Let me preface this by saying, I like John Danks as a pitching prospect. I think, if he can stay healthy (always a big if for pitchers, of course), he's going to be a very good pitcher for a number of years.
But I also don't think he's going to be a real good starting pitcher for the ChiSox this year.
That's not a knock on Danks. It is just the reality that he's never pitched in the majors, has only a half-season in AAA, and is still only 21 years old.
But there also seems to be a healthy segment of Rangers fans who think that Danks is, right now, a better pitcher than Brandon McCarthy. That just doesn't make a ton of sense to me.
Let's look at the numbers McCarthy and Danks each posted last year.
McCarthy had a 4.68 ERA, good for a 100 ERA+, while pitching for Chicago. He faded late, with an ERA over 8 in September, which isn't uncommon with young players...but if you cut off his season at the end of August, around when Danks' season ended, he had an ERA of 4.02.
Danks had a pretty solid minor league campaign, particularly given his age, but posted a 4.15 ERA in AA and a 4.33 ERA in AAA, equivalent to (according to BP's Davenport translations) a 5.06 ERA (for his Frisco performance) and a 5.76 ERA (for Oklahoma).
The big knock on McCarthy, of course, is that he's too homer-prone, allowing 1.2 homers per 9 innings last year, and 1.3 homers per 9 innings in his major league career. Even pitching in U.S. Cellular, one of the most homer-friendly parks in baseball, that's a high mark.
Look at John Danks' homer numbers, though...he allowed 1.43 homers per 9 innings while pitching for Frisco, and 1.40 homers per 9 innings while pitching for Oklahoma -- and keep in mind, Oklahoma is one of the hardest parks in baseball to homer in. Danks, in the minors last year, pitching half the season in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in pro baseball when it comes to allowing homers, still had a higher homer-allowed rate than McCarthy did in the majors.
And fly ball versus ground ball percentage? Danks had a 39% GB percentage last year, both in Frisco and in Oklahoma, the same as McCarthy had.
Then there's the walk and strikeout rates. McCarthy walked 33 batters in 84 2/3 innings last season...not good. But he was pitching for Ozzie Guillen, who doles out IWs like they are Pez. If you take the 9 intentional walks out, McCarthy had 2.55 walks per 9 innings and a 2.87 K/BB rate.
Danks, meanwhile, had a 3.6 walk per 9 inning rate in the minors, and 2.76 K/BB rate.
So McCarthy had a better walk rate and a better K/BB rate than Danks did, even though McCarthy was in the majors and Danks was in the minors.
Looking at all this, is it possible that Danks will outperform McCarthy this year? Sure it is.
But is it likely? I don't think so. Danks would need to make a large step forward, while McCarthy stagnates or regresses.
Again, this is not intended as a knock on Danks, who I think is going to be a very good pitcher for Chicago down the road.
But Brandon McCarthy has been considered one of the top up-and-coming young pitchers in baseball the past couple of years, a guy who the ChiSox had deemed untouchable, whom they refused to part with last summer when they were talking to the Washington Nationals about trading for Alfonso Soriano.
Let's wait a little while before proclaiming this trade a bust, and declaring Danks the better pitcher in 2007.