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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: The division favorites are in a battle

The White Sox are just two games out, but they were supposed to be running away and hiding by now.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Chicago White Sox Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think there were too many people before the season who didn’t pick the White Sox to win the American League Central. And honestly, they were picked to win it pretty easily. But here they sit on August 1 having hovered around .500 all year. They were four games over .500 on April 16. That’s their season-high. They fell to five games under on May 1. That was their 21st game. And since hitting 44-45 after the first game of the last series before the break, they have been either .500, a game under or a game over. So are they just a mediocre team? You are what your record says you are, I suppose, so yes. But also, the talent on the team indicates they shouldn’t be. Jose Abreu has been on an absolute tear over the last 60 games or so.

They’ve got Eloy Jimenez back and Tim Anderson is having a typical Anderson-type year. Andrew Vaughn has broken out. They are without Luis Robert, but it just feels like they should be scoring more runs. Some of their issue, though, is in their rotation. The Royals will see both Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn and both have had rough seasons. Lynn’s started very late and he just hasn’t gotten on track. They also dealt with eight disastrous Dallas Keuchel starts before they finally moved on from him. And while the bullpen has been good, I don’t think it’s been as good as they expected. So when you break it down, the results come back mediocre.

Royals vs. White Sox Matchup Stats

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .392 .505
H2H Wins 4 4
Team wRC+ 94 99
Team xFIP 4.54 3.95
Run Differential -123 -19
Highest fWAR Bobby Witt Jr., 1.9 Dylan Cease, 3.3

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 324 .311 .352 .413 4.3% 14.8% 120 2.3
Yoan Moncada 3B 224 .203 .263 .324 6.7% 26.3% 67 0.3
AJ Pollock CF 305 .236 .282 .352 5.9% 20.7% 80 -0.2
Jose Abreu 1B 432 .302 .384 .468 10.9% 15.0% 146 3.2
Yasmani Grandal C 229 .200 .297 .245 12.2% 22.7% 61 -0.3
Eloy Jimenez DH 98 .239 .276 .424 4.1% 25.5% 96 0.0
Andrew Vaughn LF 335 .288 .337 .448 5.7% 16.1% 124 0.6
Gavin Sheets RF 249 .227 .289 .380 6.8% 20.5% 91 -0.7
Josh Harrison 2B 258 .233 .301 .375 5.4% 16.3% 94 1.0

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 166 .225 .261 .285 3.6% 19.9% 55 0.4
Seby Zavala C 107 .296 .340 .439 5.6% 29.0% 122 1.1
Leury Garcia INF/OF 261 .211 .236 .275 2.7% 21.1% 43 -0.9
Adam Engel OF 195 .247 .297 .357 5.6% 27.2% 86 0.4

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 35 35.2 2 3 36.1% 6.1% 3.28 2.53 0.9
Kendall Graveman 44 44.2 3 2 22.6% 8.7% 2.82 3.43 0.4
Joe Kelly 24 21.1 1 2 29.7% 14.9% 5.91 3.19 0.2

Royals vs. White Sox Projected Pitching Matchups

August 1 - RHP Brad Keller vs. RHP Michael Kopech, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 19 107.1 5 11 16.0% 8.8% 4.18 4.33 1.0
Michael Kopech 18 88.1 4 6 21.4% 12.3% 3.16 4.97 0.9

It’ll be interesting to see if Brad Keller ends up making this start. I had his trade percentage at less than 50 percent the other day, and I maintain the idea that I wouldn’t expect him getting traded but if there’s anything close or even bordering on close, he shouldn’t be out there for this one. At worst, they can move some things around and get Daniel Lynch in here and shift Keller to Wednesday, so we’ll see. But if he pitches, he’ll be going as a guy who isn’t pitching exceptionally well. He struggled in his first start after the break, walking five and striking out just one against the Rays. He was better the other day against the Angels, but still not great. He did get through six innings with three runs allowed, so he kept the team in the game, but he still walked three batters. The marks of success remain the same for him. If his slider is working and he’s throwing strikes, he can end up with a great start, but if he’s a little off on either or both, he’s going to have to fight to get through five or six innings. Keller has had his moments this year, so it’s not like he’s without value. He’s gone six or more innings in 12 of 19 starts. He’s given up two or fewer runs in seven starts. And he’s walked two or fewer in 11 starts. He’s done all of that five times.

Career vs. CHW: 18 G, 15 GS, 91.2 IP, 5-5, 3.34 ERA

Michael Kopech has successfully transitioned to the rotation this season, but I think his ERA has been a little better than the actual performance. You can see the strikeout and walk rates above and they’re both kind of middling. He’s been tough to hit, so that helps quite a bit, but both his FIP and xFIP are much higher than the actual ERA. Since he left a start on June 12, his season has taken a bit of a turn. He’s thrown 36.2 innings in seven starts with 27 strikeouts and 21 walks. He’s just not getting many swinging strikes and the results have been uneven since that injury pulled him from a game in the first, but he didn’t miss any starts. While his fastball hasn’t been hit this season on the whole, he’s given up a .294 average and .588 SLG on it in those last seven starts. His slider has been hit a bit, but it’s really the fastball that’s been his issue. On the year, lefties have had their way with him a bit with a .767 OPS allowed, though they only have a .226 average, so it’s all walks and power.

Career vs. KC: 8 G, 2 GS, 17.2 IP, 0-0, 4.58 ERA

August 2 - RHP Brady Singer vs. RHP Lucas Giolito, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 16 84.2 4 3 26.6% 6.1% 3.51 3.23 1.5
Lucas Giolito 18 96.1 6 6 25.8% 8.6% 5.14 3.75 0.7

Brady Singer has become appointment television for Royals fans, which is pretty much exactly what the Royals were hoping for when they picked him in the first round in 2018. There is obviously no guarantee that he’ll keep pitching this way from here on out, but he’s thrown two of the best games of his career over his last two starts, including a historic effort against the Yankees on Thursday night. What he’s done is very impressive. Since returning from Omaha, he’s thrown 79 innings over 13 starts with 85 strikeouts and 20 walks. Is it really as simple as just throwing strikes more? Well…sort of. He’s thrown a lot more strikes, but a lot of it is the movement on his sinker because where he excels is when he’s able to start the pitch far enough off the plate that a hitter gives up on him and then he gets called strikes. Some of that comes from his slider keeping hitters off balance and, yes, the vaunted changeup. But I believe his mindset is as big of a help too. He’s not letting innings snowball. He’s been better overall, so fewer runners are getting on base, but when they get into scoring position, he’s allowing a .184/.305/.245 line compared with .310/.400/.492 last year. Is there some regression coming? Maybe, but the RISP line isn’t far off from his line with the bases empty, so he’s just kind of pitching the same game, which is interesting.

Career vs. CHW: 6 G, 5 GS, 33.0 IP, 2-1, 2.73 ERA

Giolito’s season has been a bit of a mess. You can see the ERA and it’s a bit worse than the peripherals would suggest, but he’s getting hit, allowing more than a hit per inning for the first time since his rookie year. Between that and his walk rate jumping from last year (but in line with 2020), he’s just letting too many men on base. I think it’s interesting that his strikeout rate was in the 32 percent to 34 percent range in 2019 and 2020 and it dropped to 27.9 percent last year and the 25.8 percent this season. And the season started well for him. He had a 2.63 ERA after his start on May 25. Since then, it’s been very bad in 11 starts with a 6.75 ERA. Overall, his fastball velocity is down and he’s using his changeup less, which is odd. I guess it hasn’t been as good, but that’s also supposed to be one of his better pitches. He’s also getting knocked around pretty good on his slider, so it’s odd that he’s continued to use that quite a bit. Maybe he needs to use his changeup more against righties because they’re hitting .326/.390/.588 against him this season.

Career vs. KC: 18 GS, 107.1 IP, 8-4 3.44 ERA

August 3 - LHP Kris Bubic vs. RHP Lance Lynn, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 17 74.1 2 6 18.2% 11.6% 5.45 4.70 -0.1
Lance Lynn 9 47.2 1 4 23.1% 4.7% 6.42 3.66 0.3

Similar to Singer, Kris Bubic has turned his game up in a big way since coming back from Omaha. His numbers aren’t quite as impressive, but he has a 3.84 ERA in 11 starts spanning 61 innings. He’s gone 20 innings in his last three starts as well, so he’s starting to give the Royals some length. And while he’s not getting a ton of strikeouts, he does have 14 with just five walks in those last three games. He’s been good over reasonably long stretches before, so I wouldn’t say that the lefty has figured everything out or anything, but it does feel like he’s back on track to be a part of a rotation at the back end. I still think he needs to get back to that slider that he talked about in spring training because righties are hitting .248/.318/.389 against him, but lefties are torching him with a .375/.488/.688 line. He needs something to get those same-siders out whether it’s a slider or something else.

Career vs. CHW: 6 G, 5 GS, 34.0 IP, 0-3, 2.91 ERA

Lynn missed the start of the 2022 season with a knee injury that delayed his season debut until June 13. He had a great first season in Chicago that led to a two-year deal for $38 million that he signed before this season. But he’s been bad since coming back. He’s an innings guy, but he hasn’t thrown more than 6.2 innings in any start this season. He’s also given up five runs or more in six of his nine starts, so he really isn’t giving the White Sox many competitive outings at all. His velocity is way down, averaging 92.7 MPH compared to 94 MPH last year. But his real issue has come on his sinker. He’s allowed a .419 average and .721 SLG on that sinker, and that was a good pitch for him last season. He’s handled righties just fine even with the struggles, but left-handed bats have hit .320/.359/.560 against him. His issues have come largely with runners on, so I wonder a bit if there might be something that he just hasn’t gotten right yet from the stretch, but it would be just fine with me if he could wait until after this start to figure it out.

Career vs. KC: 11 GS, 67.2 IP, 6-2, 3.46 ERA

Royals vs. White Sox Prediction

The Royals have played the White Sox pretty well since last season, and sometimes end up playing well against them after some of their rougher stretches. You might recall them splitting a four-game set against them coming off their 11-game losing streak last year. So I think the Royals just get one in this series, but I don’t know that I’d be surprised by much of anything here.


How do the Royals do against the White Sox this week?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Royals sweep.
    (12 votes)
  • 35%
    Royals win two of three.
    (49 votes)
  • 47%
    Royals nab one but only one.
    (66 votes)
  • 8%
    Royals get swept.
    (12 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now