The Chicago White Sox will back their way into the ALDS taking advantage of a weak AL Central division and will more than likely be staring across the diamond at the Houston Astros. Are they ready to take the AL Pennant and just maybe take a crack at what I think might be an early in the rebuild shot at a World Series title?
The White Sox boast a solid starting rotation with a tendency for a lackluster performance from time to time. The most consistent and their game 1 starter in my opinion is Lance Lynn. Following him would be Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Cease. Between Lynn and Giolito, the White Sox need to take 1 of 2 in Houston. The struggle for Cease has generally been on the road so assuming the standings do not change between now and the start of the ALDS between these two clubs. A game 3 or 4 start at home seems best fit for Cease. This is dependent on Carlos Rodon’s health. If he cannot go at all, Cease will get the nod. This is a tall task for the White Sox as they face a team that statistically ranks 1st in 5 major statistical categories: Runs, Hits, Strikeouts, Average, and OBP.
The Astros would match with Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidy, and probably, Luis Garcia being that Zack Greinke may or may not be able to go in the postseason. These guys are formidable, and any of the three are a threat to go deep into a ballgame. If the Sox can get to them early, it bodes well for the Southsiders. Houston’s pitching seems to be a touch better at home, so sweeping the first two games at home assuming they hold the 2 seed, is their key to the series in my opinion.
The Astros statistically seem to be on top of the American League offensively. That being said, I don’t think they are any more dangerous than the Sox. Playoff baseball seems to come down to pitching but this series feels different. The Sox have had a tendency to go quiet for stretches during the regular season but if they can get hot, they can hit with anyone. I will give the edge to the Astros here, especially with their abundance of playoff experience, but don’t be shocked to see the Sox put up some runs. If Tim Anderson is healthy and hitting the baseball where it is pitched, the Sox become far more dangerous. Houston won’t be able to work around Abreu as anyone could have in years past because now he has protection in that lineup. Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez seem to be penciled in around Abreu and they are both, young, and hungry!!
The White Sox on paper have quite possibly the best bullpen in baseball. That being said, since his trade to the Southside, Craig Kimbrel has been, well, not good. However, his teammate on the north side, Ryan Tepera, has been solid for the White Sox. Couple that with the flamethrowers, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, and closer Liam Hendriks, and well, good luck. They need to be more consistent but if they are, it’s game over. The Astros bullpen is not the household names the Sox have, but they are very good on the back end. Watching the game as a Sox fan, the last thing you would want to see is Ryan Pressly Kendall Graveman, or even Cristian Javier, headed to the mound. That is as good as it gets, especially with a lead. I will give the Sox a slight edge in the bullpen department, but if the edge exists, it is ever so slight.
Defensively the Sox and Astros differ. The Sox lead all of baseball in runs allowed per game at a slight 3.97 RPG. The Astros, a close second with just 4.03 RPG allowed. However, much of this stat can be contributed to pitching. Errors are not pitching dependent and there is a wide margin that may or may not rear its ugly head. The Sox committed 95 errors on the season while the Astros kept their defense a little tighter with just 63 errors. Fielding percentages are a little closer at .982 for the Sox and .989 for the Astros. With all the errors plus all the experience, the Astros have, edge to Houston.
While everything I have written in this article seems to add up to a Houston win, I am going to pick the White Sox to win this series and move on to the ALCS. Tim Anderson being healthy and leading the charge is the X-factor and I think Tony LaRussa knows it. This is why Tim has been given so much time off lately. As long as they pitch and compete every single plate appearance, the Southsiders can beat anyone. Prediction: Sox in 4.
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