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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: These two teams play a lot

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The White Sox were looking good...until they weren’t anymore. Such is life.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros
May 23, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito (27) throws the ball against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox had crawled back to within three games of .500 before the Twins beat them by seven runs every game this weekend.That took a lot of the wind out of the sails of a team that had just beaten the Astros two straight days. Now, though they’re five games ahead of the Royals in the standings, they carry a run differential 15 runs worse than KC. But it’s not all bad for the White Sox as they’ve seen breakout seasons from both Tim Anderson from Yoan Moncada as well as Lucas Giolito finally recognizing his potential. It’s not all good either with Reynaldo Lopez struggling and Carlos Rodon going under the knife for Tommy John Surgery and knowing he’ll miss most or all of next season as well. Oh yeah, and the bullpen is kind of a disaster too. So while there are definite steps forward, they’re not quite there yet.

Meet the White Sox

Royals vs. White Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .346 .442
Team wRC+ 93 91
Team xFIP 4.79 4.99
2019 Head to Head Wins 3 3
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 2.3 Lucas Giolito, 1.8

White Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Leury Garcia CF 188 .273 .310 .352 3.2% 25.0% 80 0.5
Yoan Moncada 3B 221 .282 .336 .490 6.8% 27.6% 120 1.4
Jose Abreu 1B 223 .263 .318 .522 7.2% 24.7% 120 0.5
James McCann C 122 .322 .361 .504 4.9% 23.8% 133 1.1
Eloy Jimenez LF 112 .217 .259 .406 4.5% 32.1% 75 -0.5
Tim Anderson SS 187 .337 .369 .506 3.7% 19.3% 136 1.5
Yonder Alonso DH 196 .182 .291 .318 13.3% 21.9% 66 -0.5
Yolmer Sanchez 2B 149 .225 .313 .295 10.1% 25.5% 70 -0.1
Charlie Tilson RF 75 .304 .360 .377 5.3% 26.7% 104 0.6

White Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Seby Zavala C 5 .000 .000 .000 0.0% 100.0% -100 -0.1
Jose Rondon INF/OF 76 .194 .237 .319 3.9% 32.9% 47 -0.4
Ryan Cordell OF 97 .226 .309 .369 8.2% 29.9% 85 -0.1

White Sox Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Alex Colome 20 19.2 1 0 26.1% 7.3% 1.83 4.26 0.3
Kelvin Herrera 22 20.2 1 3 19.6% 9.3% 6.97 4.97 0.0
Jace Fry 22 19.1 1 1 29.2% 12.4% 5.59 3.46 0.1

Probable Pitching Matchups

Monday May 27th - 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Homer Bailey 10 47.0 4 5 21.2% 10.6% 6.13 4.52 0.5
Ivan Nova 10 54.1 3 4 14.1% 6.8 6.96 4.81 0.1

When the White Sox traded for Ivan Nova, it sure seemed like a smart move to find a veteran for the rotation who everyone knew would throw strikes and give a pretty even performance every fifth day. After posting ERAs of 4.17, 4.14 and 4.19 the last three years, the White Sox had a pretty good idea of what they were getting. Except for he’s been absolutely horrible with 79 hits allowed in those 54.1 innings of work and 11 of those are home runs. He’s even walking more than expected, though still few enough that he’s not getting hurt too bad there. His 1.77 WHIP is nearly unpitchable, but they don’t have a ton of options right now. He’s only made three of his 10 starts at home, but it’s been beyond bad there with opponents hitting .436/.492/.782 with five home runs in just 64 plate appearances. I was looking through his splits trying to find someplace he excelled and I came up with the fact that he’s done well against opposing number nine hitters and has allowed a .629 OPS in the fifth inning of starts, so that’s where the White Sox are with him.

The Royals will counter with Homer Bailey, who has had his share of struggles as well, though I don’t think the Royals were expecting what the White Sox were with Nova. Like so much of the Royals staff, he’s really walking too many and that’s been a big issue for him. He couldn’t get out of the second inning against the Cardinals in his last start, giving up five runs on four hits, with two of those coming by the way of the home run. That was after he couldn’t get out of the fifth against the Rangers. He’s not throwing a ton of strikes and when he does, they’re being hit hard with a 43.3 percent hard hit rate against him. But all that said, if he has his splitter working, it’s game over for his opponent. They’re hitting just .169 with a .220 SLG on it and he has a 41.9 percent whiff rate on it. So at least he has that.

Tuesday May 28th - 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 11 65.0 3 5 15.7% 14.3% 4.43 5.40 0.7
Lucas Giolito 9 52.0 6 1 28.5% 9.2% 2.77 3.80 1.8

You can argue that it’s taken too long for Lucas Giolito to figure it out, but it’s easy to forget he’s still just 24 years old. After starting the season with a 6.19 ERA in his first three starts, he was pitching great against the Royals (what’s new?) before he left with a hamstring injury that put him on the shelf for a couple weeks. Since coming back, he’s made five starts and he’s 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in 33.1 innings. He’s struck out 36 and walked nine in those starts. So those walks that were such a problem haven’t been and he’s actually getting swings and misses and strikeouts. Some of it is as simple as velocity-based with his four-seam fastball more than a mile per hour faster this year. He’s also added significant spin to the pitch, which has upped his strikeout rate on it by a bunch. On top of that, his pitches that were actually working for him last year have gotten better this year. He’s allowed a .128 average and .149 slugging percentage on his changeup and a .067/.067 line on his slider. Basically he’s learned a lot of ways to get hitters out and now he’s using them. The guy has a 4.99 ERA, but against the Royals, he’s 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in eight starts. There are two ways to look at this. Either the Royals will figure out how to hit him now that the rest of the league can’t or they’re likely to get no-hit in this one.

Brad Keller is proof that leading the league in something isn’t always good as he has walked more batters than anyone in baseball. Walks aren’t always bad, but when you have nearly as many of those as strikeouts, it’s a problem. Even in what turned out to be a really good start, he walked four in seven innings and only struck out three. It’s now the third straight start where he’s walked more batters than he’s struck out and the sixth time out of 11 starts that he’s walked at least as many as he’s struck out. That’s bad. And to make matters worse, the results were great on Wednesday against the Cardinals, but he got three swings and misses in 105 pitches. I liked the results, but I’m not even close to saying that Keller is back to being someone the team can count on because even with that nice performance, he still has a 6.03 ERA over his last six starts in 34.1 innings with 24 walks and 19 strikeouts. The good news he’s 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in nine games against the White Sox in his career with 31 strikeouts and 14 walks in 36 innings, so maybe he can find something against them in this one.

Wednesday May 29th - 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Glenn Sparkman 9 24.2 1 1 15.9% 6.5% 2.92 4.61 0.3
Reynaldo Lopez 11 59.2 3 5 21.3% 10.1% 6.03 5.80 0.2

The Royals aren’t the only team with a question about a Lopez in their rotation. After a solid season in 2018, Reynaldo Lopez, who is just a few months older than Giolito, has imploded this year. Yes, he’s striking hitters out more, but since striking out 14 Tigers at the end of April, he’s 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA with just 18 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. The home run ball has killed him in that time with seven total. Really, he can credit his strikeout numbers to the Tigers this year with 22 strikeouts against them in 12 innings and just 35 in his other 47.2. A big issue for Lopez is that being ahead in the count isn’t even that big of a deal for him. He’s allowed a .263 average and .474 slugging percentage in those situations, which is better than when he’s behind or even, but still not especially good. He’s also had some fun times through the order splits allowing a .300/.364/.589 line the first time, .235/.313/.376 the second time and .322/.420/.644 the third time. So basically get him early, but if you don’t, you can still get him late. The Royals have gotten him before, so they at least know they can.

It is indeed Glenn Sparkman getting the nod in this one. He took over for Jorge Lopez after Lopez couldn’t get out of the second inning and didn’t go as long as Ned would have liked, but still got outs and kept the game within striking distance for the Royals to do their typical just enough to lose routine. You might remember Sparkman’s only other start of the year. He threw seven fantastic innings against the Rays in early May, allowing just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. His velocity in that start stood out to me as he was hitting 96 MPH in that start and he’s touched 97 in relief. As soon as that velocity showed up, he became that much more interesting. The likelihood is that he isn’t a future rotation piece, but why not find out when Lopez is doing so little?

Prediction

The Royals have been awesome at not getting swept while also not winning the series. They’ve won exactly one game in their last seven series and haven’t won a series since sweeping the Indians in mid-April. Their last sweep against them was the series before that. So the Royals do have that skill. I’m guessing this is the eighth straight series they win exactly one game. What do you think?

Poll

Royals vs. White Sox: Who Wins the Series?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Royals Sweep
    (10 votes)
  • 6%
    White Sox Sweep
    (5 votes)
  • 29%
    Royals Take Two of Three
    (22 votes)
  • 50%
    White Sox Take Two of Three
    (37 votes)
74 votes total Vote Now