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Rays vs. White Sox Series Preview: Rays seek to rebound in snowy Chicago

Shingo Takatsu Press conference
Will the next three games look something like this?
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The beginning of the season couldn’t have gone much worse for the Tampa Bay Rays. Strike that: the Rays could have failed to rally against the Boston Red Sox bullpen on opening day and still be without a win. An eight game losing streak that included five one run losses to the Red Sox, however, is a painful way to start the year.

The Chicago White Sox sit at 3-5 and were just swept by the Detroit Tigers. They have lost five of their last six.

The Matchups:

Monday 2:10 PM: Chris Archer vs Miguel Gonzalez
Tuesday 2:10 PM: Blake Snell vs Carson Fulmer
Wednesday 2:10 PM: Bullpen vs James Shields

Weather: The opening game of the series was moved up from a night game to a day game because of expected weather problems in the evening. It is currently still snowing in Chicago and this is what the field looked like this morning.

Rays take on former Rays great James Shields in the finale

White Sox Starters Last 3+ Years

Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Miguel Gonzalez 77 439.1 16.2% 7.6% 1.21 4.51 4.61
Carson Fulmer 6 23.2 20.4% 11.7% 1.14 4.56 4.65
James Shields 89 512.0 20.3% 9.7% 1.78 4.94 5.33

Miguel Gonzalez has made a living as a back of the rotation starter. He doesn’t get very many strikeouts (career 16.6% strikeout rate), but limits walks (career 7.6% walk rate). In his first start of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays he allowed six runs, five earned in 5.0 innings. The last time he faced the Rays was in his final start of 2016 and held the Rays scoreless through 8.1 innings on three hits.

Carson Fulmer was the eighth overall pick by the White Sox in the 2015 MLB draft. He was a high school teammate of Ryan Yarbrough (All Saints’ Academy - Winter Haven, FL). Fulmer has had trouble keeping the ball in the strike zone. Think a right handed version of Blake Snell. The stuff is good, but he gets himself into a lot of trouble with walks. In his first start of the season he allowed three runs in five innings and only walked one. Last September he faced the Rays for two innings out of the bullpen. He allowed a solo homer to Logan Morrison.

Big Game James Shields takes the mound for game three. Since signing a free agent contract he has been a shell of the pitcher we all knew with the Rays and his time in Kansas City. Since the beginning of 2015 Shields has thrown 512.0 innings and been worth -0.2 fWAR. It has been sad to see the rapid decline of the former Rays great, but at least he got paid.

Solid veterans lead the White Sox bullpen

White Sox Relievers Last 3+ Years

Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Joakim Soria 204 193.1 24.5% 8.3% 0.9 3.5 3.6
Nate Jones 104 104.2 30.6% 6.6% 1.1 2.5 3.3
Luis Avilan 165 121.2 26.0% 9.5% 0.6 3.5 3.1
Danny Farquhar 134 140.1 23.7% 9.9% 1.4 4.2 4.6
Bruce Rondon 94 84.1 29.0% 11.1% 1.0 5.4 3.7
Gregory Infante 56 57.1 21.0% 9.5% 0.6 4.1 3.6
Aaron Bummer 34 24.0 17.7% 15.7% 1.5 4.1 5.9
Hector Santiago 4 9.1 20.9% 7.0% 1.9 4.8 5.9

Nate Jones returns after only throwing 11.2 innings in 2017. He had nerve repositioning surgery on his elbow last July. He started this season off looking like his normal self which is a pretty great reliever.

This winter the White Sox absorbed the contract of Joakim Soria from the Kansas City Royals. In recent seasons the results have been much better than the peripherals would suggest, but he’s been a solid reliever when he hasn’t been recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Luis Avilan has been a very effective lefty out of the bullpen. He isn’t just a LOOGY though. He has allowed a career .260 wOBA to left handed batters, but still limited right handers to a .283 wOBA.

Former Ray Danny Farquhar is one of the vets as one of the last guys in the bullpen.

Aaron Bummer has a really unfortunate last name. I’m sure no one has ever mentioned that to him.

Jose Abreu leads a young White Sox offense

White Sox Batters Last 3+ Years

Jose Abreu 2074 90 3 5.9% 18.7% 0.296 0.351 0.507 0.362 130
Avisail Garcia 1652 44 16 6.2% 22.6% 0.280 0.334 0.421 0.326 105
Welington Castillo 1228 55 2 6.7% 25.8% 0.260 0.314 0.455 0.328 101
Yolmer Sanchez 1148 22 11 5.3% 21.1% 0.243 0.290 0.378 0.289 79
Tim Anderson 1070 29 30 2.8% 27.0% 0.268 0.291 0.419 0.303 88
Tyler Saladino 856 12 24 5.6% 21.3% 0.231 0.280 0.328 0.268 65
Matt Davidson 480 30 0 5.2% 36.9% 0.223 0.271 0.468 0.310 93
Omar Narvaez 417 3 0 12.7% 14.4% 0.274 0.367 0.341 0.317 98
Leury Garcia 405 10 11 4.0% 23.0% 0.262 0.308 0.404 0.307 91
Adam Engel 364 6 8 6.0% 34.1% 0.167 0.239 0.278 0.231 39
Yoan Moncada 290 9 3 12.1% 34.5% 0.222 0.324 0.389 0.314 96
Nick Delmonico 189 9 2 13.8% 19.0% 0.250 0.365 0.450 0.355 124

Most of the White Sox batters have a track record of being really aggressive at the plate. This year they have a 9.0% walk rate as a team. They are hitting .246/.334/.463, .352 wOBA, and put up a 130 wRC+ in this young season. Their 14 homeruns trails only the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays.

Jose Abreu has been a good middle of the order bat since coming over from Cuba. He has a lot of power. He doesn’t walk very frequently, but also doesn’t strike out that often for a power hitter.

Avisail Garcia had a breakout offense season last year. He lowered his strikeout rate by almost 5%, but his 137 wRC+ required a .397 BABIP. How much of the breakout is to be determined, but he’s an experienced bat in a lineup without many.

Welington Castillo was signed as a free agent this off season after a good season with Baltimore. He’s an offensive first catcher that has had problems on the defensive side of the ball.

The high profile Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada is starting to acclimate himself to the majors. He was the main piece received in the deal that sent Chris Sale to Boston last winter. Unlike most of the other White Sox batters Moncada will take his walks, but he also strikes out a ton. His speed and power combination is a solid foundation.

The Rays look to turn things around

The Rays offense looked like it had a pulse for the first time yesterday afternoon, although removing Brad Miller and Kevin Kiermaier (who is day to day) certainly won’t help the team sustain that level of output. The long men in the bullpen have been some of the best performers on the team and have out performed the regular starters to this point. Hopefully Chris Archer and Blake Snell can turn that around this week.