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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: Wrapping up with the division champs

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The Royals and White Sox are in a dead heat in the season series, so this one is for all the marbles.

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals will complete their season series with the Chicago White Sox this weekend at Kauffman Stadium with three that will decide the winner of the season series. To this point, the Royals have played the White Sox well overall, splitting the first 16 games and winning seven of the last 11 after losing four of the first five. The White Sox aren’t in what you’d call great shape right now with some key injuries, but they don’t need to be. They’ve got a comfortable lead in the division that would take a monumental collapse and a hot streak it doesn’t appear anyone in the AL Central is capable of. They also don’t have much of a shot at the best record in the league as they’re a handful of games behind the Rays. They do want to work to get Game One of the ALDS, likely against Houston, at home, but otherwise, it’s about getting ready for the playoffs for them.

Offensively, they are currently without Tim Anderson and Adam Engel, but they have gotten Luis Robert back and Eloy Jimenez has continued to play well since he debuted against the Royals a few weeks ago. Combine that with Jose Abreu shaking off his early-season slump, Yasmani Grandal coming back raking and continued support work from some of the unsung guys and they continue to steadily put up runs. It’s really interesting how they do it, too, because it’s a very balanced approach. They rank in the bottom half of the league in home runs, but with Jimenez and Robert back, they have more power. They also work walks, don’t strike out at an exorbitant rate and just generally don’t have much in the way of holes. On the pitching staff, they’re currently without Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito left his last start early, but their bullpen with the additions of Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera is nasty and the rotation still has plenty to get through September as long as they can get back their horses for October.

Royals vs. White Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .444 .582
Team wRC+ 87 110
Team xFIP 4.47 3.83
Run Differential -99 144
H2H Wins 8 8
Highest fWAR Nicky Lopez, 3.5 Carlos Rodon, 4.3

White Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Luis Robert CF 185 .337 .378 .541 5.4% 22.7% 152 2.2
Yoan Moncada 3B 512 .264 .375 .398 13.9% 25.8% 120 3.9
Jose Abreu 1B 546 .263 .344 .499 8.4% 22.5% 130 2.7
Eloy Jimenez DH 131 .270 .313 .516 5.3% 20.6% 125 0.7
Yasmani Grandal C 268 .217 .408 .515 23.9% 24.6% 156 2.6
Brian Goodwin RF 237 .227 .318 .401 11.4% 21.5% 101 0.5
Andrew Vaughn LF 424 .251 .325 .429 9.0% 21.5% 109 1.0
Leury Garcia SS 370 .249 .327 .346 9.7% 22.4% 90 1.4
Cesar Hernandez 2B 549 .227 .304 .398 9.5% 22.2% 91 1.7

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 95 .200 .261 .412 6.3% 38.9% 84 0.3
Gavin Sheets INF/OF 103 .239 .311 .554 8.7% 19.4% 132 0.3
Romy Gonzalez (AAA) INF 34 .344 .382 .750 5.9% 23.5% 192 ---
Danny Mendick INF/OF 174 .217 .306 .289 10.3% 21.8% 72 0.3
Billy Hamilton OF 112 .225 .245 .396 2.7% 33.9% 71 0.5

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 57 59.0 8 3 41.6% 3.1% 3.05 2.39 1.8
Craig Kimbrel 52 49.0 2 4 43.2% 8.9% 2.02 2.36 1.9
Ryan Tepera 59 56.0 0 2 31.2% 7.3% 2.73 3.60 1.4

Probable Starting Pitchers

Friday - Dallas Keuchel vs. Carlos Hernandez, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dallas Keuchel 26 136.2 8 7 14.0% 7.9% 5.00 4.56 0.3
Carlos Hernandez 20 64.2 4 1 24.9% 10.6% 3.62 4.33 0.9

It hasn’t been a banner year for Dallas Keuchel, who is in the second year of his three-year deal with the White Sox. We’ve talked about this before with him since the Royals have faced him twice (with some success), but his already low strikeout rate has dropped even further and his control hasn’t been as good this season. When you’re only averaging 87.6 MPH on your hard stuff, it leaves very little margin for error. He’s still getting a ton of ground balls, sitting in the top 10 in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings, but he’s also allowed more home runs than ever before, actually tying his career high all the way back on the last day of July. He has basically no platoon split this year, but he’s really struggled outside of Guaranteed Rate Field, posting a 5.46 ERA on the road. He gives up fewer home runs, but his strikeouts on the road are way down and his walks way up. He’s 0-2 in two starts against the Royals this year and gave up three home runs in his lone start at Kauffman Stadium.

Carlos Hernandez unexpectedly came out of the bullpen in his last outing, though I doubt it was unexpected to him. He relieved Kris Bubic after Bubic struggled to get deep into the game and when the Royals made it a game after being blown out early, I think Mike Matheny went for it with a guy who was available on regular rest. And then he was absolutely flawless. He retired the first 14 batters he faced before finally giving up a hit with the runner on second in extra innings. He ended up giving up the run, but went 5.2 innings in relief with no earned runs allowed and just one hit. He was dominant. This current run he’s on actually started with a great start against the White Sox and now in his last six games, he’s thrown 36.1 innings with 28 strikeouts, seven walks and just 24 hits allowed. The difference has been that he’s started pounding the strike zone and with his stuff, that’s the important thing for him. The White Sox hit him hard back in April, but he made back-to-back starts against them in late July/early August and gave up one run in 11 innings with 10 strikeouts and three walks, so he’s had some success there.

Saturday - Reynaldo Lopez vs. Daniel Lynch, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Reynaldo Lopez 14 35.0 3 1 29.8% 5.6% 1.54 3.46 0.8
Daniel Lynch 10 48.1 4 3 18.4% 10.1% 4.47 4.87 0.8

I’ll be honest when I say that I had forgotten Reynaldo Lopez was a thing before he came back to the big leagues a few weeks ago. But he’s been really good since his return in a hybrid role. He’s been mostly out of the bullpen but has filled in with starts when needed, and he’s needed again with the injuries in the White Sox rotation. He’s actually not allowed a run in nine of his 14 outings and one of the games he allowed a run, it was unearned (that was against the Royals). He had a down year last season, but he’s seen his velocity go back to 2019 and before levels, which has resulted in a nearly unhittable fastball. Opponents are hitting just .117 with a .183 SLG on it. His slider has also been good, but he’s making these gains because of the fastball. As good as he’s been, he still hasn’t topped 75 pitches and he’s only thrown more than 60 once, so unless the Royals are swing happy (almost a certainty), he won’t get that deep in the game. While he’s dominated everyone this year, he has been worse against lefties, but that’s all relative. He appears to be pitching like the guy the White Sox thought they were getting a few years ago, and if that continues, it’s a case of the pitching rich getting richer.

Daniel Lynch’s last start was kind of a mixed bag. His slider was on point and he was getting some ugly swings from the Mariners, but he really was having trouble commanding any of his pitches, and ultimately it forced him from the game before he could get through the fifth inning. He only allowed the one run, but he allowed 10 runners in 4.2 innings, and left the bases loaded for Domingo Tapia to clean up the mess, which he mostly did. Lynch will always remember the brutal start he had against the White Sox in Kansas City in May when he couldn’t get out of the first, but he pitched well against them in Chicago last month, giving up just one run on four hits over five innings with seven strikeouts. The White Sox handle lefties well, but Lynch’s slider is an equalizer and if he’s controlling his pitches with that, he should be fine, but he has walks 13 batters in his last four starts, spanning 21.1 innings, so he’ll likely have to be better against a good offense.

Sunday - Dylan Cease vs. Brady Singer, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dylan Cease 27 143.2 11 6 30.8% 9.2% 3.82 3.86 3.5
Brady Singer 23 109.0 3 9 22.0% 9.7% 4.87 4.29 2.0

When you watch Dylan Cease pitch sometimes, you wonder how a team could possibly have someone better. The stuff really pops with him. The issue has always been that he just walked too many batters...until now. Since his last start of May, Cease has walked 32 batters in 98.1 innings. That’s not elite control or anything, but when you have the swing and miss stuff he does (and he’s struck out 132 in that time), you can walk a few as long as it doesn’t get to be too much. It’s no longer too much. His fastball is live, don’t get me wrong, but where Cease gets scary is with his slider and then his curve and changeup to a lesser extent. The slider is just pure filth with a 47.6 percent whiff rate. His curve is up near 40 percent and his changeup is close to the slider rate, but he also doesn’t throw them that much. He throws his slider 30 percent of the time. He has a very odd home/road split, though, that favors the Royals in this one. At home, he has a 2.53 ERA in 14 starts, but that jumps all the way to 5.73 in 13 road starts. He has absolutely dominated the Royals, though, in four starts, going 1-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 22.1 innings.

I don’t think Brady Singer’s changeup is very good yet, but I’ve been encouraged by the fact that he’s actually throwing them. He faced the Astros twice in a row and in the second start used his changeup a lot more. And then in his last start against the Mariners, he used it again. It runs armside and rises a bit too much for my taste, but we’ve been able to see it actually help his other pitches, and his sinker gets so many called strikes already, but it seems like it’s helped to get even more. This is the benefit even if the pitch doesn’t ever get good. It gives the hitters something different to think about. He now has a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings over the last three starts with 17 strikeouts. He’s walked nine, so that’s not ideal, but he’s been much better. He’s only faced the White Sox once this year and pitched well in Chicago, giving up two runs on seven hits over 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.

Prediction

The last time the Royals hosted the Indians and then welcomed the White Sox to follow, it was ugly. That was during the 11-game losing streak and the last series against the Indians didn’t look too different from that first one. Still, I just feel like these Royals are matching up better with the White Sox than the Indians for some reason, which is why I think they won’t get swept and will win one game.

Poll

The season series is on the line. Who takes the last three between the Royals and White Sox?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Royals sweep to put an exclamation point on the season series.
    (8 votes)
  • 38%
    Royals win two of three and will use winning a season series over the White Sox in all 2022 marketing materials.
    (26 votes)
  • 35%
    White Sox take the series with two of three and the Royals marketing team scrambles to spin going 9-10 against the White Sox as a way to sell season tickets.
    (24 votes)
  • 14%
    The White Sox sweep and the Royals marketing team curses this series.
    (10 votes)
68 votes total Vote Now