Major League Baseball announced its major award finalists, and Sox Machine would like to congratulate Lance Lynn on his third-place finish in the American League’s Cy Young voting.
Maybe that’s a bit hasty, but when you stack up the numbers, probably not:
The only thing missing from Lynn’s case is 20 innings or so, but had he tried to pitch during the second half to accumulate that workload, the results might not look as sterling. Either way, a top-three finish in AL Cy Young voting delivered on the trade that brought him here, and now his midseason extension means he’s here for two more. We’ll talk more about Lynn as we proceed through the 2021 decision reviews, but for now, handshakes all around.
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Dallas Keuchel already ensured that the White Sox won’t go home empty-handed during awards season, as he cruised to his fifth Gold Glove on Sunday.
Keuchel was the favorite going in. He’d won the Fielding Bible Award at pitcher, and that considers players from both leagues. The one metric that we could see for pitchers had him comfortably ahead of the other finalists, Zack Greinke and José Berríos. And sure enough, SABR’s Defensive Index — an aggregated metric that accounts for about a quarter of the vote, and is released in conjunction with the announcement of the winners — showed the same:
- Dallas Keuchel, 10.2
- Zack Greinke, 3.8
- José Berríos, 3.7
The SDI finishes are more enlightening when figuring out how close the White Sox’s qualifying non-finalists came to cracking the list, and it’s not great.
Pitchers: Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease finished in the bottom three, with Cease bringing up the rear (-4.9) by a comfortable amount (Hyun-Jin Ryu finished in between the two White Sox at -2.0).
Second basemen: César Hernández, who won the Gold Glove in 2020 with a 5.6 SDI, finished at the bottom of the list at -5.0.
Third basemen: Yoán Moncada finished just off the podium at 2.2, which backs up the eye test as the team’s best non-pitching defender during the 2021 season.
Others: Middle-of-the-pack finishers included José Abreu at -0.7, Tim Anderson at -0.2, and Andrew Vaughn at -0.2 in left field. The last one is the most notable of the bunch because Eloy Jiménez finished dead last among qualifying left fielders in 2020 at -2.1.
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The reception to Keuchel’s Gold Glove was muted, mostly because his excellent defensive work didn’t do much to reverse a slide that took him out of postseason rotation consideration. His $18 million salary went from being the cost of carrying a Cy Young finalist to a burden on the books, so it’d help if he could at least find middle ground during his final guaranteed season of that three-year contract.
Little in Keuchel’s pitch data suggests a turnaround is imminent, but a reliance on an arsenal headlined by a high-80s sinker is going to lead to a lot of blue on a Statcast page. More traditional methods of evaluation work just as well, like the severe narrowing of his walk and strikeout rates and his sudden vulnerability to left-handed hitters.
In his conference call with reporters, Keuchel was given the opportunity to offload some of his struggles to defensive alignments that might have worked against him here and there, but he kept the focus on what happened before his pitches met contact.
“I will say that baseball in general is a very, very lucky and unlucky sport. It may have not gone my way the second half, but I was constantly battling myself to really find it,” Keuchel said. “Even when I finished the first half on a really, really good note, I was still battling myself, just the constant uncompetitive pitches, and just getting myself into counts, and deep pitches into games, when basically I should be throwing five innings and 50 pitches. It should be five and 50 at the most. I just ran into a bunch of five innings and 85 pitches, and 90 pitches.”
“That was my biggest downfall this year, and that’s why I’m itching to get back it.”
Missing out on the ALDS stuck in Keuchel’s craw, and he said that he told Rick Hahn and Jeremy Haber that “that second half is not who I am.”
The Sox have to account for the idea that Keuchel is closer to his second-half self than one of the league’s best run-preventers the rest of the way, simply because his path to success is the most difficult way for a pitcher to make a living. Yet I’m open to the idea that Keuchel has a path back to contributor status because he did throw a lot of useless pitches, especially when ahead in the count.
You can see it in how poorly defined his work on the edges was when compared to 2020 …
… and it was especially noteworthy with his cutter:
It’d be more worrisome if Keuchel were being beaten on his best pitches, but he was throwing a lot more of his worst pitches. That gave hitters a chance to see five or six offerings in one at-bat, which isn’t great for a guy who has, at most, two ideas of how to get somebody out.
There’s just limited use in saying he just needs to throw better pitches, because sometimes decline reveals itself more in command than velocity. He acknowledged that promising improvement has its limits, but at least this kind of issue can theoretically be confronted with offseason work. He has a better chance of rediscovering his cutter location issues than he does setting a clock back 8,760 hours.
(Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
Keuchel will be an interesting one to watch next year if the Sox don’t add a good starter. He sounds very determined to have a strong bounce-back season, and given his history, that is certainly possible. But I’m sure the Sox don’t want him hitting 160 innings and having that $20M option for 2023 to vest. If he has a really good first half, they will have a hard time keeping him from 160 innings. Adding his $20M to the books in 2023 means they will probably have to subtract a big contract, which could be very problematic.
If Keuchel pitches well enough to justify getting 160 innings (unlike this season, I think they’d jettison him before he could hit that benchmark if he’s similarly awful next season), I personally think that’d be a good thing.
Impressive stuff from Robbie Ray to rack up 548 strikeouts!
Sure, but he could have had 580. What a slacker.
With Rodon out of the picture I’m growing more comfortable with Keuchel as our inning-eating 5th starter. Ground-ball pitchers tend to pitch a lot of tolerable games in their 30’s.
It would certainly help him out if we could find defensive upgrades in a few spots.
I’d like to see a breakdown of Keuchel’s performance by catcher. I doubt there’s much to move the needle, but he’s a guy who lives and dies by the edges and corners more than most. If nothing else, a heavy dose of Collins and Seby disproportionately hurts him, theoretically.
No real difference between the more substantial samples, although he got to the numbers via a different route.
Zack Collins: 9 IP, 9.00 ERA, .368/.442/.526
Yasmani Grandal: 107.2 IP, 5.02 ERA, .301/.361/.460
Seby Zavala, 45.1 IP, 5.16 ERA, .246/.320/.491
He gave up 10 homers with Zavala behind the plate.
It’s on baseball reference. Long story short, he only pitched 9 innings to Collins so I don’t think anything meaningful can be taken from that. His OPS was roughly the same between Seby and Yas though, with Seby being .01 better overall. Keuchel had a better batting average with Seby but a worse walk rate and worse slugging. His ERA with Yas was still over 5 though.
White Sox players need to stop winning gold gloves. Last 6 players to win a gold glove for the Sox:
Dallas Keuchel, 2021 – May not even play a half season for the 2022 White Sox.
Luis Robert, 2020 – Does not play even a half season for the 2021 White Sox.
Yolmer Sanchez, 2019 – Does not play even a half season for the White Sox after 2019.
Jake Peavy, 2012 – Does not play even a half season for the White Sox after 2012.
Mark Buehrle, 2011 – Does not play even a half season for the White Sox after 2011.
Robin Ventura, 1998 – Does not play even a half season for the White Sox after 1998.
(Ok the Buehrle and Ventura ones might not be fair, since they both won multiple gold gloves before their final sox season. But still, I say it’s a curse)
Good thing Alexei didn’t get the Gold Glove he deserved in 2010. He was one of the few people worth watching in 2011.
Anybody else take to their calculator to divide 8,760 by 24?
Guilty as charged.
Pretty sure Jim took out his calculator to multiply 365 by 24, too.
I have faith Jim did not use a calculator. He’s Jim Margalus!
I think he just did 7×24 to get 168 hours in a week. Then, he said there are 52 weeks plus one day in a year. 50*168=8400 is easy. 2 x 168=336 is easy. Then 8400 hours in 50 weeks+336 hours in 2 weeks +24 hours in the extra day gives 8760 in the entire year.
That’s how I did it as someone whose is always disappointed in how much my math skills have eroded as I’ve aged.