to 13.50 in the process. That followed up Caleb Frare's brief appearance that featured a couple aesthetically displeasing wild pitches.
Of the 15 pitchers who have thrown for the White Sox this season — including Dylan Covey and Carson Fulmer, both currently on the roster at Triple-A Charlotte — only five have ERAs below 5.70, while six of them have ERAs north of 7.70 and four have ERAs at or north of 10.00.
It's an all-around ugly situation and one that the White Sox didn't expect. The experience gained by Rodon, Lopez and Giolito in 2018 and the offseason additions of Nova, Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera were supposed to make this staff better. But questions of reliability have not been answered to this point, even if "to this point" is just a week and a half into April.
No one's suggesting the plug get pulled on any of the young pitchers who still have the talent to work their way into the team's long-term plans, especially in the rotation where guys like Rodon and Lopez have flashed, at times, ace-like potential. But as manager Rick Renteria has said from the start of spring training, the expectations have changed. The White Sox pitching staff, at the present, is not meeting those expectations.
"At some point we have to look ourselves in the mirror and be accountable to our actions, lack of, whether they are positive or negative," Renteria said after Tuesday's game. "Our expectations are very high. We came into spring with high expectations. I think that, at this point, are we disappointed? A little bit. Absolutely. They are a little disappointed as well. They are not guys who are wanting to have had the start we are having right now.
"I get it's early in the season — albeit we're not the only club that's had issues early on — it's not acceptable and we don't want it to be something that's acceptable. We want to make sure they understand that change has to occur."
Don't expect that change to be the kind fans on Twitter are asking for, that the White Sox front office goes out and signs the still-jobless Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young winner who has been one of two high-profile victims of this winter's glacially paced free-agent market (Hall of Fame bound closer Craig Kimbrel is the other, and it seems unlikely the White Sox would add him to their staff, either). Even if the expectations are different for this year's group of White Sox, it doesn't mean they're expected to contend for a playoff spot. Adding Keuchel might drastically improve the rotation in the short term, but it's hard to see what kind of long-term goals such a move would accomplish. And as the summer goes on, a contender or two figure to find themselves with an opening in their rotation, perhaps a much more attractive situation for Keuchel's camp.
No, the change will have to come from the inside, and in most cases, from the guys already on this big league roster. Dylan Cease won't be rushed as he gets his feet wet in Triple-A. It's unlikely Jordan Stephens and Jordan Guerrero would make fans swoon with their major league arrivals like Michael Kopech did last summer. There's a chance that Covey could again find his way into the rotation at some point, with Renteria saying part of the reason the White Sox sent him down was to allow him to work his way into a starting role in Charlotte. The Triple-A bullpen has some pieces that can be brought up to the bigs, but most of those are players the White Sox passed up for their current crop of relievers at the end of the spring.
That might paint a dire portrait in the minds of White Sox fans, but it's as good an example as any that there might be no white knight riding in to save the staff. The corrections are going to have to occur from within. If they do, then we'll look back on these 10 games as merely a bump in the road. If they don't, then this will have been a bad omen that some of the guys hoped to be a part of the long-term future couldn't figure things out. The White Sox, of course, are hoping that latter scenario never rears its head.
Earlier on this homestand, Nova said what he needed to do for his next outing. His response? "Pitch better." That seems to apply to just about everyone who picks up a ball for the White Sox at this point.
"We have to make adjustments," Renteria said. "That's the bottom line."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.