Not so long ago the White Sox were a trendy pick to disrupt the American League power balance and turn their up-and-coming talent into postseason success. But they fell flat in 2022, finishing with an 81-81 record for second place in what seemed like a very winnable AL Central. And after an underwhelming offseason, they have started 2023 somewhat cold, beginning this weekend series with the O’s as losers of five out of their last seven.
On top of that, the roster is experiencing something of an injury crisis. Eloy Jiménez is hurt again; this time with a left hamstring that will keep him out at least another week. Tim Anderson was just placed on the IL this week with a sprained knee. And in the bullpen they are without Joe Kelly due to a groin strain, suffered when running in from the ‘pen during a brawl, closer Liam Hendriks, who is recovering from chemo treatments for non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, Garrett Crochet, still recovering from Tommy John surgery last spring, and Matt Foster, dealing with a forearm strain suffered in camp.
Naturally, that has made the relief corps something of a problem for the White Sox early on. The group’s 7.01 ERA is the worst in MLB. Much of that is a result of atrocious walk rates (5.56 BB/9). But the bad defense behind them doesn’t help. The White Sox are a bottom five team with -5 outs above average and -3 runs above average.
The offense is solid. Their 102 wRC+ and .320 wOBA have them firmly in the middle tier of MLB lineups. Their 21.3% strikeout rate is better than average, but they also have one of the lowest walk rates (6.1%) in the sport.
Missing out on Anderson and Jiménez does hurt, but there is depth here. Luis Robert has started the year hot (five home runs, 184 wRC+), and so have Yoan Moncada (143 wRC+) and Andrew Vaughn (142 wRC+). Their most patient hitter early on is Maryland’s own Gavin Sheets (16.7% walk rate, .400 OBP). Meanwhile Andrew Benintendi (69 wRC+), familiar face Hanser Alberto (61 wRC+) and Elvis Andrus (-11 wRC+) have struggled.
Game 1: Friday, April 14th, 7:10 p.m., MASN 2
RHP Tyler Wells (0-1, 3.27 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Clevinger (2-0, 3.48 ERA)
It has been a strong start to the season for Wells. He did allow four runs across six innings to the Yankees in his most recent start, but it was an outing that felt better than the box score indicated. His inclination to pitch to contact could keep his pitch count particularly low against these aggressive White Sox.
Clevinger is putting a lot of guys on base (11 hits, five walks, 1.548 WHIP) for a guy with such a low ERA. His secret so far is no homers allowed across 10.1 innings. But the Orioles and their tendency to hit the long ball will put that skill to the test.
Game 2: Saturday, April 15th, 2:10 p.m., MASN 2
RHP Kyle Gibson (3-0, 3.44 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Kopech (0-2, 6.75 ERA)
You cannot ask for more than what Gibson has given the Orioles in his first three starts. The 35-year-old is averaging more than six innings per start, and he is keeping runners off base. He was particularly good in his most recent outing, tossing 5.1 scoreless innings after allowing a run in the first frame. There should be some concern that his strikeout rate (5.9 K/9) is worrying low, but he can make that work by minimizing walks and home runs like he has been.
It’s been one bad start and one good start for the 26-year-old Kopech. In his first start (at home versus the Giants) he served up five home runs and got yanked in the fifth inning. In his second start (on the road against the Pirates) he tossed six innings and allowed one run. Which version will show up here?
Game 3: Sunday, April 16th, 2:10 p.m., MASN 2
RHP Grayson Rodriguez (0-0, 6.75 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (2-0, 1.65 ERA)
This is a huge game for Rodriguez. The rookie has shown explosive stuff in his two big league starts, but he has not yet secured his spot in the Orioles rotation. With Kyle Bradish expected back from the IL soon, the rookie is a candidate to get demoted to make room. He will definitely need to wrangle his control a bit as the four walks he issued in his most recent start will not cut it. But there is little doubt that when he is in or near the strike zone that he is already the Orioles nastiest starting option.
Cease looks to be right back in Cy Young form after his breakthrough 2022 campaign. His current strikeout rate (13.2 K/9) is the best of his career, and it has aided him to a ridiculous 0.796 WHIP thus far. Perhaps the one negative right now is that Cease is not going deep in games. His last two starts have ended after five innings, and he will issue his share of walks (3.9 BB/9). Given the state of Chicago’s bullpen, attempting to work counts and get Cease out of the game as soon as possible feels like a viable plan of attack.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the White Sox?
This poll is closed
0 (get swept)
3 (do the sweeping!)