Loose ends for the White Sox’s last week of the regular season

It’s still hard to wrap one’s head around the concept of the White Sox making two consecutive postseasons in a row, so I’m still not accustomed to the final week of the season not being the final week of the season. The concept is especially novel when the last six games on the schedule are irrelevant to the outcome. Whenever the White Sox have gained entry into October, they’ve usually been thrown through the plate-glass window in front. This time, they can just saunter on through the wide-open doors.

It’s an ideal situation, at least on paper. Maybe you’d rather be the St. Louis Cardinals, ripping off 16 consecutive victories just in time for the postseason, rather than a White Sox team that’s been stuck in a wins-and-losses paradiddle for an entire half. But even then, all the Cardinals have to show for their record-breaking streak is a one-and-done date with the NL West runner-up.

It’s actually good to be the White Sox for once. Really.

The Sox have a number of matters to settle, but most of them are at the individual level. After this week’s six games — four against Detroit, two against Cincinnati — the season will then hinge on whether players can step up against Houston in the ALDS. Until then, the Sox just have to avoid further injuries and wrap up some minor housekeeping. For instance…

José Abreu‘s numbers

José Abreu entered September with 28 homers, so appeared to be a lock for his fourth 30-homer season. With six games left, Abreu is stuck at 29. He last went deep off Boston’s Tanner Houck on Sept. 10. He’s hitting .267/.394/.373 for September, so he’s seen worse. But he’s also hit into four double plays while hitting that one homer, which is the kind of ratio that makes the White Sox offense look stuck for long stretches.

If he can get back to putting the ball over the wall, it might help him return to his rightful place atop the league lead in RBIs. Right now, his total of 113 is two behind Sal Perez’s league-leading 115, and he also has to watch out for Teoscar Hernandez‘s 112 immediately behind him on the leaderboard. A well-timed surge would make him the first player to own the RBI crown in three consecutive seasons since Cecil Fielder, who ran the table from 1990 to 1992.

No matter what, it appears that Abreu will lead the league in double plays for a third straight season. He has 26, with Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton running well behind him in second place at 22 apiece. Donaldson’s leading the league in terms of frequency, but four is a hard gap to close.

Tim Anderson‘s batting average

Anderson won’t win his second batting title this year. His .302 average is good for fourth place behind Yuli Gurriel (.317), Michael Brantley and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.315).

That said, he’s vying for his third consecutive season with a .300 average, which would be the first time a White Sox player has accomplished that since Magglio Ordonez tied together five such seasons at the turn of the century.

Cy Young finishes

With Lance Lynn falling short of qualifying for the ERA title, no White Sox pitcher can stake a serious claim to the Cy Young Award. That said, he should get support for his 2.72 ERA, and Lucas Giolito should get support for his commendable 3.58 ERA and what should be 200 strikeouts and 175 innings (he only needs two K’s and four outs for both).

Dylan Cease has already locked up the bronze medal for strikeouts in the American League at 221. He’s also likely going to lead the league with 32 starts, unless a 163rd game or other wild card shenanigans put another pitcher over the top. He basically gave the White Sox everything they wanted to see from him this season.

Right field

With Brian Goodwin on the shelf with back spasms and Adam Engel unavailable just as long due to leg soreness, the Game 1 starter in right field is still an open question. Engel is supposed to play in the Cincinnati Reds series, but he’s supposed to have done a lot of things this year. Tony La Russa left it an open-ended matter:

‘‘What he’s done for us isn’t going to be forgotten,’’ La Russa said of Goodwin. ‘‘So it’s a question of how game-ready he can be because of this. And then what the makeup of the position-player roster is. And we have a question about Engel, too. Wait till you get all the information.’’

There’s also the matter of whether César Hernández’s bat will show the kind of life that could keep Leury García away from his starts, but if Engel and Goodwin are out, it seems like García is an option to throw against the right field wall. That’s a metaphor, not a suggestion, as the Field of Dreams Game already left him with one such concussion.

PERTINENT: Right Field somehow even less settled for White Sox

The eighth inning

I’m guessing the back end of the bullpen will still feature Liam Hendriks in the ninth inning, and Aaron Bummer in the highest-leverage situation involving a lefty beforehand. The only question is whether La Russa will gain comfort with Craig Kimbrel in any other late-inning jam by the time October rolls around.

The impending return of Ryan Tepera gives him another option. He should be back from his finger laceration for the Cincinnati series, and a couple of strong outings would make Kimbrel’s volatility more avoidable, even if the Sox won’t be able to escape it completely.

Carlos Rodón

I mentioned on this morning’s Sox Machine Podcast that Carlos Rodón’s September has unfurled as a very public bout of DABDA. After Rodón’s velocity flattened out and rolled backward during his three innings in Detroit, Rodón spent his Zoom conference exercising denial and ending on anger while La Russa had skipped ahead to depression.

Rodón was supposed to start on Tuesday, but La Russa’s revised rotation plans for the final week moved him back to Wednesday, which looks a little like bargaining to me. The good news is that the White Sox can still make great use of Rodón in the postseason if he’s only a candidate to cover three innings, but I could be falling into the same trap. I suppose we’ll find out at the end of the week what everybody’s forced to accept.

(Photo by Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports)

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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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roke1960

Great, great summary Jim. You covered everything so eloquently, as usual.

It would be hard to imagine that Engel can be relied on to man right field during the playoffs, so I see the most likely option would be Leury in right, Eloy in left, and Vaughn/Sheets DH depending upon the pitching matchup. But that takes away any flexibility in the infield, which is something Tony may be loathe to do. I also don’t see Goodwin contributing at all. Hopefully Engel can go at least 1 or 2 games, but I wouldn’t count on it.

As far as the 8th inning, Kimbrel has looked a little sharper lately, though still prone to the occasional homer. I still think Tony will use him in the 8th unless he implodes this week. You just have to trust a guy with his pedigree will rise to the occasion.

As far as the rotation, I would assume they have it set up for Lynn followed by Giolito in games 1 and 2. I would switch the two, since I think Giolito has a much better chance of shutting down the Astros than Lynn. Then Cease in Game 3 and Rodon in Game 4 going as long as he can, as hard as he can, even if it’s only 3 innings.

It’s just so nice to be talking about this matter-of-factly a week before the season ends. That’s just so not like the White Sox.

Last edited 10 months ago by roke1960
As Cirensica

I’m a bit worried about Carlos’ health too. We definitely should keep Rey-Lo or Keuchel around? Just in case a short start, but I guess all of this decision making is on pause right now, and Rodon himself will provide the answer (probably) to this pickle in his next start at some point this week. I think another start with diminish velo, and he should be out of the picture for playoff unless TLR decides to use him as an “opener”.

roke1960

I think there’s room on the postseason roster for ReyLo and Keuchel. I would assume they will go with 12 pitchers with the 6 main relief guys (Hendriks, Kimbrel, Bummer, Tepera, Crochet, Kopech) and the 4 starters (Lynn, Giolito, Cease, Rodon). That leaves 2 relievers. I think Keuchel and Rey offer better altenatives than Ruiz and Burr. Ruiz is awful in any high leverage situations, and in the playoffs, there are only high leverage situations. Going Rodon for 2 (or hopefully more), then Rey and/or Keuchel to get to the 6 main relievers might be effective.

As Cirensica

Ruiz should be ahead of Burr. In regards of Keuchel vs Lopez, I don’t think the Sox will put both in the playoff roster. It’s gonna be one or the other, but not no both.

tommytwonines

I would like to see Giolito start Game 1 of the Houston series. He was great in the first game against Oakland last year and he’s been pitching better than Lynn lately – and Lynn hasn’t pitched well in Houston, and I’ll take my chances with Lucas in a Game 5 with Lynn hopefully opening the ALCS.

As Cirensica

Game 5? We generally sweep the Astros in playoffs. There won’t be game 5.

Root Cause

We are about to find out if hiring TLR was a good idea or not.

I would guess Jerry is satisfied at this point.
Unfortunately, my wants don’t align with fixing a wrong in his past.
This team should have won the division without a head coach.

Win or lose in the playoffs, the team needs to play at a high level and leave with a feeling that a winning culture is here to stay. Anything less is greatly disappointing as a fan.

Greg Nix

Engel’s injury is very confusing. Feels worryingly reminiscent of the Brett Lawrie situation.

As Cirensica

What was Jim’s words to describe Lawrie’s injury? I forget, but I do remember Jim used some clever wording or maybe I am imagining this.

Joliet Orange Sox

I don’t know what Jim called it but the official medical diagnosis was that Lawrie had a case of “Vague Leg”.

To Err is Herrmann

Great summary of where the White Sox stand. I like our chances in the ALDS with Giolito, Lynn and Cease and most of our bullpen with the exception of Kimbrel, who I feel is going to lose a game for the Sox with those gopher balls. I am mystified and depressed at how poorly Kimbrel and Hernandez have played since the trades.