This isn’t the most intriguing matchup. The Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox are two middling AL Central teams who are far behind the Minnesota Twins for the divisional crown.
However, I love this pitching matchup.
Tarik Skubal is the most promising young pitcher in the Detroit staff, while Lucas Giolito can still toss gems with MLB’s best.
So, with these two on the mound, which team has the edge?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for Thursday’s matchup.
Detroit Tigers vs Chicago White Sox Odds
I’m not sure if the White Sox deserve to be laying close to -150 on the ML. Giolito has been far from impressive and the White Sox have been arguably the biggest disappointment in MLB this year.
The White Sox have won five straight games against the Tigers, however, and they put up five runs on Skubal during Opening Day.
The total does look low at 7, and the wind is projected to be blowing straight out to right field at almost 14mph. So, the over could be worth a look. Three of the last four games between these two teams have gone over.
Detroit Tigers Starting Lineup
T. Skubal L
5-7 4.06 ERA
CF R. Greene L
SS J. Baez R
LF R. Grossman S
DH M. Cabrera R
2B J. Schoop R
3B J. Candelario S
1B S. Torkelson R
C T. Barnhart S
RF V. Reyes S
Detroit Tigers vs Lucas Giolito
Giolito has spent some time on the injury list, and I don’t think he’s 100%. However, that doesn’t really explain his lackluster results this season. A 4.90 ERA is paired with a 4.71 xERA, and his walks are way up year-over-year.
However, Giolito’s xFIP is down at 3.70 and he’s still been better than replacement level (0.5 fWAR). So, not all is lost.
His velocity is down across the board, and Giolito’s Baseball Savant page doesn’t paint the best picture.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
The Tigers and A’s are competing for the worst lineup in baseball, with the A’s currently having a four-point lead via wRC+ (76 to 80). That’s because the Tigers have put together an average offense over the last month (97 wRC+) and an above-average offense over the last two weeks (111 wRC+). That’s promising.
Sadly (and unpredictably), only Miguel Cabrera has an OPS+ above 100 on the season. Javier Baez has been a complete disaster, which has really hurt Detroit’s hopes this season.
But there are a few bench bats that could give Detroit some upside, including:
- Harold Castro (103 OPS+)
- Eric Haase (104 OPS+)
- Victor Reyes (119 OPS+)
- Riley Greene (120 OPS+)
They need to get those guys in the lineup more, ASAP. Especially Greene considering he’s emerged as a darkhorse AL ROY candidate.
Chicago White Sox Starting Lineup
L. Giolito R
5-4 4.90 ERA
SS T. Anderson R
DH A. Vaughn R
CF L. Robert R
1B J. Abreu R
RF A.J. Pollock R
LF E. Jimenez R
3B Y. Moncada S
2B J. Harrison R
C S. Zavala R
Chicago White Sox vs Tarik Skubal
Skubal has struggled. Since lowering his ERA to 2.15 after a beautiful 10th start against Minnesota, he’s pitched to a 7.80 ERA. He’s walked 14 batters during the 30-inning, six-start stretch while allowing six home runs.
Predictably, the Tigers are 1-5 in those games.
That begs the question: What has gone wrong with Skubal?
Well, some regression was due, as he pitched to a 2.86 xFIP during his dominant first stretch. But that doesn’t explain how the script flipped so drastically.
The key seems to be home run regression. He had just a 3.8% HR/FB rate during his first 10 starts, but that’s risen to 18.8% during this six-game stretch and has brought his HR/FB rate right up to 10%.
We probably should’ve seen this coming. Skubal has always had a home run problem, allowing a 20% HR/FB in both his first two years in the Tigers’ rotation.
It does seem like Skubal’s fastball velocity is down slightly, which could also be a big problem going forward. But, it’s not too drastic and I’m hoping that rebounds.
Image credit: FanGraphs
The continued decreased effectiveness of his slider is most concerning. It’s his most-used pitch and has seen the most regression during this stretch. It’s not like his fastball – which is generally not his best pitch – is getting pounded, it’s his best pitch that is getting pounded.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
Skubal’s ground-ball rate is still way up, and it has actually increased during this pathetic recent stretch. So, that’s the one good thing we can take away.
Otherwise, I have no idea if he’ll rebound from the long-ball issues.
The good news is the White Sox don’t hit home runs. They’ve hit the fifth-fewest this season, most likely stemming from having the fourth-lowest avg. launch angle in MLB this season.
The White Sox have done nothing but hit the ball on the ground, managing to post more fly balls than just the Rockies, Marlins, and Nationals. That’s dug into their overall power ratings, as the White Sox rank 28th in ISO this year (.124).
Chicago still hits the ball hard, and Tim Anderson is finally back in the lineup. But they need to pick up the pace or they’ll be hitting the off-season much earlier than expected.
For what it’s worth, FanGraphs still has the White Sox as the favorites to win the AL Central, possibly on the back of their impressive bullpen. So, maybe the time to buy White Sox divisional futures is now?
The White Sox are currently +170 on Caesars Sportsbook to claim the AL Central throne.
Detroit Tigers vs Chicago White Sox Pick & Prediction
My picks: Tigers ML (+125 at DraftKings Sportsbook)
I’m still going to buy Skubal. And although he got shelled against the White Sox earlier this season, I think this is a great matchup for him. Skubal will be able to force plenty of ground balls against this ground-ball-happy lineup.
I also have been very impressed with the Tigers bullpen this season, which ranks third in reliever ERA (2.98) and is anchored by a trustworthy closer in Gregory Soto.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to fade Giolito with whatever issues he’s having. And I’ll continue to fade an overvalued White Sox team that has done nothing right this season. This is supposed to be the best bullpen in the division, yet they rank among the bottom-10 teams in reliever ERA (4.31) over the last month.
I’ll buy the Tigers as moderate road dogs.