|CHW||LH M. Buehrle||201.0||3.63||131||5.15||2.01||2.56||0.99||.729||1.26||1.12||15.44|
|RAYS||RH A. Sonnanst.||130.2||5.85||77||6.68||1.79||3.73||1.24||.812||1.35||0.91||16.06|
LH Mark Buehrle, Chicago-The White Sox send their ace lefty to the mound to oppose Sonnanstine this evening. Buehrle has never been one of the more flashy players in the league, having pretty low strikeout rates for a top of the rotation starter. But he has always managed to be a successful pitcher by limiting his walks and pitching to contact rather well. Playing in homer-friendly Comiskey Park U.S. Cellular Field, he's usually been able to keep the ball down and keep his HR/9 rates in check. Since becoming a regular in the White Sox rotation in 2001, the only time Buehrle has struggled was when he got tagged for the long ball constantly in 2006. A 1.59 HR/9 that year beget the highest full-season ERA of his career.
Coming into this start, Buehrle has a 5.74 ERA, but don't let that number fool you. It stems almost entirely from his opening day start on March 31st against the Cleveland Indians, when he was tagged for seven runs in 1.2 innings of work. In two starts since, he has given up three earned runs in 14 innings pitched. So while Buehrle will never receive attention as the shutdown ace that makes hitters look silly, he has still managed to craft his own style that has proved to be immensely effective. Chances are, Buehrle will prove to be worth the four year, $56 million contract the Sox gave him last summer.
RH Andy Sonnanstine, RAYS-Sonnanstine is living on borrowed time after a poor start to the season, and he needs to turn things around very quickly and hope for the best to keep his spot in the rotation. To put it succinctly, he has been terrible thus far in 2008, and though I've been one of his biggest backers over the last couple of years, it's becoming ever harder to defend some of the performances he turns in. His walk rates have remained steady from last year, but he's striking out too few and, most troubling of all, he's getting hit constantly. While it is foolish to think that he will continue surrendering home runs at his current rate of five in 15.1 innings of work, the trend represents only a more extreme continuation of a problem that he's had since coming into the major leagues last June.
Worse still for Sonnanstine is that the Rays don't have as high of a tolerance level for this nonsense as they did at the start of last season. Jae Seo, Casey Fossum, and Edwin Jackson could afford to continue to pitch terribly well into May and June last year since the team was unable to (or unwilling to) replace them with starters at the Triple A level. This year, no such predicament exists. In the immediate term, Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza are soon to return off of the disabled list, meaning that two of the current rotation's starters need to go. Since Jackson and Jason Hammel have pitched fairly well thus far, you've got to figure that Sonny is currently on the outside looking in, as it should be. He has only himself to blame for being in his current situation, and the excuses stop here. He needs to either harvest the potential he showed as an excellent minor league starter, or move out of the way.