Dallas Keuchel is a 32 yr old LHP who spent most of his career with the Houston Astros, including winning a World Series with them in 2017 (or as MySoxSummer wants me to call him “Homeboy Dallas”). He has a career ERA+ of 110, with the last two years at 111 & 121 respectively, so you are basically getting his career averages right now, you aren’t getting the barely major league starting pitcher of his first two seasons, nor are you getting the Cy Young candidate of his prime. ERA+ is a metric that measures performance against the rest of the league and is adjusted for things like the park you play in etc. League average is 100. Here is the list of 2019 ERA+ for White Sox starters, now including Gio. Keuchel was at 121 last year, so much better than most of these jokers, ie, he’s a large upgrade.
The feature with Keuchel is that he throws a lot of ground balls. I mean A LOT OF GROUND BALLS. Here is a chart from last season, all MLB starters, minimum 100 IP. He’s the leader by a mile.
Oh, need a bigger sample size, check out all MLB starters since 2013 (his first full season in a big league rotation) minimum 1,000 IP.
Some damn good starters on that list and Keuchel is the leader in the clubhouse with getting hitters to pound the ball into the ground.
Why are ground balls so good? Well the White Sox play at Comiskey Park presents US Cellular field at Guaranteed Rate ballyard or whatever the fuck it is called and hitting the ball in the air is very profitable there. See below a chart from ESPN.com showing the Park Factors for 2019 MLB, and Sox Park is the 5th easiest park to hit HR’s in.
If you can manage to keep the ball on Roger Bossard’s lush natural green rug, they can’t hit a home run off of you.
Now, let me show you one more chart, one that isn’t so favorable
Yes, this is showing Tim Anderson’s defense, which was ghastly last season. I won’t sugar coat it, it was bad. He lead the world in errors, his .951 fielding percentage was way below league average for SS of .972. Tim overall was good, but that part of his game was bad. The White Sox are making a substantial bet on Keuchel, but in doing so, they are also making a big bet on Tim Anderson improving his defense to at least palatable. The majority of Keuchel’s allowed contact is to the pull side and as you might have guessed, if you have seen a lineup against any Southpaw in your lifetime, it’ll be stacked with Right Handed bats, meaning, they’ll be pounding the ball into the ground right into Yoan Moncada (who was good last year at 3b) and Tim Anderson. I like betting on Tim Anderson, as he has gotten better basically every season in a White Sox uniform, but if you want to be skeptical about this signing, you are more than welcome to focus on this point right here as your biggest worry.
Keuchel will also receive the benefit of an excellent pitch framer in Yasmani Grandal (which is pretty damn helpful for a lower velo SP). Don’t think Rick Hahn didn’t see Grandal as part of a larger plan that allowed him more latitude in the types of pitchers he was looking for on the free agent market. Grandal’s value to the White Sox is ginormous and you can start to see it with this signing. There’s a reason why the White Sox were eager to ink him early and blow away the competition to do so.
WHAT ABOUT THIS SCOTT BORAS SHIT?
Much has been made by various contingents of White Sox twitter that the front office is avoiding working with Scott Boras (including my boy Pete Hand, who has been in my ear about this shit for awhile), allegedly related to some personal beef. Well, this signing would appear to put an end to that narrative as Dallas Keuchel is a Scott Boras client and the White Sox have appeared to play nice with him and given a market value contract. As noted before, you can’t effectively work in a business like MLB when the main agent’s clients won’t go to your team.
WILL THE MONEY BE SPENT???
Eyeballing Spotrac, once this deal gets lobbed in there, the White Sox will have an approximately $100M payroll, which is still below league average (I suspect they aren’t done, but I don’t think the remaining outlays will be substantial), which is disappointing, however, they would have the highest payroll in the AL Central, which is sort of a tallest midget award, but we’ll take it for now, given what we’ve dealt with the last several seasons. It’s a small step, but it’s the first step imo.
DOES THIS SPENDING MEAN THE WHITE SOX ARE READY TO WIN??
This signing would appear to signal that the White Sox see themselves as contenders in the not so distant future, but before you start re-allocating your October Horseshoe money into the White Sox playoff fund envelope, I’d tap the breaks a bit. The Twins are coming off of a 101 win season and the Indians won 93 games last year with basically the same roster they have right this second. Also the White Sox roster, although being aided by strong veterans now in Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal is a roster with tons of volatility in their potential performance. Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, although great last year are regression candidates, as is Alex Colome. I already noted earlier in the post the significant bet the White Sox are making on Tim Anderson’s poor 2019 defense with this signing. Not to mention the relative unknown value of 2020 versions of Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, those four could be worth 15 bWAR if it all goes right or 5 bWAR of it all goes wrong. The volatility is large on the 2020 White Sox, but one thing is for sure, it’s gonna be fun!!