July 10, 2013
The Resurgence of John Danks
Shoulder injuries are a very scary thing for pitchers. Fans get frustrated at pitchers that go the rest-and-rehabilitation route, which almost inevitably only delays the surgery that most of those pitchers undergo. It is tough to blame teams and pitchers for going the conservative route after looking at what happened to the likes of Brien Taylor, Mark Prior, and, most recently, Johan Santana. And we can now add another pitcher to that fray: John Danks.
Danks had his 2012 season cut short by a shoulder injury that was initially diagnosed as small tear that would not require surgery. May became June, which became July, and August brought along a surgery that included repairing a shoulder capsule tear, damage to his rotator cuff, and a debridement of his biceps tendon. Worse yet, all of this happened in the first season of Danks’s latest contract extension, which will pay him $57 million through the 2016 season.
The good news is the early returns in 2013 have been promising, particularly since the lefty returned from the disabled list in late May. He has logged a 4.31 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .256 batting average. His ERA does not pair up well with his WHIP, because he has allowed 11 home runs in just 56 1/3 innings of work. That home-run issue is something that has plagued him from time to time in the past, but his overall production is very much like his work before the 2012 season.
Danks has recovered his ability to strike batters out that he lost with the unhealthy shoulder last year, while also finding the strike zone with increased regularity compared to previous seasons. This is good news considering the fact Danks is working with less velocity since his return from surgery.
One thing that has helped Danks regain his ability to strike batters out with decreased velocity is an increase in the use of his changeup.
Danks is both using his changeup with a higher frequency and using it more against same-handed hitters, which was something Ben Lindbergh covered last week. Danks used his changeup around 27 percent of the time from 2009 to 2011, but that usage has jumped up to approximately 34 percent this season, as he works to reinvent himself.
The fact that Danks has been able to find some of the best success of his career in terms of swings and misses despite diminished velocity is encouraging. Watching Danks pitch his last two outings provided enough positive evidence for me to trade Brad Miller for him straight up in an AL-Only keeper league yesterday.