White Sox vs Astros
The team of upstarts and the team of old veterans square off in this series. Usually, the upstarts need a butt-kicking before they come back to take it all.
Baseball is game of opportunities and being able to take advantage of them.
White Sox pitchers and catchers are abysmal at keeping opposing runners from stealing: fourth worst in baseball.
Offensively, the White Sox are kind of like Astros Light. They hit well but are nine points shy of the ‘Stros. They hit homers, but are 29 shy of Houston’s mark. Houston also strikes out one fewer time per game.
Pitching-wise, it’s the opposite. Chicago has a better ERA, more saves, more shutouts, more strikeouts and fewer walks. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease should be solid. Liam Hendricks is there go-to reliever but he has a career ERA of nearly five in the postseason. That could be a problem.
For Houston, Lance McCullers Jr. has stepped in as the co-ace, along with lefty Framber Valdez. Luis Garcia is right there too. If those three can go deep in games, that takes managerial switches and decisions out of the equation.
And when it comes to throwing out runners, Astros catcher Martin Maldonado threw out 40 percent of would be base-stealers. Does that make up for his embarrassing .172 batting average? Is he really that much better of a catcher than Yasmani Grandal? The team ERAs are within .03 of each other so I’m going to say no. If Grandal gets hot, look out. He leads all of baseball in on-base percentage. But if he slumps, he’ll equal that .172 of Maldonado’s, no problem.
These Astros are older and they are without Justin Verlander and George Springer due to injury and free agency. The White Sox got a taste of the playoffs last year and ended with a disappointing offensive and pitching performance in a one-game playoff loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Houston still has shortstop Carlos Correa, But third baseman Alex Bregman hit barely over .100 in the final week of the season and wasn’t that much better the week before that. And they still have guys who can take over a game or a series: Jose Altuve, batting champ Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker.
Managers and their ages will no doubt be discussed ad nauseum during this series. I don’t think either Methuselah nor Moses would appreciate it if I pile on, so I won’t. Astros manager Dusty Baker has one trip to the World Series and White Sox manager Tony La Russa has six. Baker has nearly the exact same regular-season winning percentage (.534) as La Russa (.537) but his winning percentage in the postseason (.456) is way worse than La Russa’s (.547).
Fun fact: White Sox manager Tony La Russa walked more times (674) in his 15 minor league seasons than he struck out (581). I can’t say he did as well in his 203 at-bats in the majors.
If the players play to their abilities, I think Houston has the experience and the talent to give Chicago more than they can handle. Normally, in the NCAA tournament bracket, I favor coaches who have had success. I’m inclined to do that here, but I won’t.
Prediction: Astros in five.