If there is one guy who really needs to rebound from a disappointing season last year for the Chicago White Sox, it’s Dallas Keuchel. The lefty had one of the worst seasons of his career last year, so much so that he was left off the playoff roster against the Houston Astros.
His 2021 campaign saw him post career highs in earned run average (5.28), runs (105), earned runs (95), home runs (25), and walks (59). Keuchel’s 189 hits allowed was the second most he has ever given up and his 95 strikeouts were only four more than he posted in 2019 when he pitched for the Atlanta Braves. Prior to that year with the Braves, Keuchel had six straight seasons with over 123 strikeouts.
Things seemed to be on the right track for him during the COVID shortened 2020 season which saw Keuchel finish with a 6-2 record and an impressive 1.99 ERA. His 0.3 home runs per nine innings were good enough to lead the league and help him to a fifth-place finish in Cy Young balloting.
That home run stat ballooned to 1.4 last season and his hits per nine innings jumped to 10.5 which was the highest he had since his second year in the league when he gave up 10.8.
Dallas Keuchel had a tough season in 2021 for the Chicago White Sox.
On the plus side, Keuchel picked up his fifth career Gold Glove award and did eat up innings finishing with 162 for the season. That was good enough for third on the staff behind Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease.
It was a tale of two halves for the veteran who tailed off badly after the All-Star break. The season picked up where he left off, going seven and three in 17 starts. Keuchel then went two and six with a 6.82 ERA in 14 games following the break.
The troubles started in July when his ERA went up over three and a half runs from June to 6.26. Over the month, his home runs jumped to nine and opponents’ batting average reached .266. In the final half of the season, Keuchel won just three games from July to the end of the year and teams’ batting averages closed the final two months at .298 and .387 respectively.
The disappointment with his performance after the break is something Keuchel is using for motivation for the upcoming season-should there be one.
"Keuchel told reporters back in November: “It’s something that is at an all-time high, the motivation is right now. I’m being serious with that.”He added, “I’ve already relayed that to a couple of guys, [White Sox general manager] Rick Hahn and [assistant general manager] Jeremy Haber, that second half was not who I am, and I want to get back to who I am. So, I mean, I can talk about it. But I would really like it to be February or March and be able to come out and show everybody.”"
The former Cy Young winner (2015 with Houston) will look to improve on his performance from last season, and Keuchel believes he knows where to start. Keuchel explained he has to avoid going deep into counts and allowing hitters to see a number of pitches in an at-bat. He was battling himself to get his control and that cost him and the team.
With Carlos Rodon expected to sign elsewhere via free agency, Keuchel will be the only left-handed starter in the rotation. While Garrett Crochet did get some spot starts last year, he will likely be in the bullpen to start the season.
Keuchel needs to find his command and be the pitcher he was back in 2019. If he can do that, the Sox staff has the potential to be better than they were last season.