Series Preview: Chicago White Sox (18-21) at Chicago Cubs (15-23)

 

Last I checked, the White Sox were doing pretty well in the AL central and there was talk of contention. They have a losing record now, but it's only a half game back from the heavily favorited Tigers and the surprising Indigenous Peoples. Much like the Cubs they have a solid rotation with a shaky bullpen and a bunch of question marks on offense, aside from Konerko and the resurgent Adam Dunn. The record between the two teams is only separated by a bullpen meltdown or two.

Team Overviews

Respective league ranks in parens

  Sox Cubs
wOBA .309 (10th) .298 (14th)
BSR 1.6 (4th) 3.4 (2nd)
UZR -0.4 (7th) 7.9 (4th)
DRS -2 (12th) 3 (5th)
SP FIP 3.87 (3rd) 3.47 (5th)
RP FIP 4.27 (12th) 4.63 (16th)

Injuries

The Cubs are down two catchers with Geovany Soto (tear in knee, out 3-4 weeks after surgery) and Steve Clevenger out. Yesterday, Clevenger began swinging a bat for the first time since hitting the DL so he's not coming back anytime soon. Castillo is now the starter with Blake Lalli as the backup. Another injury and we could even see Michael Brenly at this point.

Robin Ventura (brain). Adam Dunn is going to stand in LF for this NL series, which should be fun to watch. Sox SP Chris Sale has been returned to the rotation after being threatened with a bullpen test. To be fair, the move was prompted by shoulder soreness, but you shut a guy down when that happenes unless it's something that's much more chronic (see: Kerry Wood). Marmol is on the DL with a hamstring strain, and Lendy Castillo was shelved for David Patton Syndrome.

Position Players

Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko has carried the offense, but the White Sox have also received solid numbers from notorious douchebag A.J. Pierzynski and Alejandro De Aza, who had a quietly great season last year as a bench player. The rest of the offense has been miserable, most notably SS Alexi Ramirez (.222 wOBA) and 3B Brent Morel (.199 wOBA). There's obviously not enough data to say much of anything about defense, but according to ZiPS no one is particularly standout either way on this team, aside from the non-DHed Adam Dunn. On the basepaths, De Aza is the only real threat to steal a base.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Philip Humber, RHP (5.77, 4.48, 4.06, 4.46) vs Jeff Samardzija, RHP (2.89, 2.53, 2.90, 3.92), 1:20 PM CT

Humber threw a perfect game against Seattle in his second start of the season, but since then things haven't gone so well. He's given up 21 runs in the four starts since then, including 8 and 9 run meltdowns. His only decent one was his most recent outing against the Royals, where he struck out seven and walked three while giving up just one run in just under seven innings. He's had a big jump in his strikeout rate this year, but his walk rate is also double his career rate. Sounds like he's been throwing a ton of pitches, so the Cubs are a great matchup for him.

There's not much to say about Jeff Samardzija at this point that we haven't said. The Cubs are in Houston next week, and I can't believe I'm picking a Samardzija start over a Matt Garza start for which game to attend. He's been relatively efficient this year with his pitches, but racked up a big count early after the Brewers fouled off a ton of his pitches in his last start.

Saturday: John Danks, RHP (6.46, 5.25, 5.02, 4.21) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (1.74, 2.10, 2.87, 3.73), 6:15 PM CT

Danks signed a five year, $65m extension with the White Sox this offseason which could prove to be the model for a possible Matt Garza extension for the Cubs. If the Cubs and Garza do reach a similar agreement, hopefully he doesn't get off to a start similar to Danks. Danks's strikeout rate has dropped by over two batters per nine and his walk rate has shot up. At least aside from his difficulty finding the plate he hasn't had much bad luck. Danks is the only one of the Texas "DVD" trio to have any real success, though Edinson Volquez still has a chance to win rookie of the year.

Dempster didn't show any rust from his short DL stint at the end of April, averaging seven innings and less than two runs per game over three starts. He's still bafflingly winless on the season.

Sunday: Jake Peavy, RHP (2.65, 2.78, 3.79, 3.47) vs Paul Maholm, LHP (4.35, 5.13, 4.46, 4.12), 1:20 PM CT

Due to injuries, Peavy has only pitched ~100 innings per season since the White Sox acquired him, but they've been pretty good innings by every measure but ERA. He had a miniscule 1.93 BB/9 last year and it's an even smaller 1.40 this season. Since coming to the Sox his strikeout rate has dropped by one or two batters per nine, but that's not too surprising considering the lack of easy pitcher K's.

Maholm continues to do Maholm things. He got double digit grounders in his last start, but more hits got through than usual. He's been solid since his back to back six run outings to start the season. His option for next year is only $6.5m, so the Cubs could get a decent piece for him at the deadline.

Prediction

Instead of picking the winner, I'm going to predict that 80% of the runs scored this series will be off of relief pitchers.

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