What do the White Sox do well?
1. They crush left-handed pitching
Chicago has a very righty-dominant lineup loaded with a lot of power, and they’ve been crushing left-handed pitching. For the season, Chicago’s right-handed batters are hitting a dominant .280 BA and .833 OPS against left-handed hurlers. Impressive.
Some quick hitters: Luis Robert is hitting .393 with a mammoth 1.119 OPS against lefties. Yasmani Grandal has a 1.021 OPS against southpaws. Jose Abreu has a .963 OPS, Tim Anderson is hitting .321 BA… you get the picture.
What must Houston do?
Houston needs to limit the number lefty-on-righty hitter situations. Framber Valdez, Houston’s ace who played well in last year’s playoffs, must be sharp against this fearsome lineup. Valdez has to get ahead of the count then use his elite curveball those hitters chase.
I also don’t know if Brooks Raley and Blake Taylor are even usable for this series. Even if they make the ALDS roster, I have a hard time envisioning these two being used in any high leverage situations.
2. They are strikeout artists
The White Sox love power pitching and strikeouts. They throw strikeouts 27.1% of the time, second only to the Milwaukee Brewers. Chicago has seven guys who average 12 SO/9 Innings or better – Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodon, Liam Hendricks, Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera.
The Astros only have one player that does that, and you guessed it – Brooks Raley (Ryan Pressly is at 11.8). This Chicago staff attacks the zone with power with their incredible pitching talents, and punches batters out with velocity and nastiness.
What must Houston do?
This Astros lineup does a lot of things well, one in particular being they don’t strike out. Houston struck out only 19.1% of the time – good for third in the majors. When the Astros played their best lineup, they only strike out 16% of the time.
I wouldn’t expect the Astros to strike out less than 16% of the time, but that percentage will be worth keeping an eye on throughout those series. If the White Sox get close to their 27% strikeout rate, that might be trouble for Houston.
On the flip side, if Houston can stay under or around 20% that should spell success for them. In other words, Houston needs to make tough outs when they bat. Line drives, flyouts, groundouts — anything but the big nasty strikeout.