Back before the postseason, we discussed how the White Sox pitching staff hemorrhaged bases once batters became runners, wondering if this would come back to bite them October. It didn’t, at least in a way that swung the outcome. The Astros went 5-for-5 stealing bases over the four games, but the activity mostly just served to run up the score.
The White Sox wouldn’t have been so vulnerable in this regard if Dallas Keuchel had pitched well enough to make the postseason rotation. His combination of left-handedness, ground-ball rate and ability to stymie the running game was supposed to provide a pleasing contrast to the remainder of the rotation.
And sure enough, when it came to on-field matters around the pitching, Keuchel delivered the goods. After finishing out of the running for the Gold Glove in his first year with the White Sox, Keuchel is among the finalists this year, and the only White Sox to make it that far.
By Defensive Runs Saved, he’s the clear favorite of the three pitchers named.
- Dallas Keuchel, 12
- José Berríos, 5
Zack Greinke, 5
Keuchel broke even by this metric last year, but the 12 runs above average fits right in with his peak, when he won three straight Gold Gloves with Houston in part by finishing the year 10, 11 and five runs in the black.
Keuchel also did his part by allowing just two successful steals on six attempts. Here’s the footage of all the attempts that counted:
There’s only one great jump in the bunch, which resulted in an uncontested steal of third. The other steal came on a slider in the dirt, and the other attempts to best Keuchel were all foiled by bad guesses.
None of this is accidental. Keuchel’s always done a great job suppressing the running game and handling everything else in his vicinity. It’s the reason why he’s been able to outperform his projections, and why the comparisons to Mark Buehrle upon his signing were not entirely the product of limited frames of reference.
Unfortunately, there’s a little awkwardness in the timing of this nod, as evidenced by so many offseason plans wrestling with sensible ways to unload his contract. Keuchel’s very best defense couldn’t help him outproduce his FIP in 2021 (5.28 ERA), and it was a bad FIP (5.23). The White Sox aren’t strangers to parting ways with a Gold Glove winner, because Yolmer Sánchez was outrighted before what would’ve been a non-tendering after earning the honors for second base in 2019.
If you’re an optimist — or a pragmatist, thinking why the White Sox would rather ride with him to open 2021 than pay most of his salary to pitch elsewhere — his forecast isn’t entirely reliant on blind faith. Keuchel hasn’t fallen off with the secondary skills that helped him stand out, and maybe the other stuff can be addressed. Keuchel hadn’t made 30 starts in a season since 2018 thanks to the one-two punch of a frozen free-agent market in 2019 and the pandemic a year later. Perhaps the late-season fades that have affected so many pitchers this year got to him earlier. Perhaps some offseason tinkering with his cutter/slider will erase the sudden vulnerability he developed against lefties.
Or, as was the case with Sánchez, the writing on the wall is a little too legible to ignore.
Either way, Keuchel’s status will be surprisingly fascinating to follow, if only because of the conditions this particular winter. Should the new collective bargaining agreement somehow includes a salary floor, Keuchel’s contract could have a lot more allure simply due to its expiring nature. Every team needs five or more starters, and he still might have more to offer than most. Maybe he’s money inefficiently spent, but he’s money spent. If he can’t help the White Sox get to where they need to go, he could help a stingier team get over a different kind of hump.
(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)
He should make the team as the fifth starter, factoring in his experience and contract. If he stinks for a month, well, time for plan B.
What would this plan B look like, considering it’s coming in May of 2022?
It’s Lopez or Lambert or Stiever or Crochet or another minor league option – it’s not great but I bet Keuchel starts the year as the fifth starter.
So barring a collapse its clear the Braves dont need Acuna to win a title. Thus i suggest Burger for Acuna 1 for 1 who says no.