It is no secret the Chicago White Sox has a solid and capable pitching staff that could help propel them to the World Series this year. With a mediocre 2021, it is safe to say that Dallas Keuchel is in the back-end of the rotation.
He probably would not be needed to start a game in October. However, following Tuesday’s loss to the Twins, questions begin to surface on whether or not he is trusted to pitch in the playoffs period.
In December of 2019, the White Sox desperately needed starting pitching help. Not only did they need a starter but a pitcher with playoff experience to help this young core which, at the time, had not made it yet.
"“The culture that the White Sox players were used to is not the culture that I’ve become a part of, and that’s a winning culture… So I had to do a lot of teaching,” Keuchel said following the 2020 season and the White Sox’s short playoff run."
This quote has not aged well for Keuchel.
The simple fact is that Keuchel is the fifth starter in a rotation of dominance. Tony La Russa has explained how terms like “fifth starter” or “back-end of the rotation” are not used in this case considering the talent. In some cases, this is true but when Keuchel’s famous cutter/sinker combination is not working, he gets lit up.
The Chicago White Sox needs to see just a bit more from Dallas Keuchel going forward.
In 21 starts, Keuchel is relatively dominant in the first two innings of a game with an ERA of 2.57. The third inning is a bit shaky with an ERA of 3.92 but has held opponents to a slash line of .241/.310/.291. By the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, he is walking more, striking out less, and opponents batting average skyrockets to around the .360 range.
A typical 2021 Dallas Keuchel start has gone generally as follows: two or three solid innings of work, maybe a home run or two given up, but the game is still within reach. Unfortunately, when La Russa lets opponents face him a third time and he gets rocked.
Lance Lynn now holds the role of veteran starter with playoff experience. Once believed to be Mark Buehrle’s 2005 counterpart, Keuchel will most likely contribute out of the bullpen this October. He could only pitch in the playoffs and succeed if he is taken out just before the third time around the lineup and replaced with Garrett Crochet or Micheal Kopech.
In Tuesday’s game against the Twins, Keuchel ran into some control issues early. The three walks in the first led to two early runs scoring but he was fairly dominant for the next three innings, retiring the side in order twice. He should have been yanked from the game in the sixth after pitching around a leadoff hit in the fifth. That inning was his third time through the lineup and he fell apart.
Leaving a pitcher making an average of $18.5 million a year off the roster is not a bright idea in the playoffs. Yes, it would be a waste financially but it also makes no sense benching a proven veteran who can keep the door shut on the other team for about three or four innings.
Keuchel may not have had the strongest 2021, at least in comparison to 2020, but he still has the ability to be shut down Major League hitters and pitch around potential jams, as long as they are before the third time through the lineup.