Surprisingly, the Chicago White Sox are just 19-19 and three games behind in the AL Central. The White Sox were the odds on favorite to take home the division, and they’re getting boat raced by Minnesota.
The White Sox have posted a lackluster -27 run differential so far this season, which would give them an expected win-loss record of 16-22. The White Sox are banged up, but this is not pretty.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have been superb, nearly perfect. They’re 28-10 with a five-game lead in the AL East and a whopping +72 run differential. They’ve built up a 12-game lead over the rival Boston Red Sox, and that must feel good after last year’s debacle.
We’ll get Dallas Kuechel vs Nestor Cortes in this one, which honestly seems unfair to the White Sox.
Can Chicago pull off the upset?
Chicago White Sox vs New York Yankees Odds
It’s no surprise that the Yankees are such huge favorites. They’re unstoppable, currently having won eight of their last 10 games.
Plus, Cortes has been a threat.
And Kuechel inspires zero confidence with me or any other bettor. He had a pretty great start against the Yankees his last time out, but he paired five shutout innings with a 5.08 xFIP.
Still, you have to wonder if getting the White Sox at better than +150 on the ML is a gift.
Let’s dig into this game a little deeper.
Chicago White Sox Starting Lineup
SS T. Anderson R
3B Y. Moncada S
1B J. Abreu R
CF L. Robert R
C Y. Grandal S
LF A. Vaughn R
DH G. Sheets L
RF AJ Pollock R
2B J. Harrison R
Chicago White Sox vs Nestor Cortes
I’m not sure if there’s been a better pitcher in the American League so far than Nasty Nestor.
He’s pitched a whopping 40 innings over his first seven starts, good for over 5 ⅔ innings per start on average. Not only that, but his 1.35 ERA currently paces the American League, as he’s currently trending .03 better than second-place Justin Verlander.
Cortes has made one huge change since last season – he developed a cutter. He still uses his slider, but his usage has dived tremendously since 2020 when it was his highest-used pitch.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
And over 250 thrown, Cortes’ cutter has produced a -7 Run Value, which is now the best pitch in his arsenal. Hitters have posted a .209 wOBA against the pitch while striking out over 31% of the time.
With that pitch now leading his arsenal, he’s upped his strikeout rate 5% year-over-year, and the number now sits at 32.5%.
Cortes is such an intriguing pitcher. His four-seam sits at just 91mph while his cutter sits at a ridiculously low 86mph. Moreover, he’s a fly-ball pitcher, with only a 36% ground-ball rate and a 17-degree average launch angle. There are only six pitchers who have allowed a higher avg. launch angle than Cortes and those six have posted infinitely worse statistics (outside of Alek Manoah).
This will be an interesting matchup. One of the biggest struggles for Chicago has been their launch angle, as their 10.2-degrees of LA on average is the fourth-lowest in MLB. The team is still third in hard-hit rate (43%), which should indicate some form of positive regression from the team’s unbelievably low .287 wOBA. The White Sox’s xwOBA does sit at .330, after all.
Will facing a fly-ball hitter awaken this ground-ball-obsessed lineup?
There’s no need to complain about Tim Anderson, who is among the top-20 hitters in baseball this season with his 161 wRC+. He’s also fifth in the majors in batting average so far (.346), but you have to think his .347 BABIP will regress.
New York Yankees Starting Lineup
2B DJ LeMahieu R
RF A. Judge R
1B A. Rizzo L
DH G. Stanton R
3B J. Donaldson R
LF J. Gallo L
SS I. Kiner-Falefa R
C J. Trevino R
CF A. Hicks S
New York Yankees vs Dallas Keuchel
I’m just so low on Keuchel.
He reminds me of 2021 Jake Arrieta a bit, although he hasn’t been quite as bad. But he’s essentially striking out just as many batters as he’s walking (5.54 K/9 to 5.19 BB/9), and his xFIP is still sitting close to 5.00.
He’s managed to keep his avg. exit velocity down (87.4mph), and his hard-hit rate (28.9%) ranks in the 91st percentile of qualified pitchers. So, Keuchel hasn’t been completely disastrous.
The outlook on him is murky. I’d expect Kuechel to be a 0.5-1.0 win pitcher with an ERA and FIP in the mid-to-high 4.00s. It’s not great, but passable for a White Sox team that needs arms.
We’ll see if he can do anything against this Yankees offense. It’s good that Kuechel is okay at keeping hard-hit balls down, as nobody hits the ball harder than the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees lead MLB in barrel rate (11.9%), hard-hit rate (46.9%), and avg. exit velocity (91.5mph). And honestly, no other team is relatively close to the numbers New York is putting up.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
As a result, the Yankees expected statistics are astounding. But their actual statistics are just as good, as the Yankees lead the league in wRC+ (122), slugging (.423), and OPS (.749) this season.
Aaron Judge is on an MVP pace. He leads the league with 14 home runs this season and is third in wRC+ (203), trailing only Mike Trout and Tyler Ward (lucky Angels). He’s also just one of three players (with the same two mentioned above) with an OPS above 1.000.
Remember, he is in a contract year. So this could be an ultra-motivated Judge playing his heart out in 2022. Either way, Yankees fans are happy.
Aaron Judge's bet on himself, updated: He is currently on pace to finish the season with…
He's got a slash line of .315/.384/.692.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 18, 2022
Chicago White Sox vs New York Yankees Pick & Prediction
My pick: Under 9 (-115 at Caesars Sportsbook)
I just think this number is a tad high.
Remember, Cortes is currently leading MLB in ERA. He’s backed up by a bullpen that’s second in reliever FIP (2.99) and fifth in xFIP (3.43).
The White Sox have been moderately worse, but I’m still confident in a bullpen anchored by Liam Hendriks. And I’m oddly confident in Kuechel’s ability to hang with the Yankees. He already did it once, and I think his ability to pitch to soft contact will work against the strikeout-prone, power-prone Yankees.
Kuechel only had one blowup start this season, allowing seven earned runs over just one inning against Cleveland. Otherwise, he’s been relatively good, posting two shutout starts and allowing no more than four runs in a start.
This number feels just a tad high and I’m willing to play the under in this run-impoverished environment. I’d like 9 (-120) or better.