As I run through scenarios of what could happen to the White Sox during the 2020 postseason, I seem to fall on the side of negativity. Even before the Cincinnati series that started the White Sox 2-8 skid to end the season, I had my doubts about this team in the playoffs.
I expected this team to make the playoffs before the season in a 16-team playoff format as a wild card, but I didn't think they would drop from the one seed to the seven seed in the final ten days of the season. They still exceeded my expectations this year, even after the gut-wrenching final ten days. Hopefully they can exceed my playoff expectations as well. I like the matchup with the Athletics very much, and if they can win this series, I could see them beating Minnesota or Houston in the ALDS. Even with a favorable spot in the bracket, I have concerns about this team that I just can't overlook heading into the White Sox' first playoff game in 4,376 days.
Starting Pitching and Off Days
This is my main concern, and it seems to be the main concern for many fans and rightfully so. Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel are a great one-two punch going into the postseason and I have all the faith in both pitchers to give the White Sox every chance to win their respective games.
After those two though, it gets extremely dicey. Dylan Cease has flashed top-of-the-rotation stuff all year, but his trouble with locating his pitches has caught up to him and he's in his worst stretch of the season heading into the playoffs.
Dane Dunning, on the other hand, does not have the flashiest stuff but he has been able to locate much more effectively than Cease. He has also been struggling, but it's expected from a guy who had never pitched above AA and who missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery. I expect the White Sox to hand Dunning the ball for a possible game three because of his better control.
In a normal postseason, we would stop with a four-man rotation, but since there are no off days until the end of a series or during the World Series, we have to look at who could potentially get the ball after Cease. The candidates will most likely include Gio Gonzalez, Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, and maybe even Garrett Crochet. I would imagine Gonzalez gets the nod as the fifth starter because of his playoff experience, but a combination of these pitchers to get through a game is plausible.
I love the top two of this rotation, but it will be very nerve-racking watching anyone else start in the postseason. You might be able to get away with pitching Giolito and Keuchel on only three days rest, but with this year's format and nowhere near as many off days as a normal year, it will be extremely tough to do. The bullpen is stacked, in my opinion, so I hope even if a starter has a rough couple innings, the bullpen can come in and keep a game close. If the bullpen is shaky to start, it may be a quick exit for the Pale Hose.
Injuries have hurt the Sox this season as Leury Garcia, Carlos Rodon, Aaron Bummer, Dallas Keuchel, Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada have been all been hurt recently. Of that list though, Leury and Eloy are the only two who could miss this series.
However, there is hope Eloy returns and a sliver of hope Leury finds his way back after being on the injured list since the middle of August. It has been a frustrating year for injuries throughout baseball, but the thought of the White Sox not having Eloy at any point scares me. Plus, with the way things have gone lately for the Sox, the injury bug could still hit them and deplete an already tumbling team.
Lineup Struggles and Construction
Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, and Eloy Jimenez have been the White Sox most consistent bats this season. After them, Adam Engel and James McCann have been pretty good and deserving of playing time. Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada are keys to get this offense back to top-of-the-league potential.
Both guys played better during the final weekend of the regular season, and I hope they can carry that momentum into the playoffs. Edwin Encarnacion and Nomar Mazara have been disappointments all year, and the Sox could benefit immensely if one or both of them step it up in the postseason.
I'm also concerned about how Ricky Renteria will be constructing the lineup. I think we should see more McCann and Engel in the playoffs than we have in the regular season. Those two could help tremendously with the way they've been swinging the bat. Rick Hahn is to blame too for not supplementing the offense with some better bats at the trade deadline after they nabbed the speedster Jarrod Dyson to be a defensive replacement and base stealer. Let's just hope Ricky puts the best lineup he can out there and lets the boys get back to being a powerhouse on offense again.
The White Sox have some unbelievable options out of the bullpen and a handful of guys on offense that could carry the load. They also own a decent one-two punch at the top of the rotation. There's a chance the White Sox could win a series or two and end up playing for a chance to go to the World Series with the talent they have. I do remain skeptical about their ability to make a deep run because of the aforementioned factors, especially the lack of truly effective depth behind Giolito and Keuchel. I don't want to be pessimistic about this team, but my gut tells me it will be tough for the South Siders to get far this year. I am excited to finally see them play in the postseason for the first time since I was 14 and I am very excited about the next five-plus years.
The lack of depth could hurt the White Sox this postseason, but it could open the eyes of management and ownership to fix those holes this offseason in what will be their first offseason as a contender. All in all, I have been pleased with the White Sox this season but frustrated with the final week of the regular season. If they can overcome some of the concerns I have for them, we could see them make a run in the postseason, which would be delightful.