White Sox preview (and some reality)

Tough looking for good news if you’re a Yankee fan lately.  It’s become very likely that the Yankees will play a one game playoff against either Seattle, Oakland or the Astros – yes the Astros, who are only four games ahead of the Athletics with six games remaining against them.

Yet, I’m here to be the glass half full guy today.

Of course it’s been ugly recently, but let’s stick to the big picture:  The Yankees are at worst, the 3rd best team in baseball, more likely the 2nd best.  Think Houston is better?  The Yankees have the same number of losses as the Astros despite missing Judge and Sanchez.  (And incidentally, are spending $12 million less on payroll than Houston – take that, Yankees buy their wins crowd.)

The Yankees are 18-20 in their last 38, you say?  Well, they were 29-9 over a 38 game stretch spanning April to June.   Nobody thought they were going to win 120 games back then, and no one thinks they’re a sub .500 team now. Reminder: It is a long season, folks.

Better news: The next three games are against the Chicago White Sox.  (Wipes sweat off brow, sighs relief…)

Here’s what you need to know about the White Sox:  They’re awful.

The have a run differential of -1.29 per game.  When combined with the Yankees differential of +1.11 per game, the Yankees would have to spot Chicago almost two and a half runs for this to be an even matchup on a sports betting board.

The White Sox only have two players (Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu) with more than 1.1 WAR and none with two.  And even Anderson is a testament to how valuable having good range at a premium position and being a plus runner can be, because with a career .290 OBP and a 2018 chase rate of 42%, he’s close to an automatic out.

The three starters they’ll send out against the Yankees – Dylan Covey, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito – have ERA+ of 75, 93 and 70, respectively.  For you numbers newbies out there, ERA+ is set to a league average of 100, so Giolito has been 30% worse than a league average pitcher.  Want more perspective? Sonny Gray’s ERA+ is 78.  Furthermore, Giolito’s xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching – a very good indicator of performance) is the worst in MLB.

As a team, their pitching staff is dead last in K/BB ratio and have the lowest chase rate by opposing batters.  Combine that with a crappy defense and you have the team who’s allowed the 2nd most runs in baseball.

Offensively, they’re 12th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored, 12th in OBP, 10th in SLG and swing at more pitches outside the strike zone than every AL team but Detroit.

Any bright spots, you’re wondering?

Meh…We know Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson and Avisail Garcia are plus offensively (“plus”, not juggernauts).  What you may not know is that catcher Omar Narvaez is having a pretty good offensive season.

Narvaez has posted a .356 OBP and .425 SLG for an OPS+ of 117 over 204 plate appearances this season – the OPS+ puts him third among AL catchers.  Although with a .290 SLG against left handed pitchers, expect him to do something against Lance Lynn tonight, rather than CC tomorrow.

But it’s the White Sox, so even their bright spots can make you cringe.  Apparently, Narvaez is trying very hard to be a DH.  Among 101 catchers in MLB, he’s 100th in adjusted fielding runs, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Again, not panic time by any means for the Yankees – they’re still one of the best teams in baseball and playing Chicago should help your mood.


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