Alright, the wait is finally over. The Chicago White Sox are back in the postseason for the first time since 2008. The goal is a simple one: get 13 wins before anyone else. There are various checkpoints along the way that the team must pass in order to achieve this ultimate objective. The first such checkpoint will be winning two games in Oakland, a place that has been a house of horrors for the White Sox organization over the last two decades.
In a lot of ways, this is a more even matchup than you would think based on the 2 vs. 7 seeding arrangement. So in a scenario like this one, where each team has a few advantages on their side of the ledger, there can often be an X-factor that will tilt the scales in one direction. Garrett Crochet could represent that X-factor for our White Sox.
Crochet has seen a meteoric rise to the Major Leagues, having just been selected in the first round of the MLB Draft a few short months ago. Crochet never threw a single pitch in the minor leagues, a true rarity in today’s game, after throwing only three innings for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2020. To this point, Crochet has not disappointed. He has tossed six scoreless innings surrendering only three hits and one HBP. He has eight strikeouts in his brief stint in which he has averaged — yes, averaged — 100.1 MPH with his four-seam fastball. This pitch is a truly awe-inspiring weapon against opposing hitters.
His funky delivery from the left side coupled with this blazing fastball has been a nightmare for hitters from both sides of the plate to this point. So how will Crochet be deployed by big brain Ricky Renteria against the Athletics? The truth is there are a few different scenarios in which we could see the 21-year-old southpaw utilized for the Sox this week.
Overall, the Athletics offense has been below average against LHP. As a team, they slashed .220/.312/.372 against southpaws in the abbreviated 2020 season. As you go up and down their lineup, many of their hitters have been significantly worse against LHP when compared with RHP, as you’ll see in the table below when measured using wRC+.
|Player||wRC+ vs RHP||wRC+ vs LHP|
The Sox have an opportunity to be very creative with how they utilize Crochet to take advantage of the A’s issues against LHP. Oakland’s biggest power threat, 1B Matt Olson, while only 5% below league average against LHP in terms of production, has struck out in an astounding 36.7% of his PAs against southpaws in 2020. A power arm like Crochet has the opportunity to neutralize the A’s biggest threat in late-inning situations.
Additionally, Oakland has been utilizing Tommy La Stella and Robbie Grossman in back-to-back spots near the top of the lineup for much of the past month, giving Ricky an opportunity to go into full attack mode with Crochet in a pivotal situation should it arise. Bringing in Crochet could allow the Sox to realize a significant platoon advantage helping to neutralize two of the A’s top offensive players when the lineup turns over late in the game.
The 21-year-old Crochet has answered the bell to this point in his Major League career and has not looked phased at all by the moment. The big stage of October is a different animal, but could he be the Sox version of Francisco Rodriguez from the Angels championship run in 2002? It’s not a crazy scenario in all honesty, given the dominating fastball he possesses coupled with his ability to hide the baseball, making that average 100 MPH fastball seem about 110 MPH to the hitter’s eye.
Much has been made over the last week about what the Sox would do if they face a do-or-die game three scenario. One option would be to utilize Crochet as an “opener” depending on how he is deployed early in the series. Using him in this role, if necessary, could force the A’s to rearrange their lineup, likely featuring Marcus Semien and Mark Canha at the top of the lineup as opposed to LaStella and Grossman. This could in turn force the A’s into pushing the aforementioned bats of LaStella and Grossman down in the lineup in the later innings against the likes of Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall, and another deadly southpaw, Aaron Bummer.
The White Sox having their full arsenal of relievers ready for this series will be of pivotal importance. The Athletics themselves feature one of the game’s top relief corps and Bob Melvin has proven to be a master at managing these pieces over the years, which could be cause for concern given who mans the ship in the White Sox dugout.
At this point, it’s evident that the Sox are trusting of Crochet to be able to get tough outs in the biggest games of the year. That high-octane fastball is a weapon out of the bullpen the Sox haven’t had since big bad Bobby Jenks burst onto the scene in 2005, and the scary thing is that Crochet’s arm is even more lively. I fully expect to see it on full display this week against the A’s in critical moments. The lightning bolts that come out of that left arm could prove to be a secret weapon if the Sox are to make a run deep into October.