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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: Yep, they’re the best team in baseball

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What do you get when you cross the best team in baseball with a team on an 11-game losing streak? Pain. You get pain.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Life comes at you fast. The White Sox started fine, but not great and have lost both their starting left fielder and their starting center fielder to injury for most, if not all, of the season. The Royals were cruising along in first place and with the best record in baseball, but they haven’t won in nearly two weeks while the White Sox have been piling up the wins. They’ve won six in a row and only three of them against the Royals! In those six wins, they’ve scored 47 runs and allowed just 17 with eight of them in one game. This is an incredibly complete team that might be playing as well as they’ll play for the entire season. So to say this isn’t great timing is an understatement. Of course, there’s probably not a good team for the Royals to play right now.

I mentioned the White Sox offense has been rocking and you can see below just how deep their lineup is. They’re in need of some help in center field, but everyone else is so good that they can carry a lesser bat. And now that Jose Abreu is starting to hit, it really is nearly impossible to navigate their lineup with anything less than a perfect pitching performance. On the pitching side, they might be as good with one of the best rotations in baseball backed up by a bullpen that can be truly dominant. They’re still hamstrung with a manager who doesn’t really seem to be fully up to speed on baseball in 2021, but they look the part of all the offseason accolades they received.

Royals vs. White Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .444 .629
Team wRC+ 92 117
Team xFIP 4.37 3.59
Run Differential -35 66
H2H Wins 1 4
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Carlos Rodon and Lance Lynn, 1.3

White Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tim Anderson SS 116 .315 .345 .477 3.4% 28.4% 133 1.2
Adam Eaton RF 122 .215 .300 .364 7.4% 24.6% 93 0.5
Yoan Moncada 3B 143 .262 .364 .385 11.9% 28.7% 120 1.1
Jose Abreu 1B 152 .240 .336 .457 10.5% 27.0% 125 0.8
Yermin Mercedes DH 118 .382 .424 .591 6.8% 15.3% 188 1.2
Yasmani Grandal C 100 .130 .384 .333 29.0% 22.0% 122 0.7
Andrew Vaughn LF 92 .263 .380 .395 14.1% 23.9% 128 0.7
Leury Garcia CF 97 .200 .223 .256 3.1% 25.8% 35 -0.4
Nick Madrigal 2B 120 .295 .333 .375 4.2% 5.0% 104 0.4

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 52 .205 .327 .386 15.4% 28.8% 109 0.2
Jake Lamb INF/OF 31 .167 .355 .292 22.6% 32.3% 101 0.1
Danny Mendick INF/OF 34 .286 .412 .393 17.6% 17.6% 140 0.3
Billy Hamilton OF 34 .226 .273 .323 5.9% 20.6% 70 0.2

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 15 15.1 1 1 41.9% 1.6% 2.93 1.93 0.3
Aaron Bummer 14 12.2 0 1 30.4% 10.7% 1.42 2.34 0.3
Codi Heuer 15 17.1 2 1 25.3% 2.7% 5.19 3.04 0.2

Probable Starting Pitchers

May 14 - Brad Keller vs. Lucas Giolito, 2:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 7 28.1 2 4 15.6% 9.2% 7.31 5.06 -0.2
Lucas Giolito 7 35.2 2 3 27.9% 9.7% 4.54 3.54 0.4

The Royals just faced Lucas Giolito in Kansas City last week and while he gave up just one run on four hits in five innings, there was just something not right about him. He only had nine swings and misses and only struck out two batters. It took him 90 pitches to get through five innings. Obviously the performance was fine and definitely good enough to get a win in a game that the White Sox ultimately won easily, but bigger picture, the White Sox have to wonder what’s going on with their ace. His fastball is still getting results, but teams are hitting his slider and his changeup just hasn’t been the same this season even though it has gotten a lot of swings and misses. The rotation has been so good that they have a chance to let him work through the issues, but once they get to the stretch drive and ultimately the postseason, they’ll need him at his best.

Brad Keller pitched against the White Sox last week and was pushed back a day seemingly to get Daniel Lynch a start against not the White Sox. Keller had what was probably his most impressive looking start of the season against them last week, going six innings and giving up three runs, which doesn’t look great, but his command was better than any other start so far. While it’s a low bar, that’s still something. And over his last three starts, Keller has a 3.86 ERA with just four walks in 16.1 innings. It’s a start. Getting this team in consecutive starts is a real test for him, and if he’s able to pass it, that’ll go a long way toward feeling better about Keller in the short and long-term.

May 14 - Jakob Junis vs. Michael Kopech, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 10 28.0 1 2 25.6% 6.8% 5.14 3.41 0.4
Michael Kopech 9 22.1 2 0 40.2% 9.2% 1.61 2.35 0.9

The White Sox are giving the ball to Michael Kopech as a starter for the nightcap with the idea that even if he can only get through four, they’ll still just need three innings from their bullpen with the seven-inning double header games. After missing all of 2019 and opting out in 2020, there was a chance that he’d be rusty, but he’s been dominant mostly out of the bullpen this season. But even as a reliever, he’s only thrown fewer than 30 pitches twice in nine outings and he threw 87 in a start on April 25. He has a 96-98 MPH fastball, a slider with a 44.4 percent whiff rate, a curve with an average exit velocity of 67.2 MPH and a seldom used changeup that he’s allowed a .178 xwOBA on. It’s the definition of dominance. The Royals best bet in this one is to run his pitch count up and get him out after three if they can.

After being sent to the bullpen to try to lengthen out that unit, Jakob Junis gets another crack at a start due to the double header and Lynch’s inability to go deep enough into the series finale against the Tigers. As a starter, he’s been pretty good this year with a 3.80 ERA in 21.2 innings over four starts. Maybe the most important thing for him has been that he’s allowed just one home run as a starter. Some old issues have crept up over his last few relief outings with three allowed in 4.2 innings. That’s not great. He did have a scoreless outing in his last relief appearance on Wednesday, so maybe that’s a start. His cutter has been a problem in relief, but if he can find that again, he has a chance to keep the Royals in the game in this one.

May 15 - Mike Minor vs. Carlos Rodon, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Minor 7 36.0 2 2 23.9% 9.7% 5.75 4.47 0.2
Carlos Rodon 5 31.0 5 0 37.3% 7.6% 0.58 2.87 1.3

The Royals have to face the current frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award. Maybe that doesn’t mean much this early in the season, but Carlos Rodon has been so good that it’s hard to imagine him getting too far out of the race without an absolute abomination of an outing. Obviously the author of a no-hitter a few weeks ago, he had allowed just seven hits in 25 innings coming into his start in Kansas City. He allowed five in that start, which seems like the Royals may have found some secret to success against him, but three of them were to Salvador Perez. So it seems that if he can work around Perez, he’ll be able to have success again in this one.

Mike Minor gave up five in five innings against these very White Sox on Sunday afternoon and for the second straight game, he only had seven swinging strikes. I’m not sure what he’s doing, but he had 21 strikes looking and that helped him get to seven strikeouts in his five innings. His outings are kind of bizarre because at times it looks like he won’t allow a hit and then at others it looks like he won’t record an out. He has a 3.12 ERA in 17.1 innings at whatever they call the stadium in Chicago now, so that’s something positive he can think about. I’ve gone on about his fastball’s ineffectiveness and he’s throwing it far less than last year, but he might even need to back off it more against a team that can really hit a fastball from lefties.

May 16 - Brady Singer 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
Brady Singer 7 32.1 1 3 23.1% 9.1% 4.18 4.29 0.6
Dylan Cease 7 35.1 2 0 31.8% 11.5% 2.80 3.61 0.9

Something clicked for Dylan Cease after his fourth start of the year. At that point, he’d walked 12 batters in 17.1 innings and while he was good enough to be somewhat successful, it just wasn’t sustainable. Over his last three starts, he’s gone 18 innings and given up nine hits while striking out 27 and walking just five. The stuff has never been a real issue for him, but command is, so if he’s figured that out, he can be just about as good as anyone. Everyone talks about Kopech’s slider, but Cease’s has been even more difficult to make contact with as he’s gotten whiffs on 53 percent of swings. His fastball really is the only pitch that hitters have stood much of a chance against this season. So basically what I’m getting at is that it never gets easier for the Royals offense.

Brady Singer just didn’t have his command his last time out against the Tigers and he relied so heavily on his sinker for some reason. Maybe it was the command issue and he didn’t want to leave the slider in the middle of the zone, but I thought it was a little weird and his velocity was down by a large chunk, so that’s something to watch out for in this one. Singer faced the White Sox twice last season and didn’t fare especially well. After struggling against the Tigers, it’s easy to be pessimistic about his chances in this one, but I think I’m excited to see how he handles it, though I’m also not exactly expecting much.

Prediction

Until the Royals win a game, I find it hard to predict any wins, so I’m going with a White Sox sweep in this one. I wish I had more to say about that, but well, I don’t.

Poll

Can the Royals win just one game?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    One? They’ll win all four!
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    They won’t sweep, but they’ll take three of four.
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    They’ll not only win, but split the series.
    (15 votes)
  • 31%
    Yep, but just one. And it’ll probably be a fluke hit.
    (38 votes)
  • 47%
    Haha nope, they’ll get to 15 to honor Patrick Mahomes.
    (57 votes)
121 votes total Vote Now