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All That Jazz: Mariners (69-55) at White Sox (49-75)

The Mariners head to the South Side to get an Italian beef, maybe pick up a couple wins on the side

Chicago White Sox v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

After fighting tooth and nail against the Royals before sweeping away the Astros with ease, as one apparently does, the endlessly perplexing 2023 Seattle Mariners close out this road trip with a three-game set on the South Side of Chicago. The Mariners should get some reinforcements via the return of their captain, J.P. Crawford, who has completed his Pizza Rehab and is meeting the team in Chicago. They’ll also get back the slightly-more-seasoned Bryan Woo, who will take the place of rookie Emerson Hancock, who is almost certainly headed for an IL stint with a strained lat.

At a Glance

Mariners/White Sox At a Glance

Mariners White Sox
Mariners White Sox
Game 1 Monday, August 21 | 5:10 pm
RHP Luis Castillo RHP Touki Toussaint
61% 39%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 22 | 5:10 pm
RHP George Kirby RHP Mike Clevinger
60% 40%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 23 | 11:10 am
RHP Bryan Woo RHP Michael Kopech
59% 41%

The M’s did not merely sweep aside the Houston Astros this weekend, they did so without the appearance of their top two starting pitchers. That means Luis Castillo and George Kirby both line up against the Chicago White Sox, who have not spent most of 2023 in position to handle their opponent’s most average efforts, much less their best. Dealing away many of their best performers at the deadline has left this already underperforming club an even hollower husk of itself, with starters Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito in/near Los Angeles respectively, bullpen stalwarts Reynaldo López, Joe Kelly, Kendall Graveman, and Keynan Middleton all shipped off, and Jake Burger, who’d been the only yearlong offensive contributor besides superstar Luis Robert, flipped to Miami. Oh and star closer Liam Hendriks, having battled back from a cancer diagnosis to pitch again, had to have Tommy John surgery. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln?

Team Stats

Overview White Sox Mariners Edge
Overview White Sox Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 86 (15th in AL) 107 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -12 (12th) 10 (4th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 110 (12th) 93 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 102 (11th) 87 (2nd) Mariners

For as frustrating as the 2023 Mariners have been at times, the White Sox have been even more frustrating, as a club that should have been able to contend in a weak AL Central again is left spinning its wheels. Much is made of the Angels squandering the prime of Ohtani and Trout but the White Sox deserve some degree of rebuke as well for failing to capitalize on their trio of Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez. In addition to squandering talent acquired in international signings, the White Sox have also failed to take advantage of their top draft picks over the past few years: their top two picks in 2017 and 2018 both play for other clubs now, their 2019 pick was a “can’t miss” advanced college hitter who has, so far, missed; and their 2020 pick is now a) a reliever and b) hurt. White Sox fans will have to be content waiting for top prospect Colton Montgomery to get to the majors and hopefully pull this team out of a tailspin.

White Sox Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Tim Anderson SS R 397 21.9% 5.5% 0.046 58
Andrew Benintendi LF L 485 14.4% 8.4% 0.080 91
Luis Robert Jr. CF R 491 28.1% 5.3% 0.292 138
Eloy Jiménez DH R 344 20.6% 6.1% 0.174 110
Yoán Moncada 3B S 236 28.8% 5.1% 0.122 68
Andrew Vaughn 1B R 473 20.7% 6.6% 0.177 105
Yasmani Grandal C S 357 22.4% 9.0% 0.113 83
Elvis Andrus 2B R 314 16.6% 7.0% 0.098 76
Oscar Colás RF L 200 27.5% 5.0% 0.081 51

The ChiSox lineup will be variable throughout the series, as Tim Anderson is still finishing up his five-game suspension earned in his ill-fated impromptu boxing match with José Ramírez, while Eloy Jiménez is currently on paternity leave but will presumably return for Monday night’s game as MLB’s typical paternity leave is three games. Like the Royals, the White Sox are a club that likes to swing the bat, which could be dangerous against an M’s club that typically works in the strike zone. However, the Sox have many of the same flaws as the Royals, namely an aversion to free passes and one of the lowest ISOs in the league. With Burger slugging in Miami, beyond Robert and Jiménez, Seattle is not on paper facing a club with the capacity to be a power threat.

Probable Pitchers

Chicago Cubs v Chicago White Sox
RHP Michael Kopech
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

RHP Touki Touissant

Touki Touissant

50 1/3 23.1% 16.7% 15.4% 50.8% 4.47 5.17
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 27.5% 93.7 81 125 83 0.389
Sinker 22.2% 93.2 96 55 92 0.405
Splitter 16.7% 87.7 103 112 80 0.317
Curveball 32.1% 76.3 108 110 103 0.260

Snapped up off waivers around a month ago from the Guardians, Touissant has been able-bodied, if nothing else for the South Siders. Touissant has fallen a fair ways from lofty prospect status, but still generates a healthy clip of groundballs that can help him mitigate an untenable walk rate. Now with his fifth big league organization, Touissant is still just 27 but is battling to maintain a starting role. Seattle last faced him almost exactly a year ago when he was with the Angels, touching him up for four earned runs in just 2.2 innings.

RHP Mike Clevinger

Mike Clevinger

85 2/3 19.7% 8.9% 7.8% 30.3% 3.26 4.42
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 48.9% 94.2 100 77 109 0.340
Cutter 7.5% 85.2 82 116 111 0.395
Changeup 11.7% 86.1 78 77 95 0.244
Curveball 2.3% 76.0
Slider 27.7% 79.7 111 86 83 0.290

One of the only White Sox players to be outperforming expectations, Clevinger has had a passable campaign as a predominantly two-pitch starter, mixing his average heater with a slider that is slightly above. The 32-year-old is another former Guardians arm, but his fortunes have soured significantly since departing the Forest City. Once a borderline ace, the FIP-beating righty scuffled with the Padres. His 3.26 ERA in 2023 is in part indicative of his ability to induce weak contact, and in particular pop-ups.

RHP Michael Kopech

Michael Kopech

112 23.4% 14.5% 17.5% 35.7% 4.58 6.26
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 62.8% 95.3 118 126 108 0.387
Changeup 7.6% 88.8 73 116 79 0.254
Curveball 4.0% 80.8 96
Slider 25.6% 85.1 101 77 80 0.330

The journey for Kopech has been a rocky one, but 2023 is unequivocally, if not the nadir, not far above. A Tommy John punch card kid, Kopech debuted to great excitement in 2018 as one of the centerpieces of the Chris Sale return from the Red Sox. He wouldn’t pitch again professionally until 2021, with injuries, rehabilitation, and COVID outlaying the then-25-year-old. He was a bullpen ace, however, in that 2021 campaign, setting up closer Liam Hendriks en route to an AL Central title. That winter, the White Sox determined Kopech would return to working out of the rotation, a move that has not coalesced into consistency two years later. The hard-throwing righty has the highest walk rate of any pitcher in MLB (minimum 110 IP) and, well, that’s really the story. Expect the heater early and often, and hope he is both wild enough to set up plenty of run scoring and not so wild as to injury any M’s hitters.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 72-52 0.581 -- W-L-L-L-L
Astros 70-55 0.560 2.5 W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 69-55 0.556 3 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 61-64 0.488 11.5 L-W-L-W-L
Athletics 34-90 0.274 30.0 L-W-L-L-L

The Mariners gained ground in the division thanks to their sweep of the Astros and a sweep of the Rangers by the Milwaukee Brewers and old pal Carlos Santana, still helping out the Mariners. The Rangers will try to get back on track with a short two-game set against the DBacks before heading off to Minnesota, who they will see seven times over a span of eleven days. The Angels dropped a series to the Rays, losing in extra-innings fashion and then splitting a doubleheader as their schedule continues to be impacted by the extreme weather in California; they’ll play yet another doubleheader on Wednesday to close out their series against the Reds after today’s game was also postponed. An angry Astros team, fresh off a players’-only meeting after being swept by your Seattle Mariners, will take out their frustrations on the Red Sox. Also, we are legally obligated to acknowledge the Oakland Athletics also play baseball; they’ll face off against the Royals after being swept by the Orioles.

The Wild Card Race

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 75-51 0.591 5+ L-W-W-L-W
Astros 70-55 0.560 .5+ W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 69-55 0.556 -- W-W-W-W-W
Blue Jays 69-56 0.552 0.5 W-L-L-W-W
Red Sox 66-58 0.532 3.0 L-L-W-W-W
Angels 61-64 0.488 8.5 L-W-L-W-L

The Mariners climbed back ahead of the Blue Jays with their sweep of the Astros to hold the third Wild Card spot, but more importantly they cut the Astros’ lead for that second Wild Card down to just half a game. Tampa Bay remains in the top spot after taking a series against the Angels, who fall down to eight and a half out. The Red Sox remain in the mix after sweeping aside the Yankees this weekend, but will have to head to Houston to face a seething Astros club. The Blue Jays and Orioles will face off this week in a series with heavy implications for both the Wild Card race and the AL East, as the Rays get to beat up on the Rockies for a while.