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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: They meet again

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Only two more series against the White Sox before the two teams will have to figure out a silly reason not to like each other next year.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox
Jul 4, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Eloy Jimenez (74) hits a two run home run against the Detroit Tigers during the sixth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago White Sox came into the break with a fair amount of momentum. They were 19-15 from their lowest point on May 26th to the All-Star break and a lot of their young talent was really starting to hit their stride. Then they ran into the buzzsaw that is the second half Oakland A’s and got swept and outscored by 16 runs in the process, including a 13-2 drubbing on Saturday. Even with that, though, there’s a lot to be impressed with. Eloy Jimenez is starting to really hit and hit for serious power. Yoan Moncada is a star now. James McCann is having by far his best season. On the pitching side, Lucas Giolito has been amazing as we all know and Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer have been dynamite in the bullpen, but outside them, it’s been a rough go this year. So the White Sox, while on the rise, are definitely a team that can be beaten.

Meet the White Sox

Royals vs. White Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .340 .472
Team wRC+ 86 92
Team xFIP 4.91 5.01
2019 H2H Wins 4 8
Run Differential -88 -87
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 2.6 Yoan Moncada, 3.5

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 348 .292 .326 .391 3.4% 22.1% 92 1.4
Yoan Moncada 3B 349 .306 .362 .533 7.4% 27.2% 136 3.5
Jose Abreu 1B 382 .279 .309 .507 4.7% 22.8% 111 0.8
James McCann C 259 .311 .367 .492 7.3% 25.9% 129 2.2
Jon Jay RF 53 .298 .346 .362 5.7% 15.1% 93 0.0
Eloy Jimenez LF 263 .244 .308 .487 8.0% 27.4% 108 0.7
AJ Reed (AAA) DH 225 .224 .329 .469 12.0% 29.8% 90 ---
Yolmer Sanchez 2B 282 .250 .317 .313 7.4% 22.0% 73 0.4
Ryan Cordell CF 175 .236 .288 .369 5.7% 29.7% 75 -0.2

White Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Zack Collins C 31 .077 .226 .192 16.1% 45.2% 21 -0.2
Jose Rondon INF/OF 141 .203 .271 .297 7.1% 24.1% 54 -0.5
Charlie Tilson OF 150 .241 .307 .299 6.7% 24.0% 65 0.0

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 37 36.2 3 1 20.7% 8.2% 2.21 4.72 0.4
Aaron Bummer 29 34.1 0 0 25.6% 8.3% 1.83 3.36 0.6
Evan Marshall 27 24.0 3 1 17.7% 7.3% 3.00 4.71 0.2
Kelvin Herrera 37 32.0 3 3 20.1% 9.1% 7.59 4.89 0.1

Projected Starting Pitchers

Monday July 15th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Lucas Giolito 17 100.0 11 3 30.1% 9.5% 3.15 3.92 3.1
Jakob Junis 19 106.1 4 8 20.8% 8.1% 5.33 4.69 0.6

For most teams, seeing Lucas Giolito on the schedule was a prize before this season. That wasn’t true for the Royals, and now that he’s pitching so well, the rest of the league understands what the Royals have felt since he came to the White Sox. Since leaving a start with an injury against the Royals, he’s gone 9-2 with a 2.66 ERA with 97 strikeouts and 28 walks in 81.1 innings. He’s been incredible in pretty much every way. His last start before the break was a reminder of Giolito past as he went four innings and gave up six runs on four hits with five walks and five strikeouts. Assuming this last start wasn’t the end of his great run, the Royals are in for a huge challenge. There is one area where he kind of confuses. With the bases empty, he’s allowed a .198/.275/.322 line with a 31.9 percent strikeout rate and 8.4 percent walk rate. But with runners in scoring position, he’s allowed a .267/.375/.467 line with a 21.4 percent strikeout rate and 16.1 percent walk rate. It’s hard to get there, but when runners get in scoring position, that’s when teams can strike.

Jakob Junis had an even first half of the season at best. He’s striking out hitters at a similar rate to last season, but he’s walking a fairly significant amount more. His zone percentage has gone down every year of his career, and even though he’s getting more swinging strikes than ever before, he’s getting hit harder too. He had a really nice start against the Nationals before the break, going seven innings for the first time since June 11th and giving up just two runs on five hits. He did give up two home runs, which means he’s allowed eight in his last six starts, and he just can’t seem to get over the hump. He’s been much better after the break in his first two big league seasons as I’ve mentioned before, so the Royals have to be hoping he can keep that up. He’s faced the White Sox just once, on the second day of the season, and he went 5.2 innings and gave up three runs on six hits with six strikeouts and one walk. If Giolito is on, he’ll need to be better than that in this one.

Tuesday July 16th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dylan Cease 1 5.0 1 0 25.0% 16.7% 5.40 6.95 0.0
Glenn Sparkman 17 64.1 2 5 12.1% 6.0% 5.18 5.59 -0.3

Dylan Cease was ranked 38th in the Baseball America top prospects rankings, 21st in the MLB Pipeline rankings and 26th in the Baseball Prospectus rankings prior to the season, but he wasn’t great in AAA. While most pitchers struggling in AAA have done so due to the insane home runs, Cease allowed just four in 68.1 innings. Intead, he was bit by poor control and being too hittable in general with 75 hits allowed. In his first big league start, he walked four in five innings and struck out six, so there was definitely good with bad. The fastball is one of his money makers. He throws it in the mid-90s, but he can get to upper-90s and sometimes above. But that said, it doesn’t have great movement, so if he’s missing spots, it’ll get hit. His curve is the other, and it has a chance to be one of the best in baseball. If he has both pitches working, forget about it. His changeup and slider are really just okay, and if he has to rely on one of them, there’s a good chance he’s going to get hit around a bit.

With the trade of Homer Bailey, Glenn Sparkman seems to be getting a rotation reprieve, and he admittedly was better in his last start. After getting destroyed in Toronto in his start before, he allowed four runs on six hits and it looked like he was heading for another drubbing. But he really settled down and gave up no runs on three hits over his final four innings. The issue that will always come up is there’s just too much contact. If you can’t get a swing and miss, you’re going to have trouble, and that’s what happens with hiim too often in spite of his occasionally very big fastball. He’s had one real start against the White Sox this year and gave up three runs over 6.2 innings in a start in Kansas City. The “in Kansas City” part is at least somewhat interesting as he has a 2.19 ERA at home and 9.22 on the road. This game is in Kansas City. It likely means nothing, but maybe it helps him mentally. I don’t know, I’m trying here.

Wednesday July 17th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Ivan Nova 19 106.0 4 8 15.1% 5.6% 5.60 4.74 0.5
Danny Duffy 14 77.2 3 5 19.1% 9.3% 4.64 5.26 0.6

With Ivan Nova, it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll give up a lot of hits and not allow many walks. They kind of go hand in hand since he’s around the zone so much without elite stuff. He’s walked more than two batters just three times in 19 starts and hasn’t done so since May 17th. It’s been a tough year, but after a rough one against the Yankees in mid-June, he’s been better. He’s gone 28.2 innings in five starts with a 3.77 ERA and just five walks in that time. A couple numbers stand out in Nova’s splits. The first is that he’s so bad the third time through the order that he almost has to be taken out after facing 18 batters no matter what. He’s allowed a .346/.409/.663 line, which is just silly. And yet, he’s faced 116 hitters a third time this season. I don’t get that. The second is that he’s allowed a .363 average and .643 slugging percentage when he’s even in the count. Most guys struggle when behind, are great when ahead and somewhere in between when the count is even, but not Nova. He’s very special.

Danny Duffy is scheduled for this start, and I assume he’ll make it, but you never really know since he left his last start after being hit with a ball for the second time this season. This time, Ned Yost indicated he had numbness in his hand which hindered his command. The results lined up. After getting hit with a line drive off the bat of Victor Reyes, he threw a wild pitch, walked a guy and then gave up a single and a double. After looking pretty okay in the first two innings, he fell apart. His velocity was there and all that so hopefully it was just a short-term thing because the Royals really need Duffy to make at least most of his starts and pitch well the rest of this season.

Thursday July 18th - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Ross Detwiler 3 14.1 1 0 9.5% 4.8% 5.02 5.01 0.0
Brad Keller 20 118.2 5 9 16.4% 10.7% 4.25 5.00 1.5

Ross Detwiler has surprisingly had a pretty long career that is now with his seventh team in the White Sox. He hasn’t been effective, though since probably 2014 when he posted a 4.00 ERA in 47 relief appearances. He doesn’t strike many out and while his walk rate is low this year, he’s always been a bit too wild for the lack of strikeouts in his game. He only averages 90-91 with his fastball and mixes in a curve, changeup sinker and cutter. He’s given up some really hard hit balls on his four-seamer, curve and changeup, which are the three pitches he throws the most. So basically he’s been hit pretty hard. Which is good for the Royals, if you like that sort of thing.

Brad Keller is coming off what is likely the best start of his career. By game score, it matched a start last year in June against the Angels and actually his opening day start this year against the White Sox, but I think the eight innings with no walks gives it an edge over those two. He’s had a bit of a weird run. He started June with three starts spanning 22 innings with a 2.05 ERA. Then he sandwiched three scoreless innings between getting roughed up twice. And now he’s had a weird July with one start allowing just one run but walking five and the other his amazing performance on Saturday night. While Keller has had issues with the White Sox this year beyond pitching, he’s been really good against them with a 2.77 ERA and 21 hits allowed in 26 innings. Interestingly enough, it’s the whole AL Central that Keller has handled well. He’s 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA in 11 starts spanning 68 innings against his own division. There are worse areas to be surprisingly good in.

Prediction

While the Royals are 12.5 behind the White Sox and just 4-8 against them this year, their run differentials are basically identical. Are the Royals equal to the White Sox? I don’t think so, but I do think the Royals are underachievers while the White Sox are overachievers, so they’re closer right now than the records indicate. I want to say the Royals can even win this series, but I just don’t trust the starters to pitch well enough and I think the White Sox take three of four.

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Royals Sweep
    (5 votes)
  • 6%
    White Sox Sweep
    (6 votes)
  • 11%
    Royals Win Three of Four
    (10 votes)
  • 20%
    White Sox Win Three of Four
    (18 votes)
  • 56%
    Split
    (50 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now