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Weekend Series Preview: Yankees-White Sox

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn’s second attempt at retooling his roster has proven much more successful than his disastrous efforts the previous winter. Chicago appears to be a legitimate contender in the AL Central, with a healthy five game lead in the division after the first 35 games played. Their pitching has been the class of the American League in the early going. Their 3.19 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 122 ERA+ all rank second among AL clubs. While their offense isn’t overpowering, Hahn has brought in enough quality bats to give his staff the support they need.

 

Pitching Matchups

Friday 7:05 pm ET- Luis Severino vs. Chris Sale

“The Condor” is on the shortlist for toughest at-bat in the majors. He’s carried the White Sox on his back in the early going, leading the league in innings pitched (50 ⅓) and WHIP (0.775) after his last start Saturday. Sale is an absolute horse who has pitched seven innings or more in all but one start and has gotten the W in all seven.

Not surprisingly, this current group of Yankees have historically struggled against Sale, batting a collective .221/.284/.368 in 74 PAs. Only Chase Headley appears to enjoy hitting off of Sale, going 4-9 with a double and a HR.

Saturday 1:05 pm ET- Ivan Nova vs. Jose Quintana

As fantastic as Chris Sale has been to start the year, he hasn’t even been the best pitcher on his own staff in 2016. That honor belongs to Quintana, who has a lower ERA (1.38) and a league leading FIP (2.10) as of Thursday. While his K and BB rates are almost identical to Sale’s, Quintana has allowed only one home run in his 45 ⅔ innings.

The Yankees designated lefty-mashers, Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro, are a combined 1-21 career against Quintana, so Joe Girardi may want to look elsewhere for offense.

Sunday 1:05 pm ET- Masahiro Tanaka vs. Miguel Gonzalez

Finally, a matchup where the Yankees have the upper hand. Gonzalez was called up Monday to audition for the vacant fifth starter job and provided 5 ⅔ quality innings in Chicago’s 8-4 victory over Texas. That outing earned him another look against New York. The White Sox are searching for a starter to replace John Danks since they designated the veteran left-hander for assignment after ten seasons with the club.

PECOTA expects Gonzalez to be more or less replacement level the rest of the way, with a projected 4.58 ERA and 0.1 WARP in 85 ⅓ innings.

 

Bullpen

The White Sox are currently carrying seven relievers, led by our old friend D-Rob. Here’s how they’ve done thus far:

Role Name G IP ERA K/9 BB/9
CL David Robertson 14 14.2 1.23 10.4 3.7
SU Matt Albers 16 16.1 2.2 6.1 2.2
SU Nate Jones 15 14.2 1.84 8.6 1.8
MID Zach Duke 20 13.2 2.63 8.6 2
MID Zach Putnam 12 13.1 3.38 9.5 2
MID Dan Jennings 10 14.1 2.51 6.9 3.1
LR Scott Carroll 3 2.1 11.57 7.7 3.9

 

Lineup

The White Sox offense has been roughly average in the early going, but that is a tremendous improvement from the lineup that ranked dead last in the majors with a .247 TAv in 2015. Chicago completely overhauled their attack, replacing five of their regulars from last season. Offseason acquisitions Todd Frazier (.292 TAv) and Brett Lawrie (.294) have been the hottest bats in the first six weeks of the season, adding some power to a lineup that was sorely lacking it.

Several returning starters have enjoyed nice bounce-backs as well. One of these is 24-year-old Avisail Garcia, who ranks third on the team with a .291 TAv after a disappointing 2015 season. Fellow outfielder and former Yankee cult-hero Melky Cabrera (.279 TAv) has also rebounded considerably, with a TAv 26 points higher than his 2015 mark. The big name in the middle of the lineup is still Jose Abreu, although his numbers have declined for the third consecutive season:

Age PA BA OBP SLG TAv
27 622 0.317 0.383 0.581 0.343
28 668 0.290 0.347 0.502 0.291
29 157 0.252 0.338 0.415 0.264

Perennially underrated outfielder Adam Eaton (.281 TAv) continues to do solid work at the top of the lineup. The ghost of Jimmy Rollins (.242) is seeing far too much time in the two hole. Dioneer Navarro (.233 TAv) and Alex Avila (.222 TAv) have done a respectable job splitting time at catcher, while Austin Jackson (.221 TAv) is essentially a defense-only player at this point in his career.

 

Injuries

Yankees:

– Jacoby Ellsbury is day to day with a tight right hip. He’s been out since he left Friday’s game after straining a muscle running the bases. The plan is currently for him to return at some point this weekend.

– Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia are both on the 15 day DL. The Yankees hope both will be ready to go once their two week stint is up, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

White Sox:

– Todd Frazier is day-to-day after diving headfirst into the stands to catch a Prince Fielder pop-up on Wednesday. He received five stitches in his face and is questionable for Friday’s opener, but should return at some point in the series.

– Catcher Alex Avila was activated from the disabled list Monday after missing exactly 15 days with a hamstring injury. Fellow backstop Kevan Smith is still on the 15 day DL.

– The White Sox are short a pair of relief pitchers. Right hander Jake Petricka is on the 15 day DL with a hip impingement after working to a 4.50 ERA in nine games during April. He is joined by righty Daniel Webb, who injured his elbow in his first appearance of the season and is expected to be sidelined for a considerable period of time.

 

Photo: Anthony Grupposo / USA Today Sports

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