White Sox name Dylan Cease Game 3 starter

For most of the season, Carlos Rodón looked like a real weapon for a Game 3, which in turn made Dylan Cease an enviable option for a Game 4, especially among people queasy about the idea of going to the short-rest well.

But that version of Rodón apparently isn’t available, so the White Sox made it official: Dylan Cease will be your Sunday starter instead, squaring off against Houston rookie Luis Garcia.

This decision addresses one loose end about Game 2, although not in a satisfactory way. The way Tony La Russa avoided Michael Kopech on Friday made it seem like he was going to be a big part of Sunday’s game. That may still be the case because Cease isn’t a great bet to work deep into a game himself, but since they’re both hard-throwing righties, there isn’t the kind of usual contrast between the starter/opener and long reliever that can confuse the opponent’s lineup construction.

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Set that aside, and it’s a good opportunity for Cease. He’s deserved a shot to pitch in the postseason after going 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA and 226 strikeouts over 165⅔ innings. He’s also been the most productive starter outside of Lucas Giolito in the second half:

Lucas Giolito1374.256919762.65
Dylan Cease1473.2619291093.67
Lance Lynn1266.160914713.66
Dallas Keuchel1364.2861228376.82
Carlos Rodón94331610552.51

Starting Cease is a sound assessment of risk and reward. His tendency to get out of whack for one inning might be a fatal flaw to be exploited by an offense as talented as Houston’s, but his ability to get swinging strikes on multiple pitches inside the zone give him the best chance of silencing the Astros for five innings, even if it didn’t work so well for Giolito. I’d say failure can be instructive, but failure could also end the season, so it’s not really worth entertaining before it happens.

He’ll be facing Garcia, who went 11-8 with a 3.30 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 155⅓ innings. He matched Rodón pitch-for-pitch when the White Sox saw him on June 18, with Garcia allowing one run over seven innings. He struck out eight while scattering seven hits and two walks. Lefties can get him (.814 OPS against, versus .548 by righties), and the Astros limit his exposure the third time through. He didn’t face Luis Robert or Eloy Jiménez, the Yasmani Grandal he saw was hitting .155, and Gavin Sheets wasn’t a thing yet. All those elements haven’t been able to produce an extra-base hit for the White Sox this offseason, but they’re left to hope that regression makes itself a friend by Sunday night.

(Photo by Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Glad Cease is getting the opportunity. If he has a heroic game and they can just win one damn game, it might turn into a series again. Or maybe that’s just the crack talking.


Just atrocious management of Kopech. If he has to pitch tomorrow is he unavailable for backing up Rodon? If Rodon can’t go in game 4 is Kopech the opener? If you’re unsure Rodon can even go, holding onto to Kopech for hypotheticals is a total waste.


Everything was set for him to pitch in game 2 and then…he didn’t. Unconscionable.

Root Cause

It sure seems like TLR gets fixated on certain people, doing odd things.

Vaughn was an expirement (not a typo) on how many places he could plug him in.

Kimbrell is our 8th inning guy no matter how many times it failed and

Garcia isn’t a utility guy, he is an everyday player who can play infield and outfield.

And all the things discussed here are 2ndary.


This is the right call. If the Sox are going to come back, they’ll need both Cease and Rodon anyway. If the Sox are only going to play one more postseason game this year, I’d rather that Dylan gets the playoff experience since we know he’ll be around next year.

Root Cause

I hope Cease has success and gives Rodon a shot at putting 2020 in the past.


I want the Sox to win the series, of course. But now I am also just curious how Rodon would look in a game 4

As Cirensica

I’m confused about Kopech’s management. If he is supposed to complement Rodon and Rodon is our 4th starter, then why not using him yesterday? And why is Kopech the Rodon’s complement? If Rodon is our 4th starter, then he clearly isn’t well. Or is he? I wonder what kinda leash Cease will have. Regardless of everything, I hope the White Sox gets a comfortable lead early on to creare low leverage situations where TLR bullpen (mis) management doesn’t play a role.


It is an elimination game so it’s all hands on deck, including Kopech. But I am assuming the hope is he available for a lot of innings in a game 4. People can speculate endlessly whether an inning of Kopech yesterday would have made a difference


You’re right that whether Kopech would have made a difference in game 2 is speculation, but it’s not speculation to say: it should have been Kopech instead of Crochet in the 5th. It was mismanagement. And it may not have made a difference. But it might have.

Saving Kopech for game 4 is a fundamentally flawed strategy. It only makes sense if the plan is for him to either be in a traditional starter role or follow an opener, with the expectation that he’ll go 4+ IP. But that’s a bad idea because Kopech hasn’t been in that role this season. It’d be much better to make that a bullpen day. But if he’ll only go 2-3 IP (which he should), then he should have been available for an inning in game 2.


I’d planned in advance that the only way I was going to stay up late for this game is if they were up 2-0.

Now I’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep before a heavy work week and just check the score and highlights in the morning.

Here’s hoping I can stay up for a Monday game.


The sequencing of the SPs in this series is mystifying, so now we have Dylan in an elimination game instead of Lynn. What’s going on with Rodon is also a mystery. But lest we forget one big reason the Sox are in disarray is Dallas Keuchel’s total meltdown this season into ineffectiveness. We had five tough starters. Now we have three.


What’s mystifying about the sequencing? How would you’ve done it? How they’re lined up now is how I would’ve done it. You could switch Gio and Lynn in game 1, but Gio vs Valdez was the matchup you want, whereas game 1 was always going to be a bad matchup.

What’s mysterious about Rodon? We know what’s going on: his arm is fatigued and it’s causing a significant loss in velocity. If and when he’ll pitch is unknown, but only because we’re waiting to see how his arm responds.

Dallas Keuchel has very little to do with this team’s playoff or rotation struggles. Even if Keuchel has a solid year, he’s probably the 4th starter in this bunch. And Rodon still might be the better bet.


Never should have started Lynn in Houston, his track record there is bad. One of the major problems of TLR is when he ignores the obvious, like Lynn being bad in Houston.


Lynn is bad against Houston because he throws fastballs and Houston smashes fastballs. But what would you do? Not start possibly the best pitcher on the team? It’s a bad matchup, but Lynn has to start. You roll with your studs in the playoffs and if they get beat, they get beat. But it’s better than getting too cute.


We came into the season with two good starters and four #5 starters, which should have prompted the front office to acquire a starting pitcher if they were really expecting this very young team to compete and win a playoff series in 2021. This was a good base, but strong teams are deeper than we are – it is the “one-ply roster” come home to roost.

As it turns out, Cease made a lot of progress and looked like a mid-rotation starter much earlier than many people thought, and Carlos Rodon came from out of nowhere to vindicate some questionable thought processes that led to his being non-tendered and then re-signed.

Cease’s development, Rodon’s emergence, and an easy schedule for the second year in a row made it possible for the team to stick with the rotation they had. In the end, starting pitching depth did kind of bite this team, or at the very least limit Tony’s options. Not sure that he deserves much blame for that.

The bullpen usage has been odd to say the least, and I think can easily be described as sub-optimal. It hasn’t cost us these games – we lost because Houston is really good and a step above the Sox – but it has definitely called into question the thinking behind having our off-season and in-season acquisitions be bullpen arms rather than a starter and a right fielder.

If Tony doesn’t know how to best deploy the bullpen tools we acquired, then the front office should try to acquire some tools he will know how to use. On the other hand, if bullpen/reliever performance is so unpredictable or volatile that a team can invest this much in a bullpen and still not get great results then maybe it’s just a crap shoot and it would be better to make some higher probability deals for position players and/or starting pitching.


Assuming the “two good starters” were Lynn and Gio and one of the four “#5 starters” was Keuchel, that’s completely unfair. Keuchel finished 5th in the Cy Young voting last year and, before the year, his *highest* ERA since 2017 was 3.75. Coming into the year, he was, without qualification, a good starter.

There are lots of reasons to be frustrated with the FO. The construction of the rotation isn’t one of them.


I disagree, but I hear you. But expectations that Keuchel would be more than a #4 seem to me to be way too based on last year’s results and not enough on his age, the normal aging curve, and his actual pitching performance rather than his results.

I think part of that is that the actual individual statistics of White Sox pitchers (and hitters for that matter) over the past two years has been a function of the schedule.
He looked good last year in a season in which we played few games against strong competition. But he didn’t seem like a good bet to be a guy you’d feel confident about going into the 2021 playoffs.


Keuchel appeared in only 11 games in 2020 and had completely unsustainable infield fly ball rate and home run fly ball rates, along with xERA and xFIP that were substantially higher than his 1.99 ERA. His strikeouts per 9 innings dropped by nearly 1 versus his career averages. He was getting good results, but I hope the front office didn’t think he was a guy who could be counted on for a playoff game, because that would have been a mistake.


Notice that I didn’t base my case on him being “good” only on 2020 results. Of course, it’s a small sample size and he wasn’t going to have another sub-2 ERA. But he’s consistently been either good or great since 2017, and he’s done so while outpacing the metrics and peripherals. Keuchel is one pitcher that I don’t put much stock in peripherals, because he’s shown over a long period of time that he can get positive results despite not being a statcast darling.

Coming into 2021, Keuchel was expected to be a good pitcher—and reasonably so. Expecting decline because of regression and age? Sure. But even if Keuchel was always destined to be the 5th starter on this team (which I don’t grant), that doesn’t mean he wasn’t “good” coming into this season. That’s a revision of history.


I dont think it’s a revision of history at all, and I presented statistics to support my argument.

Here’s something that we agree on, which was where this all started: neither you nor I blame Tony for rotation sequencing. He came into this series with only 3 guys who could be counted on to start games. One of them was Lance Lynn, who has been hammered by this very opponent. The other is Dylan Cease, and let’s hope he can win one today.


Keuchel has repeatedly shown an ability to outperform his xERA or xFIP. So, unless you want to say he just got lucky for 4 years straight, pointing out that his xERA & xFIP were higher than his ERA doesn’t do much. Even so, his xFIP and xERA dropped from 2019 to 2020. His xFIP was under 4.00 and his FIP was 3.08. That is—again, without qualification—a good pitcher and not a “5th starter.”

I agree with you on that. I just don’t think the FO is to blame for the rotation, either. This has been an excellent rotation all year and it’s still an excellent rotation and the FO deserves some kudos for it. If we’re going to get on the FO, let’s get on them for RF and DH.


Well, then this really comes down to a minor disagreement that could be characterized as a disagreement over last year’s “offseason plan project” rather than the somewhat inflammatory framing “revision of history.”

I thought they needed a RF and SP, and you thought they needed a RF and DH. And for what it’s worth, if they had acquired someone like Springer, then maybe I would have thought they could get by with this rotation.

In any event, let’s go win 3 in a row.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

If Wild Cease shows up given Houston’s ability to extend ABs this could be a 90 pitch 3.1 inning kinda outing. Here’s to hoping we don’t get Wild Cease.

Last edited 1 year ago by Shingos Cheeseburgers
To Err is Herrmann

The White Sox were going to be good this year, but I don’t think many people thought that the Twins would collapse and the Sox would run away with the division. Think back to March when the uncontested DH was rookie Andrew Vaughn, who ended up hitting.221 against RHP, and Adam Eaton was our starting RF. It didn’t seem the front office was in a hurry about anything. We didn’t expect much from Rodon at all, and Cease while improving I don’t think anyone would see him being as good as he is now. Weird that at the end of July the front office that could not be bothered to sign Nelson Cruz or others when they could, made a dramatic move to acquire a $17 million mirage named Craig Kimbrel. A strange year overall. I don’t think this was a team built for a deep run in the playoffs. We are here kind of unexpectedly. Who knows, this Series could still fall our way, but do you think if the expectation in March was we would walk away with the division, we would have seen such underwhelming inactivity from the front office? I question my sanity as a lifelong Sox fan.


I have a very similar take. It felt like they had a plan to get us to the 2019-2020 offseason. But I have trouble making sense of what they’ve done since then.

Assemble a cheap, cost-controlled core? Check.

Fill in the gaps with free agent talent? Hello? Anybody there?

Enter 2021 with playoff aspirations but without addressing left handed hitting, backup catching, right field, and starting pitching? Uh, okay…

Fail to address the team’s most glaring off-season needs and then trade two really good young cheap guys for Craig Kimbrel? Okay, now you’re losing me. Because if the plan was “win it all in 2021” then why the hell weren’t we willing to pay George Springer?