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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: A team in freefall takes on the Royals

At least one losing streak is guaranteed to end.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox remain the odds on favorites to win the American League Central, but they haven’t exactly shown out like you’d expect them to at the start of the season. They did win six of their first eight, but they’ve now lost seven in a row. They did lose seven in a row at one point during the 2020 season and still finished 35-25, so it’s not a season killer or anything, but it’s not ideal. Part of their issue is that they have so many injuries. They’ve gotten nothing from Lance Lynn, Yoan Moncada, Joe Kelly, Ryan Burr and Garrett Crochet, the latter of whom will miss the whole season. Lucas Giolito missed time, but he’s now back. Eloy Jimenez is now out at least six weeks. Things aren’t going great for the White Sox right now. Their offensive issues aren’t that dissimilar to the Royals; it’s just that their bad hitters aren’t hitting as poorly as the Royals’ bad hitters are. Pitching-wise, their biggest issue right now is getting Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer back on track. Oh, and getting Lynn back because Vince Velazquez and Dallas Keuchel are NOT cutting it.

Note: This is the last series with 2021 stats. Starting Friday, it’s all current.

Royals vs. White Sox Matchup Stats

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .457 .574
H2H Wins 10 9
Team wRC+ 89 109
Team xFIP 4.52 3.85
Run Differential -102 160
Highest Returning fWAR Nicky Lopez, 6.0 Tim Anderson, 4.7

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 551 .309 .338 .469 4.0% 21.6% 120 4.7
Luis Robert CF 296 .338 .378 .567 4.7% 20.6% 157 3.4
Jose Abreu 1B 659 .261 .351 .481 9.3% 21.7% 126 2.7
Yasmani Grandal C 375 .240 .420 .520 23.2% 21.9% 159 3.7
AJ Pollock RF 422 .297 .355 .536 7.1% 19.0% 137 3.1
Gavin Sheets DH 179 .250 .324 .506 8.9% 22.3% 125 0.3
Andrew Vaughn LF 469 .235 .309 .396 8.7% 21.5% 94 -0.2
Jake Burger 3B 42 .263 .333 .474 9.5% 35.7% 120 0.2
Josh Harrison 2B 558 .279 .341 .400 5.6% 13.4% 103 2.2

White Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Reese McGuire C 217 .253 .310 .343 6.9% 20.3% 78 1.3
Leury Garcia INF/OF 474 .267 .335 .376 8.6% 20.5% 98 1.8
Danny Mendick INF/OF 186 .220 .303 .287 9.7% 22.6% 68 -0.1
Adam Engel OF 140 .252 .336 .496 7.9% 22.1% 127 1.5

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 69 71.0 8 3 42.3% 2.6% 2.54 2.14 2.7
Aaron Bummer 62 56.1 5 5 31.0% 12.0% 3.51 2.80 1.2
Kendall Graveman 53 56.0 5 1 27.5% 9.0% 1.77 3.47 1.1

Royals vs. White Sox Pitching Matchups

April 26 - Daniel Lynch vs. Dallas Keuchel, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 15 68.0 4 6 17.7% 10.0% 5.69 5.22 0.5
Dallas Keuchel 32 162.0 9 9 13.2% 8.2% 5.28 4.74 0.6

Daniel Lynch has had two very different starts. In the first, he looked dynamite but gave up six runs in five innings. I originally thought he was fine in the second but the results were great. I went back to watch (I was at the game) and he looked better than I thought, but still not as sharp. Baseball is weird. Either way, I think his fastball is going to continue to be more effective this year than it was last year with better extension on it than he had before. The whiff rate is showing that early and has helped him to be a bit better against righties with it than last year, though still not great. His changeup has been hit by righties and the White Sox will feature a lot of right-handed bats, so he’s either going to need to put that pitch away or be better with it or else he’ll find himself in big trouble.

Career vs. CHW: 3 GS, 8.1 IP, 1-2, 16.20 ERA


To say that Keuchel has had a rough start would be a massive understatement. He couldn’t escape the second in his last start. He was outstanding for the White Sox in the short 2020 season, but posted an ERA over 5.00 last year and looks like he’s working toward that again this year. He’s never been a hard-thrower, but Keuchel is down to 87 with his sinker this year. It’s still working with a ground ball rate near 60 percent, but his cutter and slider are getting absolutely massacred. Additionally, right-handed batters have been very good against him since the start of last season, so I would hope the Royals will try to find a way to get Edward Olivares in there again (I know, I love to joke) and stack that lineup the best they can.

Career vs. KC: 14 GS, 84.0 IP, 6-4, 3.21 ERA

April 27 - Zack Greinke 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
Zack Greinke 30 171.0 11 6 17.2% 5.2% 4.16 4.21 1.3
Dylan Cease 32 165.2 13 7 31.9% 9.6% 3.91 3.72 4.4

You have to love a 2.25 ERA with just three walks in 16 innings. But you also have to be concerned about the fact that Greinke has struck out just two batters in his first three starts and has just 11 swings and misses all season. To put that into context, there have been 134 games this season with more than 11 swings and misses. So that’s pretty concerning. The hope is that he figures something out to get hitters to miss because eventually the ball is going to be flying a little better and that’ll be trouble. The Royals defense is excellent, but you’re playing with fire if you’re not getting any strikeouts at all. The upside here is that Greinke is exactly the type of pitcher who can figure it out. Whether he will or not remains to be seen, but it’s a challenge I’d pick him for if I had to pick any pitcher to overcome it.

Career vs. CHW: 28 G, 25 GS, 171.0 IP, 9-10, 3.95 ERA


Dylan Cease was a pretty popular under-the-radar Cy Young pick this year, which makes me wonder if you can be under-the-radar if you’re a popular pick for something. But either way, it’s with good reason. All three of his starts were among the 134 games with more whiffs than Greinke has gotten all year. He threw his slider a lot last year. He’s throwing it way more this year. And opponents are swinging and missing it a lot. But the real secret to his success this season so far is that his fastball has been dominant. He’s not getting quite the whiffs on it that he did last year, but opponents are hitting .091 against it and not making any kind of hard contact. If he can keep his walk rate around the 10 percent mark, he’s going to be tough to beat. It’s when he starts walking batters that things go south for him.

Career vs. KC: 9 GS, 48.2 IP, 3-2, 2.96 ERA

April 28 - Brad Keller vs. Michael Kopech, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 26 133.2 8 12 19.6% 10.4% 5.39 4.57 1.1
Michael Kopech 44 69.1 4 3 36.1% 8.4% 3.50 2.99 1.7

Brad Keller was rolling in his last start and picking up where he left off in his first two. Then a couple soft singles happened and he made the team’s first error of the year and the floodgates opened. I wrote on Inside the Crown that I don’t fully understand his approach of living on his four-seam fastball and using his slider less, but maybe he just didn’t have it or didn’t have the feel for it. Not to preach here, but it’s another reason why having a limited arsenal can be a problem, even if you’re feeling good about the few pitches you do have. Still, Keller has shown much better control this season and I think his streak of retiring the first batter of an inning is remarkable. That’ll come to an end soon enough, but what a great way to start each inning for him.

Career vs. CHW: 16 G, 13 GS, 77.2 IP, 5-5, 3.48 ERA


When the White Sox acquired Michael Kopech from the Red Sox, the plan was for him to start. Then he got hurt and he worked his way back in the bullpen and his massive fastball was a huge weapon, but he’s back in the rotation now. He’s been outstanding to start the year and got up to 83 pitches in his last start. His fastball is a little tamer, averaging 95-97 now instead of 97-100, but it’s still a good pitch. What’s a little scary is that he has a good slider but he’s struggled with it this year. If he can get that on track, he’s going to be scary good. A big key against Kopech is patience. That’s not a Royals strong suit, obviously, but only 44.1 percent of his pitches have been in the strike zone this year. That’s 31st fewest out of 281 pitchers with at least 50 pitches thrown in the zone.

Career vs. KC: 7 G, 1 GS, 12.2 IP, 0-0, 4.97 ERA

Royals vs. White Sox Prediction

A day off could do both of these teams good as they’re both coming off getting swept. Even with the White Sox offense not at full strength, I don’t love the matchup to start the series and then I think their offense will get it going at some point, so I’m going to say the Royals lose two of three, but I’m guessing the White Sox fans are assuming the same of their team with the way they’re playing.

Poll

Do the Royals break their losing streak this week in Chicago?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Yep, and they win all 3.
    (11 votes)
  • 31%
    They do and they even take the series with 2 wins.
    (43 votes)
  • 41%
    Barely, they just win 1.
    (56 votes)
  • 19%
    Nope, it lives on! 0 wins.
    (26 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now