I enjoy Cubs/White Sox series for many reasons, not the least of which is that when these teams play, I can ask Brett Ballantini, editor-in-chief of our SB Nation White Sox site South Side Sox, for some words about his team.
So here goes!
You might remember me from such past White Sox series previews as 2018’s “my neighbors created a blitzkrieg next door to my house and all I was left with was a feeling that it still wasn’t as bad as the White Sox rebuild,” and the 2019 follow-up, “still moody, and still referencing those neighbors being jagbags, but feeling a little better about things?”
Last year’s preview of the end of the season series, which I just plugged into our South Side Sox A.I. writer, Robby the Recapper, because the sudden fortune of having a better record than the Cubs was more than I could responsibly preview. Apparently, it was also more than the White Sox could handle, given how the season ended. Really, let’s not talk about it.
Actually, let’s talk about it a little, because none of us around here still really know why Ricky Renteria got fired, presuming it wasn’t some sort of literal Tony La Russa as Angel of Death thing. (I’m not convinced it wasn’t.) Given the lack of bread crumbs, Renteria’s apparent ordering of Jimmy Cordero to hit Willson Contreras for … watching a home run? could well have earned him his pink slip. One day, I’ll sit down with Ricky and learn the answer over some homemade ceviche, and we’ll have a laugh about how terribly he was treated by both Chicago franchises.
But then, it’s not like Willson got off easy for his pimping. He still has to play for the Cubs, after all.
I thought about putting together a handy pocket guide for you fans, like, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Having Your Billionaire Owner Turn the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty Into Toilet Paper and Then Expect You to Thank Him for It But Were Too Hung Over to Ask,” but I think Al is anticipating a traditional preview focused on the best team in the majors run by a very old manager out of baseball and hired under controversial circumstances, so I’ll stick to that.
I mean, I said the White Sox wouldn’t make the playoffs, the only person of about 15 on my staff to be so bold, so I don’t know why he’s not asking one of the other 14. Perhaps my prediction proves I’m somewhat sober about this ballclub.
Did I say sober? Well, this White Sox pitching staff will get you drunk quite quick. The White Sox have been as pummeled by injuries as any other MLB squad, but they are an odd case in that ALL of the injuries are among players, not pitchers. So, Lance Lynn, Cy Young votes are coming. Carlos Rodón, inject some eugenix into that arm and keep collecting Cy votes. Lucas Giolito, you are our No. 3 starter now? That’s boss. Dylan Cease, oh, this is awkward, but jeez o pete Cease has turned a corner under new pitching coach Ethan Katz; still not super-efficient, but strikeout stuff that makes you wish you never heard the name José Quintana. These chaps have turned $18 million man Dallas Keuchel into a fifth starter, and Kid Keuchy is only holding onto starter reps because Michael Kopech still has a bit of bubble wrap on him after TJS in 2018 and an opt-out in 2020.
The bullpen? Some team gave us Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera to complement Foster’s Can Personified Liam Hendriks, sorta Matt Thornton redux Aaron Bummer, future fifth starter Garrett Crochet and Kopech.
But you got our power-packed energy wad, Nick Madrigal, in those deals last week, so take good care of him. I mean that in the sense that he is super-sweet and earnest, so unless you people are truly the monsters my dad told me you were as I grew up into Sox fandom, you are going to LOVE having him. But also, take good care of him, because he has suffered a serious injury in three of his past four seasons and some of that Kopech bubble wrap might be necessary. Guys on the team poked fun at Nick for saying he thought he could get 3,000 hits in his career at a time he had like 100, but I hope someone on the South Side took him aside and explained to Madrigal that at his current rate of play, he will have to play until he’s 245 years old to break 3,000 hits.
The rotation CARRIED the White Sox through the first half, and given the atrociousness of the AL Central, the White Sox can employ a 14-man rotation, or just dress High-A Winston Salem’s starters in Giolito and Rodón unis for the next month and still take the flag.
The rotation had to carry the White Sox in the first half, because a combination of injuries and Yasmani Grandal hitting .050 but carrying a 1.800 OPS was the only way the White Sox could have stormed to first place and not look back, as they have.
José Abreu will probably not hit 28 homers in consecutive at-bats this series, but he somehow has 80 ribbies already this season. No truth to the rumor that 40 of those RBIs are off of sacks-packed HBPs from Cleveland pitchers.
Yoán Moncada is probably the best player on the White Sox, and he is absolutely the best in the majors to have recorded a single called “Desastre Personal” and managed to look as pained through its music video as he is running out every ground ball; Yoán rolls out of bed pained, so thank goodness he rolls out of bed finding a way to accumulate another 0.1 WAR before he even gets to the clubhouse.
Tim Anderson, you know him. He’s the same guy.
There’s a couple of guys who were just seemingly hanging out and still playing at that free agent alt-site in Nashville or wherever it was in 2020, Billy Hamilton and Brian Goodwin, who have been positive contributors. A couple of rookies, Jake Burger of multiple Achilles tear infamy, and Gavin Sheets, of Our New Efficiency is Turning First Basemen Into Outfielders infamy, have done same. It’s been a “next man up” offense for the White Sox.
One of those next men will be Charlotte men or released men when Luis Robert returns from long injury as well, not a bad August add at all.
Andrew Vaughn was already jumping from High-A to the majors as a DH this season, and when Eloy beached himself on the left-field wall back in March, Vaughn shifted to left field. He had not played anywhere but first base as a professional, and he played no outfield in college. And the White Sox gave him TWO GAMES in left before starting him out there in the first series of the season. Andrew Vaughn is still alive, not in any way body-casted, and those defensive metrics alone tell me, a professional baseball writer, he is better in left than Eloy.
The Big Baby? Well, he tore his pectoral muscle playing left field in spring training, and the only surprise there is that he did it hanging on the wall trying to play as Ken Griffey Jr. in a George Bell body, not tied up in the fishing net down the line. Grandal being injured right now necessitates at least some LF action for Eloy, and the most amazing thing about his comeback in 2021 (there was doubt he’d play before 2022) is that his biggest value added in games so far has been for his glove. So the universe is about to collapse into itself, it’s been nice knowing you guys.
Overall, this rivalry is pretty even: The Sox have defeated the Cubs 65 times in regular season play, the Cubs have won 63 from the Sox.
Excluding the 2020 pandemic season, the last time a team which finished with a worse record in the season in question won a three-game series in this rivalry was in 2015, when the Sox took two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley Field July 10-12.
Probable pitching matchups
Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (13-4, 3.71 ERA, 1.275 WHIP, 4.66 FIP) vs. Lance Lynn, RHP (10-3, 2.07 ERA, 1.049 WHIP, 3.08 FIP)
Saturday: Adbert Alzolay, RHP (4-11, 4.85 ERA, 1.527 WHIP, 5.29 FIP) vs. Carlos Rodon, RHP (8-5, 2.49 ERA, 0.965 WHIP, 2.68 FIP)
Sunday: Zach Davies, RHP (6-8, 4.79 ERA, 1.527 WHIP, 4.87) vs. Dylan Cease, RHP (8-6, 3.92 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 3.45 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers), MLB Network (outside the Cubs/White Sox market territory)
Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)
Sunday: 6:08 p.m. CT, ABC (check local listings — ESPN is producing this game, but it is airing on over-the-air ABC stations)
The only real question in this series is: How many home runs will Jose Abreu hit? Maybe the Cubs can squeeze out one win when Hendricks starts.
The Cubs host the Brewers in a four-game series at Wrigley Field beginning Monday evening.
How many games will the Cubs win against the White Sox?
This poll is closed