The AL Central is shaping up to be the most entertaining divisional race in MLB this season.
The Guardians, Twins, and White Sox all sit within two games of each other in the standings. The Guardians are on top and the White Sox trailing the other two.
Therefore, this is a huge series for both teams, as every divisional series in the AL Central will be down the stretch.
Which team has the edge in this one?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Friday’s matchup.
Chicago White Sox vs Cleveland Guardians Odds
Lance Lynn has been a total dumpster fire this season and is now being priced as such.
In the meantime, Tristan McKenzie is turning into a potential ace. He’s spun a few gems in his last few starts, and he should be taken seriously moving forward.
But are the Guardians overvalued?
Chicago White Sox Starting Lineup
CF L. Robert R
DH A. Vaughn R
LF E. Jimenez R
1B J. Abreu R
C Y. Grandal S
3B Y. Moncada S
2B J. Harrison R
RF G. Sheets L
SS E. Andrus R
Chicago White Sox vs Triston McKenzie
Since July 3rd, McKenzie has made eight starts. He pitched a ridiculous 54 ⅓ innings during that time (over 6 ⅔ innings per start) with an ERA under 1.80. He pitched eight shout innings against the Astros just 10 days ago – the same Astros who have a top-five wRC+ over the last two weeks.
His BABIP is just .215 during the period and his xFIP is 3.61, but this is still an awesome development for a kid who has always had the potential.
McKenzie’s avg. exit velocity and barrel rate are still far too high. His barrel rate on fastballs is quite concerning. But so far he’s managed to work around it, but I’m a little worried about McKenzie moving forward.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
I’m not worried about McKenzie against the White Sox. The White Sox hit the ball hard, but they cannot get the ball off the ground. The White Sox have had the fourth-highest ground-ball rate all season, sandwiched right in between dead franchises like the Tigers and Nationals.
Jose Abreu, Luis Robert, and Andrew Vaughn continue to carry the team, but the rest of the everyday lineup has an OPS+ below 100. Plus, Tim Anderson continues to get hurt. It’s been brutal on the offensive end for the White Sox.
Luckily, the Southsiders have a rotation and bullpen that is elite.
Cleveland Guardians Starting Lineup
LF S. Kwan L
SS A. Rosario R
3B J. Ramirez S
DH J. Naylor L
2B A. Gimenez L
RF O. Gonzalez R
1B O. Miller R
C A. Hedges R
CF M. Straw R
Cleveland Guardians vs Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn is not a part of the elite pitchers in Chicago. He is a shell of himself. He has a 5.62 ERA with batted-ball statistics that are uninspiring.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
He’s been a little unlucky. His 60.5% strand rate should hover towards 72% as the season progresses, and his 3.38 xFIP indicates loads of negative regression. But his three-fastball combo (four-seam, cutter, sinker) just doesn’t look right, and has combined for a +5 Run Value so far this season. Something is off.
In theory, the Guardians shouldn’t pose any issues. Cleveland masquerades as a good offense, ranking dead last in MLB in avg. exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate. Jose Ramirez is one of the best hitters in the game, and he has a ridiculous 234 OPS+ on the season, but he’s carrying a back-half of the lineup that has underperformed.
Thanks to an uber-low strikeout rate (18.3%), the Guardians have managed to post league-average offensive numbers. And thanks to a great pitching staff, they’re first in the AL Central. But there are underlying issues with the Guardians that need to be solved.
Chicago White Sox vs Cleveland Guardians Pick & Prediction
My picks: Cleveland Guardians ML (-130 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
I’ve made too much money fading Lynn this season to stop now. He is a shell of himself and is not even undervalued. The Guardians’ offense sure isn’t good, but they’ll scratch a few runs across against Lynn.
In the meantime, the Guardians are backing up McKenzie with a surprisingly productive bullpen. It’s going to be hard for the White Sox to score in this one.
I don’t see any real advantage for the White Sox here, and so I’ll just roll with the home favorite.