Following up: Fortunes flip for Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo López

(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Whether handedness, velocity or pitch mix, Dallas Keuchel and Reynaldo López go about their business in completely different ways, yet both end up with the same slim margin for error.

I hadn’t entirely written off Keuchel for a postseason roster spot, simply because of the amount of injuries the rotation has experienced over the last few weeks made it impossible to reject any feasible option. Still, it was clear when we discussed his fate at the end of August that he was on the outside looking in based on his inability to make his methods work.

He still may be in search of a musical chair when the dust settled, but it’s far less clear. On one hand, López has given up 13 runs over his last 13 innings, including seven over four frames in Thursday’s thumping courtesy of the Angels (and an assist from the White Sox defense). His 2019 self has taken over his last two times out, where his velocity was fine and his fastball got some swings and misses, but he had no second pitch of note. His slider resulted in more hits (three) than whiffs (one), including a homer and a double. That form is one that is competitive enough to take the mound for a team in need, but not a great bet to come out unscathed.

Meanwhile, Dallas Keuchel found some footing because he finally seems to like his sinker again — or because he finally has the power to make it a dependable pitch.

Keuchel reached 90 mph with his sinker six times in his start against the Angels on Wednesday. That doesn’t sound like anything worth bragging about until you do a Statcast search and realize his previous single-game high this season was two, which he only accomplished twice in 2021. As you might expect, he set a new high in average velocity for the season …

… which is probably why he used it way more than any other start this season.

The result was a double-digit ground ball total (13) for the first time in his 11 second-half starts.

As for the elephant in the room, he issued five walks to three strikeouts, and needed two double play balls to extract him out of jams. Keuchel’s style at its peak makes him naturally “lucky” against baserunning traffic due to his defense and low-impact batted balls, but two baserunners an inning is pushing it.

The question is whether the five walks were the result of pitching like he should. Keuchel had some words for home plate umpire Pat Hoberg, but Statcast illustrates a pretty true strike zone on pitches that got to Yasmani Grandal.

Keuchel showed a little frustration on the mound with his reactions, as well as a chat with Hoberg between innings. However, he didn’t show any frustration when it came to executing. He kept putting his sinker where he needed it to be in order to maximize his success, and while he walked a tightrope at times, he came away with his first quality start in seven tries as a result.

It’s a hard way to make a living, but the recipe Keuchel used on Wednesday — a heavy dose of his best possible sinkers — is the path of least resistance. Then again, if he got the kind of defense that López got on Thursday, we’re probably not devoting a post to him right now.

Either way, the playoff rotation/long relief situation isn’t quite a closed case, not with López regressing, Dylan Cease getting rocked his last time out, Carlos Rodón limited to two starts the rest of the way, and Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito still working their way into game shape off the injured list. This is why it makes sense for the White Sox to remain engaged with Keuchel every fifth day. His body of work in 2021 makes him a dicey proposition start-to-start, but there’s a version of him that isn’t, and he’ll get a few more turns to show whether the guy who pitched against the Angels can hang around.

(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

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HallofFrank

If Dallas finishes strong and Cease continues to struggle (medium-sized ifs), the conversation for 4th playoff starter should get interesting.

jhomeslice

If Cease keeps struggling and they don’t rest him a turn, they are dumber than you know what.

I hope Keuchel found something. But giving him the ball over a guy who has been dominant at times, and better than Keuchel has been all year is a ways off. When I think of what Keuchel might do vs the Astros, it’s hard to picture anything good.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice
LamarHoyt_oncrack

I think Keuchel is pitching for a spot on the roster, not the starting rotation for the postseason, personally.

MarketMaker

Keuchel starts just feel precarious the whole time. His margin for error is razor-thin. He can’t be walking people. He can’t even be pitching from behind in the count. He needs his best stuff, best control, and solid defense. Tough path to success.

Yolmer's gatorade

If they go with 12 pitchers, 14 hitters, I think it comes down to two of Ruiz, Lopez, or Keuchel. Lynn, Rodon, Giolito, Cease, Hendriks, Kimbrel, Kopech, Tepera, Bummer, Crochet are locks. I could see taking Keuchel and Lopez or Keuchel and Ruiz. If a game really gets out of hand, I would trust Keuchel to keep it close and soak up innings more than Lopez or Ruiz.

metasox

Hopefully emergency starter doesn’t come into play. But that is another consideration, especially with the three main starters all coming back from some form of injury. I imagine La Russa would try to juggle things around, move guys up, short rest, etc. But having a workable starter in the bullpen would be nice.

Last edited 1 year ago by metasox
Root Cause

I agree and as we seem to run hot and cold, we might need an innings eater to cover a blowout to keep the 1st string fresh. I would think Keuchel fits that slot.