Waiting For Chris Sale to Chris Sale – Game Preview and Lineups 4/15

As much light as has been made about the scheduling of White Sox opponents, the upcoming series against the Rays will make two of the four teams they have played division winners in the eyes of PECOTA. The fact of the matter is the American League is without dramatic extremes. This is the schedule. These are the teams they play, everyday. If it’s a 2015 playoff team you’re looking for, it’ll have to wait another week.

Four years ago Chris Sale made the leap from the bullpen to the starting rotation. It was met with mixed expectations. His build and his delivery were leading the way as ready-made points of blame for his failure. At that particular time, teams were opting to keep their explosive young arms in the bullpen even when they originally had designs on starting. While the Aroldis Chapmans and Neftali Felizes of the world were being safely stashed for use in short bursts, Sale and the White Sox would take a chance on upside.

I don’t need to remind you that it was the right choice: we’ve all been watching Sale dominate since. But when it was still in question, a start against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field made believers out of many, and provided a fun Chris Sale moment for us all as he struck out 15 while yielding only three hits and a single run, and every bit of which was needed as the Sox edged out a 2-1 win. In his two other starts in Tampa he allowed two earned runs each, and struck out 12 and nine batters respectively. The White Sox lost both of those games. We’ve yet to see Chris Sale bust out dominating stuff so far in 2016, yet he’s racked up 14 strikeouts and paved the way to victory in each of his starts. When “just out here getting the feel” Chris Sale is striking out a batter per inning, and going seven innings in outings, a re-visitation of his first Tropicana start doesn’t seem like a stretch.

Jake Odorizzi’s big league arrival was certainly less anticipated. The Illinois-native arrived in Tampa by being a small piece in two large trades. He was part of the package that netted Milwaukee Zack Greinke prior to the 2011 season, and two winters later was part of the infamous, if fluidly named, “James Shields trade.” Odorizzi has been slightly above average in his first full two seasons pitching for the Rays. His splitter usage has been consistent, thrown about half as much as his four-seamer, and while last season he scrapped his slider in favor of increasing the use of a two-seam fastball, his first two starts in 2016 have shown him dialing that two-seamer back and mainly replacing it with a cutter, which he’s thrown over 10 percent of the time. The change in pitch selection won’t mean much to the Sox hitters as nobody’s faced him much. Melky Cabrera has seen him just nine times and he’s the most experienced.

Cabrera is the latest cog in the White Sox lineup to kick into gear and present some offensive production that one can be proud of. After a slow start, Melky has collected two hits in each of his last four games, slapping an extra .160 on to his OPS. On a Rollins off day, Ventura even elected to bat Melky second in the lineup on Thursday, which would be preferred by most of the analytically-driven Sox population, however with Jimmy back tonight he’s reverted back to puting the aging “bat-handler” near the top of the lineup.

The Rays offensive production has come from unsurprising sources. Evan Longoria, Steven Souza, and the recently acquired Corey Dickerson have all hit for some power in the young season.

White Sox Lineup:

  1. Adam Eaton – RF
  2. Jimmy Rollins – SS
  3. Jose Abreu – 1B
  4. Todd Frazier – 3B
  5. Melky Cabrera – LF
  6. Brett Lawrie – 2B
  7. Avisail Garcia – DH
  8. Alex Avila – C
  9. Austin Jackson – CF

Rays Lineup:

  1. Logan Forsythe – 2B
  2. Brandon Guyer – RF
  3. Evan Longoria – 3B
  4. Steve Pearce – 1B
  5. Desmond Jennings – LF
  6. Steven Souza Jr. – DH
  7. Tim Beckham – SS
  8. Kevin Kiermaier – CF
  9. Curt Casali – C

Lead Photo Credit: Matt Marton – USA Today Sports Images

Related Articles

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username