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Yankees Potential Playoff Opponent: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox have arrived a year earlier than some predicted.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago White Sox were a “trendy” team before the 2020 season began. They had some prospects, made some veteran additions, and had an easy division to possibly steal. Then, MLB announced a playoffs expansion, and the White Sox’s chance of making the playoffs increased even more.

Still, I’m not sure many in baseball expected the ChiSox to have the third-most wins in the American League in 2020, but here we are. Currently the four-seed in the postseason standings, they’d be the Yankees’ first-round opponent as of today. Would it be a rude awakening for a young team getting its first taste of the postseason, or could the upstart White Sox stand a chance of shocking the Yankees?

The best thing about the White Sox is that they are a complete, well-rounded team. They are top-10 in several key hitting, starting pitching, and relief pitching stats. On offense, they’ve been led by a sensational season from Jose Abreu, who is expected to be an AL MVP finalist. If not him, then Tim Anderson could get a nod – he’s chasing his second straight batting title, and is slugging a cool .571 as a shortstop. The team also has Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Nomar Mazara, Luis Robert and Edwin Encarnacion, all of whom are capable of chipping in offensively. This White Sox team has hit just as many home runs this year (91) as the Yankees and the Twins, which is good for a three-way tie for third in the league.

The White Sox are also doing it on the mound. Lucas Giolito is their horse, and he’s been an ace the last two years with his 11.7 K/9, 3.43 ERA and stingy 6.4 hits/9 and 1.06 WHIP. Dallas Keuchel was signed as support, and he’s gone all-in on being a crafty lefty. His velocity is down and his strikeouts have never been lower, but he is an expert at generating soft contact and ground balls, to the tune of a 2.04 ERA. He also has a bit of a history with the Yankees, as fans well remember (and try to forget).

The White Sox don’t have much after those two, though. Dylan Cease’s ERA is two runs lower than his FIP, which might be a sign of some good luck, Dane Dunning is intriguing but very inexperienced, and Reynaldo Lopez is a fourth or fifth starter. In a three-game series though, running Giolito and Keuchel is a good 1-2 punch.

The bullpen is far improved from where it was last year. The team’s bullpen ERA is a full run less than it was in 2019, and that’s thanks to Alex Colome being as stingy as ever at closer, as well as the rise of rookies Matt Foster and Garrett Crochet. They’re seventh in relief ERA and eighth in relief WAR, but aren’t elite at missing bats. Instead, they succeed by avoiding walks and trusting Chicago’s top-notch fielding.

Just like the Twins, these numbers are somewhat skewed in a positive way by only facing the AL and NL Central this year, the two worst divisions in baseball. They haven’t faced a lineup like the Yankees’ yet, which could shock them in the playoffs. Very few players on this team have significant postseason experience, which could also hurt them against a team like the Yankees who have learned from the mistakes of past Octobers. The White Sox are just as good on the road as they are at home, so home-field advantage isn’t as huge for them as it is for the Yankees, who have played better at Yankee Stadium for years.

A three-game series is all about getting off to a fast start. With the Yankees throwing Gerrit Cole, they should feel confident about their chances at a Game One win vs. any team. The Yankees would be the favorites in a series against the White Sox, but Chicago’s exciting offense and dependable pitching are traits that cannot be taken lightly in a potential first-round series.