The regular season is now over. The White Sox finished with a 93-69 record, about on par with expectations. Now comes the playoffs, something the Sox have been cruising into for months and clinched on the 24th. Their foe will be the Houston Astros, who finished with a 95-67 record out of the AL West. Here’s all that you need know about that series.
Scouting the Astros
As mentioned before, the Astros are 95-67 out of the AL West. Their team OPS is .781, the second best in the American League, making them a threat on offense. They’re fifth in the AL for home runs as well, with 217. Their best overall hitter was Kyle Tucker who finished with a .910 OPS and 29 home runs. Their hitter with the most potential was Yordan Alvarez who, in his second year, finished with an .876 OPS and 33 home runs.
Their rotation is a bit more iffy than their hitting. Zack Greinke just got off of the injured list today, and will probably be available out of the bullpen versus the Sox. Greinke was expected to head the rotation this year, however he finished with a 4.11 ERA. Lance McCullers was the best pitcher for Houston this year, finishing with a 3.16 ERA and a 3.52 FIP. Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez were also good for the Astros, compiling a 3.30 and 3.14 ERA respectively. Beyond those four, there isn’t much going for the rotation.
As for the bullpen, Ryan Pressly, Cristian Javier, and Ryan Stanek led the charge with a combined 2.85 ERA. Pressly was one of the best closers in baseball with a 2.25 ERA, and should serve a crucial role for the Astros in the series.
Scouting the Sox
On the brighter side of life, for the White Sox, it’s been a successful season. They had a 93-69 record, good enough to win the AL Central by a very comfortable margin. They’re coming into the playoffs having won 6 of their past 7 games. Their offense has had a relatively good season, compiling a .758 OPS which is good for 4th in the AL. Jose Abreu, the reigning MVP, had another good year, finishing with 30 HRs and an .831 OPS. Their offense was hit by tons of injuries this year, especially in the outfield. The main contributors were Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, and Tim Anderson along with the aforementioned Abreu.
As for pitching, their rotation has been exceptional this year, at least their top four starters have. Before this turns into a Dallas Keuchel rant, let’s go over the top 4. Lance Lynn heads the rotation with a 2.69 ERA, followed by Lucas Giolito with a 3.53 ERA. Carlos Rodon is next with a 2.37 ERA, and he would be higher if not for the injuries he’s had. Dylan Cease rounds it up with a 3.91 ERA for a strong top four. The fifth starter, Keuchel, had a season to forget with a 5.28 ERA.
In the bullpen, Liam Hendriks had a solid year with, in 69 games, a 2.54 ERA and 113 strikeouts. Michael Kopech came out of the ‘pen this year and he finished with a 3.50 ERA, and Jose Ruiz, Aaron Bummer, and Garrett Crochet all had good seasons as well.
The series will kick off on October 7th at Houston for game 1, will remain in Houston for game 2, and will travel to Chicago for Games 3 and (if necessary) 4. Game 5, if necessary, will be played in Houston. Houston is favored in Game 1 by a spread of -135.
Comparing The Sox vs Astros
Hitting: This one is pretty simple. The Astros have just had a better season hitting, and it’s hard to deny. There is something to be said about the Sox having bad injury luck, however, the fact remains that the Astros will probably out-hit the Sox. So therefore, I’m going with the Astros.
Pitching: This one is not as simple. Given that both teams may only go with a 3 man rotation instead of the regular 5, it boils down to star power among pitchers. The 3 pitcher rotation of Lynn-Rodon-Giolito is one of the best in baseball, and McCullers-Greinke-Garcia/Valdez doesn’t compare. For a non-playoff rotation I’d have to go with the Astros, but we’re in the playoffs, so the White Sox win this one.
Relief Pitching: This one isn’t so simple either. The Sox just got Ryan Tepera back from the IL which will give them a huge boost in the bullpen, and Liam Hendriks is the best closer in baseball. However, the Astros do bring some heat from the bullpen as well. Ryan Pressly has had an outstanding year, and so has Ryne Stanek. Due to the lockdown play of Hendriks over the past month, I’m giving this one to the White Sox.
By no means will this series be close. These are two of the best teams in baseball, playing in a best of five series to determine who keeps playing and who goes home. The Astros bring the better hitting, while the Sox have the pitching on their side. Tony LaRussa has far more experience in the postseason than Dusty Baker, but his experience was in a different time in baseball. I can’t look past the Sox’s rotation though, and that’s why I’m giving them the series in 4.