It will be Dallas Keuchel and Jorge Lopez as the White Sox and Orioles open up a three-game set. The White Sox are clear road favorites, but maybe not as big as you would expect because the baseline for Keuchel is pretty low in the eyes of the investment community.
Chicago had a much needed off day on Thursday and Baltimore got an impromptu off day with the rainout against the Blue Jays. That means that both bullpens are in fine shape here, but the starters are what I’m looking closely at for this handicap.
Keuchel is better than how the market treats him, at least in my opinion. I realize that the peripherals aren’t anything to get excited about, but a lot of line moves in baseball are shaped by guys that look deep into the metrics. The metrics are never going to be that great for Keuchel as an extreme ground ball guy with a low strikeout rate.
That being said, Keuchel’s numbers are not pretty this season. After allowing seven runs last time out, Keuchel has a 4.48 ERA with a 5.69 xERA, and a 4.75 FIP. The high xERA is significant because xERA takes into account batted ball data such as exit velocity and Hard Hit%. Keuchel has the second-highest Hard Hit% of his career and far and away the highest Barrel% of his career.
To be fair to Keuchel, the home plate umpire in his last start doesn’t call the low strike and Keuchel has to be able to live at the bottom of the zone to survive, so the conditions were not great for him in his most recent outing. I don’t know about tonight’s umpire assignment, but his margin for error is fair low in general.
The reality of his situation here in this start is that he is facing the fourth-best offense in baseball by wOBA against lefties in the Orioles. Baltimore ranks fourth in SLG in that split as well. It isn’t like they hit an inordinate amount of fly balls against lefties either. They hit a lot of line drives and actually quite a few ground balls, but they pull them with authority.
That makes it tough for Keuchel in this start. It will also be another warm day in Baltimore and the ball does carry differently in the summer at Oriole Park.
Jorge Lopez is a guy that I’ve probably been a bit too sympathetic towards this season. I’ve been impressed with the increased K%, but Lopez still has a 6.02 ERA with a 5.12 FIP in his 80.2 innings of work. Lopez has a .339 BABIP against and has allowed 14 home runs in his 17 starts. The increased strikeouts are great, but his command tool is still non-existent.
Lopez has added the walk to his list of problems, especially recently. He allowed 11 baserunners against the Angels last time out and 14 against the Blue Jays the start prior to that. In other words, I think we’ll get a lot of chances to see runs and men in scoring position in this start with a lot of balls in play.
Whether or not the teams capitalize on those opportunities is the question. I do think we’ll be in position to see lots of runs scored in this game. The White Sox, in spite of the injuries, have still been one of the best offenses in baseball all season long and especially over the last 2-4 weeks.
Hopefully that continues and hopefully the Orioles keep hitting lefties.