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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: Expectations are high on the South Side

Injuries are up too, so that’s not great for the Pale Hose.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For the Royals to get where they want to go, the White Sox are an obstacle they need to figure out a way to conquer. They went 1-9 against them last season, and if you’re scoring at home, that means they were 25-25 against everyone else. The issue for the Royals is that the White Sox don’t appear to be going anywhere unless they have some self-inflicted wounds. And that’s certainly possible. The hiring of Tony LaRussa as new (and old) manager has a chance to be an issue for them if he struggles to relate to the new age of baseball. He obviously has a resume as good as anyone’s, but the game is different today than even when he last managed the Cardinals in 2011.

And as a team, the White Sox are strong but not without their flaws. Their lineup is very deep, but with Eloy Jimenez on the shelf, the depth took a bit of a hit. The White Sox are trying to replace him with top prospect Andrew Vaughn learning left field on the fly, but that can be a bit treacherous during the learning process. Now Tim Anderson is on the IL, so that’s another blow. They did sign Adam Eaton to help balance out their lineup a bit and he’s started the year well, but while they do have young talent, there are some aging bats that have the potential to drop off. Jose Abreu is a perfect example. He won the MVP in a short season, but he was also more solid than even good in the two years prior to 2020. If he’s the .275/.328/.490 bat from 2018/2019, maybe the lineup isn’t quite as scary.

But their pitching is deep. Lucas Giolito has turned into a legitimate ace. They already had Dallas Keuchel in the fold after signing him prior to last season and they went out and acquired Lance Lynn who might literally be a horse given how many innings he throws. He probably isn’t because that would seem to be against the rules, but you never know for sure. And their bullpen got a huge boost with the signing of Liam Hendriks to anchor that unit that also includes two outstanding lefties and good arms from top to bottom. This is a good team. It’s not an unbeatable team, but it’s a very good one.

Royals vs. White Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .433 .583
Team wRC+ 91 113
Team xFIP 4.47 4.36
Run Differential -24 60
Highest Returning fWAR Salvador Perez, 1.9 Jose Abreu, 2.6

White Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Adam Eaton RF 176 .226 .285 .384 6.8% 18.2% 75 -0.5
Luis Robert CF 227 .233 .302 .436 8.8% 32.2% 101 1.5
Jose Abreu 1B 262 .317 .370 .617 6.9% 22.5% 166 2.6
Yoan Moncada 3B 231 .225 .320 .385 12.1% 31.2% 96 1.6
Yermin Mercedes DH 1 .000 .000 .000 0.0% 0.0% -100 0.0
Yasmani Grandal C 194 .230 .351 .422 15.5% 29.9% 116 1.7
Andrew Vaughn (2019 High-A) LF 126 .252 .349 .411 12.7% 13.5% 122 ---
Leury Garcia SS 63 .271 .317 .441 6.3% 14.3% 108 0.4
Nick Madrigal 2B 109 .340 .376 .369 3.7% 6.4% 112 0.1

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 18 .063 .167 .125 11.1% 27.8% -15 -0.2
Jake Lamb 3B/1B 99 .193 .283 .352 8.1% 25.3% 77 -0.2
Danny Mendick INF 114 .243 .281 .383 5.3% 21.9% 80 0.3
Nick Williams (2019) OF 112 .151 .196 .245 3.6% 38.4% 13 -0.9

White Sox Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Liam Hendriks 24 25.1 3 1 40.2% 3.3% 1.78 2.07 1.4
Aaron Bummer 9 9.1 1 0 36.8% 13.2% 0.96 2.42 0.3
Garrett Crochet 5 6.0 0 0 36.4% 0.0% 0.00 2.63 0.2

Probable Pitchers

April 8 - Brad Keller vs. Lance Lynn, 3:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 9 54.2 5 3 25.9% 7.3% 2.47 4.33 1.3
Lance Lynn 13 84.0 6 3 16.3% 7.9% 3.32 4.34 1.3

Lynn has had such an interesting career. He came up with the Cardinals and was really quite good. From 2012 to 2015, he threw a good number of innings and posted a 3.38 ERA in 132 games. Then he got hurt and came back with another solid year before signing with the Twins, struggling and getting sent to New York to play with the Yankees. There, they altered his repertoire and he started striking out more batters and that led to a three-year deal he signed with the Rangers where he was very good in 2019 and even better in 2020, leading all of baseball in innings pitched with 84.

Now he’s basically all hard stuff. He throws his four-seam fastball about half the time (actually more in his first start this year) and averaged 94+ on it. He throws a really good cutter that has some excellent spin and he throws a sinker to round things out at 91-93. All the pitches keep hitters off balance even without much in the way of speed change. It’s a risky gambit against a team that can handle a fastball, but it’s worked for him for a few years now, so he’s a really nice piece for the White Sox to have added. As this new pitcher, he handled the Royals pretty well in 2019, but this is a better lineup than it was then, so I guess we’ll see.

Brad Keller would very much like to forget his first start, but it has me concerned for a reason that has nothing to do with the results. It could very well be that he didn’t have a chance to get to his slider because he didn’t get through the lineup enough, but I’m a bit worried about the backed off usage from his first start of the year compared to last season. Add in some increased velocity on the fastball (and maybe he didn’t have time to get tired either), and that’s a bit of a recipe for elbow issues. And then to push him back a day really exacerbates my concern here. It could be absolutely nothing, but I’ll feel a lot better if he’s throwing his slider more in this start. He’s handled Chicago just fine in his career with a 3.20 ERA in 56.1 innings and he’s even struck out 45 batters against them with just four home runs allowed. Weirdly he missed them entirely in 2020, though, and that team is much more like the 2021 version than what he faced in 2018 and 2019.

April 10 - Mike Minor vs. Dylan Cease, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Minor 12 56.2 1 6 25.9% 8.4% 5.56 4.50 0.8
Dylan Cease 12 58.1 5 4 17.3% 13.3% 4.01 5.87 -0.4

I know that Dylan Cease was a top prospect, ranking as high as 21st on the MLB Pipeline list prior to 2019, but man do I not like him as a pitcher. He got a bunch of strikeouts as a rookie in 2019, but walked too many. Then he came out last year and the strikeouts were gone but the walks were still there. He’s kind of exhausting. And in his first start, it was more of the same. He didn’t make out of the fifth and walked three batters and gave up five hits. Oh yeah, and he gives up a lot of home runs too.

It’s not about stuff. He has good stuff. His fastball sits in the upper-90s and his slider gets a ton of swings and misses. But he gets hit hard on his changeup and his curve doesn’t seem to have much to it in the times I’ve seen him pitch. This new, more patient Royals lineup is the type of lineup that should give Cease trouble. They can hit a fastball and they can lay off pitches they’re supposed to lay off. I feel like if the weather cooperates, the Royals could have some fun.

Minor was able to get past the fourth inning in his first start, which was noteworthy given two of the four performances we saw from the original starting four. And there was a lot to like after he settled down. He had 13 swings and misses on 93 pitches, which is very good. He only walked two, which was great, though it’s a bit misleading because he hit someone on a three-ball count. My worry is that the White Sox lineup has their way with left-handed pitching and Minor is a left-handed pitcher. But they also have their share of swing and miss in the lineup, so maybe he can work that high fastball to his advantage and keep them off balance. Ideally, I’d like to see him get through five, but I wouldn’t let him see the meat of the lineup a third time.

April 11 - Brady Singer vs. Carlos Rodon, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 12 64.1 4 5 23.2% 8.7% 4.06 4.05 1.0
Carlos Rodon 4 7.2 0 2 17.1% 8.6% 8.22 6.21 0.1

Rodon has had a rough go of things. Once the next ace of the team, he just never really was able to take over that mantle and struggled in 2019 with injuries and ineffectiveness before bottoming out last year and missing most of the season. His first start showed that he might be back, though it’s risky to say that with any certainty after what he’s been through. But he averaged 95 on his four-seamer and the slider looked absolutely nasty with hitters swinging through 75 percent of them they swung at.

He struck out nine in his outing and six were on the slider. He had some command issues. He walked three and hit two more, so it’s still a work in progress, but his stuff looked as good in that first start of the year as it has in a long, long time for him. The Royals lineup is actually built to handle lefties, especially if Hunter Dozier is back in it, so that’s something to be concerned about but if he’s throwing mid-90s and pumping that slider like he did against Seattle, they’ll be just fine.

Brady Singer had a really rough go of it against the Rangers on Sunday as he just didn’t seem to have command. Right when it looked like he might be finding it, he gave up a monster blast to Nate Lowe and the game just went off the rails for him from there. The White Sox don’t walk a ton and they’re known to strike out, so if he has his slider working, he could find some success in this game. But they can also hit the long ball, which has been a problem for him at times throughout his young career, so that’s a bit of a concern. He faced them in back-to-back starts last season and struggled a little, though he did only give up one home run in 10.2 innings, so that’s something worth noting.

Prediction

I like the way this Royals team is playing, but I think the White Sox are still better, and I’m definitely concerned about Keller and his health. I’m going to say the White Sox take two of three.

Poll

How does this series end?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Royals Sweep
    (9 votes)
  • 48%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (64 votes)
  • 35%
    White Sox Win Two of Three
    (46 votes)
  • 9%
    White Sox Sweep
    (12 votes)
131 votes total Vote Now