How do the White Sox match up against the Oakland A's?

How do the White Sox match up with the Oakland A’s in the playoffs?

  • 2020 Postseason
  • Chicago White Sox
  • MLB
  • Oakland A's
By Nick Sullivan September 28, 2020 0 Comment

Entering their first postseason since 2008, the Sox will face the Oakland A’s. How do they stack up against their opponent?

As the White Sox gear up for their first playoff appearance in over a decade, they have a lofty task ahead of them, taking on the champions of the A.L. West, the Oakland Athletics.

The Sox were sitting pretty with home field advantage heading into the playoffs, until their recent slip this past week. Since clinching the playoffs on September 17th, the Sox finished with a record of 2-8. This lackluster skid vaulted the South Siders down to the #7 seed, now having to face a higher seed on the road.

Now, the Sox will have to venture into the unforgiving Oakland Coliseum, a stadium in which the Sox have not fared well the past twenty years.  However, things may not be as bad as they appear. Let’s take a look at how the Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics match up against one another.

Oakland’s Possible Pitching Matchups

One of the most important aspects of the best of three Wild Card Series will be pitching. Oakland has a very deep well of starting pitching, but they do not have the shut-down ace that fans should fear their team facing. The Sox have already announced that they will hand the ball over to their ace, Lucas Giolito for Game 1, and the resurgent Dallas Keuchel for Game 2. Oakland, at the time of this writing, is listing their starters as TBD.

Here’s a look at the possible arms that Oakland can pitch against the Sox.

Mike Fiers

If his name sounds familiar to you, most likely it is because Fiers was the whistle blower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Fiers has been a pitcher that Oakland has depended on for stability in the rotation the past several years, but he is certainly nothing to fear.

In 2020, Fiers posted a record of 6-3 with a 4.58 ERA over 59 innings pitched. He recorded 37 K’s over those 59 innings so he is not a large strikeout threat. What Fiers brings to the table is a crafty veteran presence who knows how to pitch. He is the type of pitcher the Sox can beat themselves with, so the offense will need to regain their focus if Fiers is on the mound.

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea is a soft tossing lefty who lives and dies with his off speed and location. Manaea has had a hard time regaining his full potential since his injury at the end of the 2018 season, but when he’s on, he can be special.

In 2016, Manaea had a 3.86 ERA over 24 starts and 144 innings pitched. In 2018, Manaea held a 3.59 ERA over 27 starts and 160 innings. When he is on, the lefty can be very dangerous to opposing hitters, but this past season he posted a 4.50 ERA over 11 starts. He may have just been settling into the shortened season as it ended, so Oakland may have the confidence to turn the ball over to Manaea in the series. However, the Sox have feasted against lefties this year finishing the year 14-0 against LHP, so the Sox may want Manaea on the mound more than Oakland.

Frankie Montas

At one point in time Frankie Montas was in the Sox farm system, dreaming of the possibility of starting a postseason game for the Sox rather than against. The Sox had initially received Montas in the Jake Peavy-Avisail Garcia trade before shipping him off to the Dodgers in the 3-team deal that netted the Sox Todd Frazier. After that, the Dodgers sent him to Oakland for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.

After having been used as a trade piece for most of his career, Montas has finally been allowed to stick with an organization. Montas has big-time strikeout stuff, but has had mixed success with Oakland. He struggled out of the gate in 2017, but had big 2018-2019 seasons. In 2020, Montas has had highs and lows as he finished with a 5.60 ERA, but at one point had been named the AL Player of the Week back on August 10th. He also struck out 13 batters in the season finale, so he is coming off of a hot start.

Montas is a pitcher who the Sox do not want to see on the mound, just in case he has his best stuff.

Jesus Luzardo

Ever since being acquired by the Oakland A’s, Luzardo has been one of the league’s top prospects. He has some big-time stuff, but he is still young. In 2020, Luzardo pitched in 12 games starting 9 of them. In those 12 games he posted a 4.12 ERA over 59 innings with 59 K’s. Luzardo is similar to Montas in that he is young and explosive. The Sox do not want to catch him on his best day. However, Luzardo is a lefthander, and the Sox have posted video game numbers against left handed pitchers this season.

So push come to shove, the Sox will want to face any and all lefties that Oakland can throw against them. No matter how big the stuff.

Chris Bassitt

Oh look, another former White Sox prospect who has gone on to have success with another team. Chris Bassitt was dealt, alongside 2019 MVP candidate Marcus Semien, to Oakland for Jeff Samardzija back in 2014. Bassitt is nothing flashy on the mound, but he has been a really solid pitcher for Oakland.

In his 5 seasons with the A’s, Bassitt has posted a 3.58 ERA over 368.2 innings recording 324 K’s along the way. Again, Bassitt does not have big time stuff nor is he a work horse. However, he is dependable. The Sox would rather see a guy like Mike Minor, who Oakland acquired at the deadline, but Bassitt is beatable.

Who the Sox will pitch against Oakland?

As has been previously stated, Lucas Giolito will get the ball for Game 1 and Dallas Keuchel for Game 2. The Sox are putting their best arms forward and why shouldn’t they considering the success these two have had this year. We can talk about Oakland’s strengths all we like, but the truth is if these two guys have their best stuff, the Sox will not need many runs to win. But, what if there is a Game 3?

This is where decisions will have to be made for the Sox. Don’t be surprised if they do not name a starter for this Game until they know it is going to be played. The obvious choice is Dane Dunning due to the success the Sox rookie has had this year. Keep in mind though, he is a rookie. Putting the pressure of a win or go home game on Dunning alone could be a gamble that blows the season if the rookie is unprepared.

Dylan Cease gave the appearance of a Game 3 starter for most of the season, but his recent collapse of command does not breed confidence. Maybe the Sox throw out a committee of pitchers? Cease throws 2 innings. Foster throws 2 innings. Crochet throws 2 innings and then hand it over to the back end. Heuer, Bummer and Colome can certainly handle the last three innings. Of course that is being very optimistic that all of the Sox top arms would be available. Although anything can happen in the postseason.

How do the Sox stars match up against Oakland’s?

The bright lights of the postseason are all about the super stars. There will always be unsung heroes who emerge, but teams will live and die off of their star players to win it all. These two teams are certainly not without their fair share of stars. Unlike the starting pitching options, these position players will be playing everyday so they have the chance to impact the playoffs every game.

White Sox Stars

We should all be familiar with who the Sox rely on, so here’s the quick of it. AL MVP hopeful Jose Abreu is coming off of his best season to date, in which he averaged 1 RBI a game. Tim Anderson has emerged as an absolute hitting machine, flashing his power, speed, and contact ability every single game. Yoan Moncada seems to have woken up a bit, recording three triples and home run this past week. Eloy Jimenez will be back after sitting out of the Cubs series, the Sox will need all of Eloy’s power in the Coliseum.

On top of the established core members, rookies Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal can contribute in a number of ways. Whether its with the bat, on the bases, or defensively, these two bring a lot to the table. They are also the types of players to make an impact on a postseason game when it matters. Whether its a moonshot from Robert or a pesky clutch single from Madrigal, it is not hard to see how these two can make an impact.

Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion are veterans who have been to the postseason before and will be able to provide an impact both on the field and in the clubhouse. The young guys will need there veteran leaders to guide them through the newfound pressure of win or go home baseball. Finally, and for the love of all that is good, Adam Engel should be receiving the bulk of the playing time in right field over Nomar Mazara. Engel’s speed, defense, and consistency at the dish all line up well with the playing style that the Oakland Coliseum demands.

Oakland’s Stars

Oakland will never be a team that carries one of the larger payrolls in the league. They will not be signing any mega deals anytime soon. Rest assured, Oakland features some of the games most talented and versatile players. Luckily, many of them are having down years.

Matt Chapman- 3B

Matt Chapman has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting the last two years. It would be shocking if he found himself that high in 2020. Chapman is still arguably the games best defender down at the hot corner for Oakland. In the past, Chapman has been an OBP machine, but this year the number has dipped dramatically. He still has slugged well with a .535 percentage and 10 home runs, but his overall slash line is not impressive with .232/.276/.535. His OPS+ is a 122, so Chapman’s power has kept him as an above average hitter, but still not what he typically has achieved. The Sox will count their blessings if they can keep Chapman in the park, as his bat being down is a big advantage.

Matt Olson- 1B

On the other side of the infield, Matt Olson has also had a very down year for what he is accustomed too. In the past Olson has been a serious on base and slugging threat, but this year he has really only had success with the long ball. Olson slashed .195/.310/.424 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI’s. The power numbers are still there, but his production has seriously dropped from his typical success. If there is truth to these numbers, then like Chapman, the Sox need to just keep Olson in the park.

Marcus Semien- SS

Marcus Semien, after finishing 3rd in MVP voting last season, has taken the largest fall from grace in 2020. He has slashed .223/.305/.374 with 7 home runs and 23 RBIs. His OPS + grades out at 91, meaning he is a below average hitter. Semien really has not posed a threat to pitchers this year and the Sox hope to keep it that way.

Supplementary Pieces

Oakland has actually gotten far more production from their supplementary pieces than their stars from seasons past. Guys like Tommy La Stella, Robbie Grossman, Sean Murphy, Mark Canha, and Ramon Laureano have kept this team afloat.

Something to note, however, is that the A.L. West is a pretty weak division after Oakland. Oakland is absolutely a good team, no question there, but after them there are many flaws. Houston, while still good, has been broken this year by scandal and injury. Seattle, while entertaining at times, is still rebuilding. The Angels are incredibly flawed outside of their superstars and, like always, lack pitching. Texas is a middle of the pack club that needs to find direction.

The point is, could these supplementary players have benefited from the weaker competition?

Oakland is a good team, but their players have been shaky. If the Sox can regain their focus and be the team they were in August, they may have a real shot at moving on.

Chicago White Sox vs. Oakland A’s External Factors.

Apart from the match ups on the field, which by all measures appear to favor the Sox, there are still some factors that can make an impact.

Calamity at the Coliseum

The Sox lack of success at the Coliseum is a very real occurrence, dating back to their days even as a winning ball club. A point to note however is that this team is just build differently then any team the Sox have fielded in recent years. They have so many dynamic players.  There is great power on this Sox team. There is great speed on this Sox team. This Sox team can beat you with small ball or the long ball. They can get on base. They have a legit top tier bullpen. This may be the first White Sox team in a very long time that favorably matches up with the Coliseum. Of course, a lot of that hangs on if Engel gets the starts over Mazara, which he absolutely should. Sox should not fear the Coliseum this year.

Postseason Experience

The next external factor the Sox will need to overcome is their lack of playoff experience. Oakland has been in the playoffs the last several seasons with this core of players. This Sox team has finally risen to contention mode and is coming into the playoffs pretty green. Grandal, Encarnacion, and Keuchel were brought in for more then their on the field talents however. They have collectively been to the playoffs many times, Keuchel a World Series winner in 2017. That does not mean players like Abreu, Moncada, Anderson, and the others gain all of that experience, but the veterans should help give perspective and focus to the young clubhouse.

Managerial Mismatch

Finally, the last hump for the Sox to get over is the managerial match up. Rick Renteria will be a focal point of Sox fans demise until he is finally gone. His decision making ability is seriously flawed. He has at times this season, lost games for the Sox. A good manager may not add many wins on his own, but he will not add many losses either. Oakland’s manager Bob Melvin has been with the team since 2011, and he has had a lot of success. He is certainly one of the better managers in the game. As long as Ricky stays out of his own way (and starts Adam Engel!) the Sox should not be affected much by this factor.

Final Predictions for the Series

This series will certainly be an interesting one, and one that many MLB fans will tune into if they can. The Sox match up pretty well with Oakland on paper, but games aren’t played on paper. The Sox are going to need to break out of the slump they have been stuck in and regain their focus. This is the big time now. Win or go home.

The Sox biggest advantage lies in the front line pitching. Oakland is very deep in their pitching depth, but they lack the front line stars that the Sox have in Giolito and Keuchel. In a best of 3 game series that gives a big advantage to the Sox. If the bats can come alive and give these guys the run support they deserve, this series can be a quick one. Oakland is not a team to underestimate however. As previously noted the one thing that offense has been consistent with is its power. If Oakland gets hot, then the Sox will need to match them with their own power. The Sox have been a resilient ball club and have climbed back from large deficits all year. That is a major asset to bring into the postseason.

Due to the Sox ability to bounce back from large deficits and their advantage with front line pitching, the prediction is that the Sox defeat Oakland in a tight three game series.

The sky is the limit for this Sox team, they just need to regain their composure and execute.

You can watch Tuesday and Wednesday’s games at 2pm CT on ESPN.

Live it up Sox fans, we’ve waited long enough.

 

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