As the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals prepare for the third contest in their four-game series Wednesday night, both managers fully embrace the analytical aspect of the game, as long as they also can employ the human element.
The Royals will try to shift momentum after squandering a late lead Tuesday. Brad Keller turned in the team’s sixth quality start in the past seven games, but Eloy Jimenez’s three-run homer in the eighth inning gave the White Sox a 5-3 victory.
Chicago right-hander Lucas Giolito (8-7, 3.78 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Kansas City left-hander Kris Bubic (3-4, 4.72) on Wednesday.
Giolito lost three straight decisions early in the season before winning three consecutive starts to conclude May. He hasn’t had a streak of more than two straight similar decisions since.
Giolito enjoyed one of his best starts by throwing his first complete game of the season on July 17. He permitted one run on three hits and struck out eight in a 10-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
Giolito is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts against Kansas City in 2021. He is 8-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the Royals.
Bubic has been mercurial as well, though his differentiation has been more in line with starting vs. entering the game in relief.
On Friday, Bubic allowed one run on six hits in six innings of a 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Before that start, he owned a 6.34 ERA (27 earned runs in 38 1/3 innings) in his eight previous starts and a 2.96 ERA (eight earned runs in 24 1/3 innings) in eight relief appearances.
Bubic has allowed one hit in 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief against the White Sox this year. He made his debut last season and is 0-2 with a 2.45 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) against the White Sox.
Chicago’s Tony La Russa, who debuted as a manager in 1979, has been on the cutting edge of defensive positioning for a while.
“Our teams were at the forefront of defensive positioning,” La Russa said before Tuesday’s game. “Pitching coach Dave Duncan was a pioneer of charting. He charted how the hitters hit certain pitches, but he also charted defensive position. We were ahead of the curve.”
But La Russa says it’s not a matter of relying solely on the numbers.
“The statistical is the starting point — where does the guy hit the ball,” he said. “But then you have to evaluate (the pitchers). Giolito is different from (Lance) Lynn, who is different from (Dylan) Cease, who is different from the left-handers. The healthiest part of this is that day’s starter reviewing what our defensive positioning is. He has a plan on how to pitch to that day’s lineup.”
La Russa’s counterpart, Kansas City’s Mike Matheny, played under La Russa with the St. Louis Cardinals. Not surprisingly, he agrees with his mentor on the importance of the human element.
“It’s broken down per pitcher, per hitter, per time through the order, per count,” Matheny said. “With that in mind, we’re always going to give the pitcher the last word. They’re going to know where we’re playing guys, from pitch one through two strikes. If they don’t want them in that spot, we’ll move them.”
–Field Level Media