What’s your White Sox postseason rotation?

Maybe the White Sox feared that they were sending Carlos Rodón to a gunfight with a knife, but his 91-mph fastball got the night’s job done. He needed only 69 pitches to subdue the Cincinnati Reds for five shutout innings in the White Sox’s 6-1 victory on Wednesday, so he did what he could to assuage fears with his performance.

There’s still the matter of his recovery, but with the returns no longer diminishing, Rodón was a little happier to talk about his current state than the last time, when he shut down his Zoom session early.

“Didn’t have my best stuff but went out there and pitched and just tried to get outs and give the team a chance to win,” Rodón said. “Sometimes you have to go out there and pitch. Didn’t have that overpowering fastball but had some secondary stuff and got weak contact.” […]

“I’m not too concerned,” Rodón said of his diminished velocity. “I went out there and got 15 outs. Gave up one hit. So, are you concerned? Some days I’m not going to have it all. To put it in perspective, I threw 11 innings last year. This year I’ve thrown 132. That’s (over) 10 times the innings count. That’s a lot on a body. But I’m not going to use that as an excuse. As you see, I still go out and go do my job. So, I have to go win for a team, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

There’s still an element of denial, but like Rodón’s performance, it’s a healthier version, because every pitcher has to talk himself through adversity at the end of the season. Unanswered in all this is whether his “best stuff” actually exists in an accessible place, but this lesser version of Rodón looked a lot more comfortable in his own skin. His velocity held its retrenched ground, and while the Reds didn’t force him to pitch backward, his slider had more bite when he decided to throw it.

Assuming he has one more start in him, he looked good enough to pitch in October. There are no safe assumptions with Rodón’s condition, but if the White Sox get through the final weekend with all arms intact, the good news is that Rodón’s (avail)ability won’t have to best tested until a Game 4, and those games aren’t always necessary, for better or for worse.

In the meantime, with the extra/experimental outings out of the way, the White Sox are now starting their postseason arms the rest of the way. The current slate of probable pitchers against Detroit shows Lance Lynn on Friday, Lucas Giolito on Saturday and Dylan Cease on Sunday, but Tony La Russa wasn’t willing to say that it’d be the order of his postseason rotation, perhaps because he’s free to swap the order over the next 30 hours without penalty.

With tweaks still possible, we have time to put forth our best arguments for the optimal White Sox postseason rotation against the Houston Astros in the ALDS.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Thursday, Oct. 7: Game 1
  • Friday, Oct. 8: Game 2
  • Saturday, Oct. 9: Off
  • Sunday, Oct. 10: Game 3
  • Monday, Oct. 11: Game 4
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12: Off
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13: Game 5

The White Sox’s Saturday starter would still be fully rested for Game 1, so that’s why La Russa insists that his hand is not yet tipped. The arrangement of the off days means that the Game 1 starter would potentially be pitching Game 4 on short rest, but the Game 2 starter would be on regular rest for Game 5. That informs my personal preferences for a plan, which is as follows:

Game 1: Lucas Giolito
Game 2: Lance Lynn

Giolito and Lynn have been just about identical pitchers over the course of the second half, at least when it comes to components. Lynn ends one one start shorter, and Giolito’s been better at run prevention, but the peripherals used for projections give him less of an edge.

Second halfGIPHHRBBKERAFIP
Giolito1269.254918732.713.56
Lynn1161.156913673.823.57

A lot’s been made of Lynn’s history against the Astros, who pummeled him during the limited AL West-centric schedule during the 60 games of 2020, and thumped him again in June.

Looking back over the last three years — the three seasons where both pitchers have resembled Cy Young candidates — Giolito indeed has the superior record. In fact, his could barely be better. He’s faced the Astros twice over this time and twice threw a complete game. The first was a shutout on May 23, 2019, and he followed that up with a masterpiece to open his second half on July 17 this year.

One run over 18 innings is difficult to top, and Lynn doesn’t come close. He’s 1-6 with a 6.60 ERA over seven starts, including a ragged four innings back in June. He did keep the ball in the park in that start, which sounds like faint praise until you realize that he gave up 13 homers over 39⅔ innings in the other six starts. In this context, it seems like starting Lynn over Giolito would be giving the nod to Goofus over Gallant.

But starting Giolito over Lynn is less about small-sample successes and more about having the White Sox’s two best starters available for the most potential innings in a five-game series. If you start Giolito in Game 1, he’s theoretically available for Game 4 if he appears to be the best choice before or during the game. I’m less convinced about Lynn’s potential effectiveness on short rest. The Sox have prioritized resting his troublesome knee, so his last start on regular rest came way back in August. Starting Lynn on consecutive Fridays might be La Russa’s last way of giving him extra time before the postseason schedule imposes itself, and whether the Sox force a Game 5 or have a Game 5 forced upon them, Lynn on full rest would be a good use of a last gasp.

Game 3: Dylan Cease

As long as he bounces back from the smash off his right triceps with his final start on Sunday, there’s little to discuss here. If Rodón were in better shape, maybe we could talk about Cease’s 6.04 ERA in nine starts against teams with a record of .500 or better, but he’s clearly the third-best option as things stand.

Here’s a quote from La Russa to add some substance.

“You can just see him growing,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He handles being sharp early and getting a little out of whack and he gets back on it or he starts out of whack and gets on it or he starts sharp and stays sharp. I think we’ve seen him experience everything and nothing has gotten to where he stops competing, which is probably the most important professional trait you need in this game.”

Game 4: Carlos Rodón and Friends

This is contingent on Rodón being able to take the ball with conviction on 11 days’ rest. He can get by for a few innings throwing in the low-90s if he has the kind of slider he showed on Wednesday. We have a six-start sample size where Rodón’s labored under a compromised condition, and he’s somehow 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA since the start of August. He hasn’t pitched past five innings in any of them, but there’s only one outing where the opponent actually forced his exit.

La Russa previewed a potential strategy by backing up Rodón’s start with three innings of Michael Kopech, who looked like he could do that again. Whether Rodón goes five, four or three innings, Kopech handling the remainder of the middle third is a good plan on paper.

If Rodón isn’t available, I’m inclined to give Kopech the start for Game 4 with Dallas Keuchel and Reynaldo López on hand. That kind of construction suggests an emergency is on hand, but La Russa might merely think that going righty-lefty-righty for six innings could confuse the construction of Houston’s lineup.

The only problem is that Keuchel doesn’t have experience pitching out of the bullpen (his one “relief” appearance this year was five innings resuming a suspended game), so handing him the ball in the fourth inning could feel as futile as giving Rodón the ball in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series last year.

If you’re more comfortable with Keuchel on the mound to open a game, then you could go Keuchel-Kopech-Garrett Crochet to accomplish the same kind of complexity for six innings, just with the handedness inverted. I’m inclined to go with the player who is less likely to dig the Sox a hole, and I’d put Keuchel behind the other candidates in that regard, including a Giolito on short rest, which is in play as long as Lynn’s knee looks good for a Game 5.

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

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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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Brett R. Bobysud

Has there been an update on Tepera’s health status over the last two days or so?

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I read that he was supposed to come back for the Reds, but was pushed back to this weekend. On cbssports yesterday.

GrinnellSteve

I’d go Giolito, Lynn, Cease, Rodon/Lopez/Kopech/Giolito/whatever, Lynn.

If game 4 is must win, I’d start with Rodon. Then it’s all hands on deck. You win that and you have your choice of Lynn or Giolito (if you didn’t need to use him in game 4).

I don’t think Keuchel makes the roster.

Brett R. Bobysud

I mean, if Keuchel doesn’t make the roster, that means you’re likely either only carrying 11 pitchers or you’re including somebody like Ruiz who I don’t think anybody wants on the mound in the postseason.

GrinnellSteve

Ruiz hasn’t walked anyone in more than a month. Take away one bad appearance in Cleveland, and this month he’s allowed 7 baserunners in 11-2/3 innings.

The fact that Keuchel can get you multiple innings means less with the off days and the length Lopez, Kopech, Crochet, and Hendriks can provide.

I’m not so sure they wouldn’t roll with 11 pitchers in the first round. If they go with 12, I think Ruiz gets the nod over Keuchel (unless Rodon’s arm doesn’t recover from last night).

GrinnellSteve

And I’m assuming Tepera is back.

jhomeslice

To eliminate the difficult decision of game 4 starter, I think makes the most sense for them to win the first 3. That would be the plan if I was in charge.

joewho112

I’d simply tell the offense to score more runs than the Sox pitchers give up regardless of who starts

Blow my Gload

I honestly don’t know why more managers don’t do that.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I’m fine with Lynn or Giolito in game 1 (nod to Giolito), the rest is a no brainer. I’ll take Rodon with 11 days rest over Lynn or Giolito on 3 days for game 4.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Giolito, Lynn, Cease for Games 1 – 3. If they are behind in the series for Game 4 I would go with Gio on 3 days’ rest. If they are ahead I’d go with Rodon / Reynaldo / Kopech. Game 5 would be Giolito if he doesn’t start Game 4, and Lynn if he does.

vince

What is Houston’s likely playoff rotation and how have they been faring lately?

Right_Engel

From a casual Astros follower, their rotation appears lined up to go:

1. McCullers
–Ace in top form. Closed out season with strong Sept. (3.00 ERA/3.55 xFIP).
–Control (4.21 BB/9, 11.1% BB%) and command can waver and elevate his pitch count, but that’s the only real knock on him.
–Held down the Sox twice this year (3 ER/13 IP).

2. Valdez (LHP)
–Since returning from a fractured finger: 6+ IP in 16/20 starts, 4 ER or less in 19/20 starts. Had some command issues in an uneven Sept. (19 K/14 BB in 24.2 IP), managing a 3.28 ERA (4.40 xFIP).
–Leads MLB SP in GB% (70.1%), with 6th-lowest HR/9 (0.69).
–Sox have seen him twice this year and fared relatively well (6 ER/13.1 IP).

3. Urquidy
–Missed two months with shoulder injury, then spent Sept. finding form and building stamina. Seems to be getting there (L3 starts: 3.86 ERA/3.64 xFIP), or is already there, if Eno Sarris’ appraisal is correct.
–When he’s on, has elite command of above average stuff. Flyball tendency leads to more HR (1.34/9), and strong reverse platoon splits favor RHB (.741 OPS/.313 wOBA) over LHB (.530/.232).
–Shut down the Sox (2 ER/7 IP) earlier this season.

4. Garcia (or McCullers on short rest, if needed)
–ROY candidate, but dropped off in Sept. (3.67 ERA/5.08 xFIP), with a sharp decrease in K%. Might be fatigued in first full year and would get 11 days rest here.
–Strong platoon splits (RHB: .548 OPS/.241 wOBA, LHB: .814/.348). TTO penalty limits most starts to 6 IP or less.
–Never faced Sox.

5. McCullers/Valdez

Other than possibly swapping Urquidy and Garcia, this looks like how it will shape up. There’s also Odorizzi (inferior option), Javier (not stretched out), and technically Greinke (ruled out as SP). Not sure about Odorizzi, but Javier will continue in the BP and Greinke’s reportedly likely to work in relief as well, if possible.

lifelongjd

I agree with the Giolito-Lynn-Cease order. Game 4 may have to wait based on the situation and how the series has played out to that point. May make sense if the Sox are down 2-1 to have Giolito pitch rather than the Rodon et al option or if Kopech was needed for an extended outing earlier in the series.

Side note: How grateful should we all be for the Lynn trade at this point? Regardless of the extension, this is exactly what Hahn envisioned when giving up a pretty good prospect for the Big Fella. This is so damn exciting.

GrinnellSteve

Frank Thomas is buying the Field of Dreams! He should bring Timmy on as an investor.

ParisSox

Does he still have the restaurant?

dat gummit

Big Hurt Malt Liquor*

Amar

Frank needs a Maury Levy

jorgefabregas

Here’s a fun question. Two White Sox starting pitchers qualify for this list of pitchers whose average fastball velocity has increased my a half mph or more between 2020 and 2021 (minimum 200 fastballs thrown in each year). Can you guess the two? https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/checking-in-on-2021-velocity-increases/

joewho112

I was 0 for 2. One I had dismissed out of hand because I assume he suffered a decline in velocity

ParisSox

Timmy gets to rest his legs until the playoffs.

joewho112

I thought he was appealing. Did they come back with a verdict?

a-t

I agree with this logic. Giolito, Lynn, Cease, Rodon/sorta-bullpen game, Gio again should be the plan. Giolito came out and shoved in last year’s playoff start, he’s got the best combination of past and very recent performance/health of any of the starters, plus he’s destroyed the Astros in his two starts vs them since breaking out— two complete game gems. Combined: 18 IP, 1R/1ER, 5H, 1 BB, 17 K. Give him the ball and let Bully Lucas come out and put the cheating Stros in the dirt at least once.

vanillablue

I don’t want to see Kimbrel in a meaningful inning in the playoffs, and I don’t want to see Keuchel at all.

As Cirensica

You’ll be disappointed. Kimbrel will pitch in high leverage innings. that’s 100% sure. That’s why Hahn brought him for.

Root Cause

We have been hot and cold, the last several weeks.
With Rodon an unknown, I am bringing Keuchel along for the ride.
We might have a game where we need an innings eater to save the rest of the staff in a blowout going either way.

He has experience, his last 3 games were iffy (lots of contact) but still averaged 2.0 era.

Trooper Galactus

I liked that Rodon’s slider still had a lot of bite to it, but I wouldn’t trust him to go more than once through an order in the playoffs, if at all. His stuff is diminished to a point where they’d be playing with fire trying to get much out of him.

Root Cause

I agree. Plan for 3 innings and see what 11 days off did for him. If we are lucky, he might do that multiple times. As others said, match him with Kopech and I am willing to live or die with those results.

soxygen

Agreed. Also, I’m not giving any weight to the results yesterday. He just beat the Reds who were playing without Votto, Winker, and Castellanos; the Reds roster hit .225 versus LHP this year; and the 3 4 & 5 hitters in the lineup had OPS+ ratings of 75, 86, and 45. It was kind of like pitching 5 shutout innings versus Baltimore – nice result, but nothing that you can really feel good about.

Literally, the #30 team in MLB versus LHP for the season, and then they played their backups.

Last edited 9 months ago by soxygen
Root Cause

The only stat I am interested in from last night’s game is how Rodon is feeling today. Both Rodon and the coaching staff need that one question answered to find out if he can contribute in the post-season.

HallofFrank

What about him going 10 IP, 2 ER, 10 K, 1 BB against the full-strength Blue Jays and Red Sox since returning from the IL? How do those teams stack up against LHP?

Rodón clearly isn’t the same pitcher he was in the 1st half. We get it. But let’s also stop pretending that this is 2020 Rodón. He didn’t just see a velocity spike this season. The command and control are much improved. And, clearly, he can be effective without the 95+ mph heat—even against good teams.

He’s put together a season that put him in the CY conversation, his ERA and FIP have lowered since he returned from the IL (with diminished velocity), and based on the comments here you’d think he should be in danger of being left off the playoff roster because he shut down the Reds.

soxygen

Um…in the start versus Toronto his average fastball velocity was 95 mph. It was 94.3 mph in the start against Boston. It was 91.0 mph in his start versus a really crappy Reds lineup. If he is throwing 91 mph fastballs 68% of the time in his next start he will probably get hammered.

HallofFrank

Fangraphs says it was mid-94 on both starts, but, either way, my point is he’s succeeded with diminished velocity. 94 is 2-3 MPH slower than where he was mid-season. That normally spells disaster, but it hasn’t for Rodón. The success is still there. Again, I’m not saying there’s no cause for concern, but he seems to be a clear playoff starter (with perhaps a short leash).

Trooper Galactus

There’s still a really big difference between averaging 94 and averaging 91.

shaggy65

Thinking about the playoffs as a whole, I’m starting Rodon in Game 3. He’s generally been better than Cease anyway, and I want to get him as much rest as possible before the ALCS. The difference between 10 and 11 days rest vs. the Astros is probably negligible.

As Cirensica

Houston Astros is such a solid offensive team. They have no discernible splits. They hit above average against LHP or RHP. I would go with Giolito and Lynn in that order. not idea what to do next. I’d probably go with Rodon/bullpen (Cease would work too), then back to Giolito/Lynn.

gibby32

My guiding principles: 1. No one starts on less than 4 days rest. 2. Lynn does not pitch in Houston. 3. Cease does not pitch on the road. (I recognize that his home-road splits are not particularly troubling, but in a playoff game in a rollicking stadium, I don’t trust his maturity.)

So, rotation: Giolito-game 1; Rodon/Kopech-game 2; Lynn-game 3; Cease-game 4. (Even if the Sox are down 2-1); Giolito-game 5. Win in 5, Lynn starts game 1 in the ALCS.

In the unlikely event that the Sox get the 2 seed, something has to give in a game 4: either Gio on 3 days rest or Cease on the road. Not sure which; right now, I would start Gio on 3, with Lynn in game 5.

As Cirensica

The problem with Cease is that I can see Houston veterans grinding him down, and he will have 75 pitches by the 3rd inning even if the game is close. I get that Cease has good stuff, but he is subject (probably because of lack of experience) to high pitching counts when the offense he is facing is not buying his stuff or get into fouling offerings until he offers a meatball.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

In Cease’s last 14 starts, he has given up more than 3 runs only once. Toronto, Yankees, Astros among those starts. In 4 of his last 6, he has given up 1 run or less. I have a lot of confidence in him.

I’m far more worried about our offense getting shut down like we’ve seen so much of than anything else.

Last edited 9 months ago by LamarHoyt_oncrack
As Cirensica

I wasn’t saying anything about the amount of runs Cease could allow. I was referring to a short start that will require the bullpen to pick up most of the innings.

joewho112

Normal postseason baseball in other words

gibby32

As to Cease vs. Kopech, if Kopech crashes and burns, the bullpen has fewer innings to cover which can facilitate a short leash. That’s harder to do with a starter. As to limiting Lynn to one appearance, I believe that four days rest is important absent extreme circumstances. As a consequence, only one starter gets two appearances. I pick Giolito.