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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago White Sox

Hopefully Tony LaRussa doesn’t get distracted by all the ribbon boards this weekend

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This is a bit of a throwback weekend.

The Brewers get to face an old former rival in the Chicago White Sox AND we get to revive our distaste for Tony La Russa in the process.

The White Sox, like the Brewers, are in the process of running away with their division. It’s quite possible that between the 10 teams in the Central divisions, the Brewers and the White Sox are the only ones that aren’t trash.

Also like the Brewers, Chicago’s American League team has been cruising along thanks to some excellent starting pitching (check out this weekend’s pitching matchups in a bit). Unlike the Brewers, the White Sox can actually hit.

Coming into the weekend at 58-38, it would be easy to dismiss Chicago as a product of a bad division. They are, after all, an incredible 12-4 against the now-selling Twins, 9-4 against the Tigers, and 6-3 against the Royals. They’ve also capitalized on the American League generally being full of terrible teams, going a combined 10-0 against the Orioles and Rangers.

Still, it would likely be a mistake to underestimate them based on that. After all, they can’t control who they play. And to their credit, they’ve taken care of business, racking up an incredible 20 wins by 5+ runs so far this year.

The Lineup

The White Sox can really, really hit, coming into the weekend 4th in the majors in runs scored and 2nd in on-base percentage.

Reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu still leads the team in home runs (18) and has cashed in on the many RBI chances he’s had due to that high team OBP (75), although he hasn’t approached the .317/.370/.617 line he put up last season, seeing his line dip to .257/.338/.482 this year.

Tim Anderson has continued to hit like a superstar, though, coming into the weekend hiting .312/.347/.457 so far with 20 doubles and 9 home runs. He’s also stolen 16 bases, although he can get a little reckless with his attempts, as he’s been caught an MLB-leading 7 times.

Yoan Moncada has also proven to be a tough out, hitting .279/.401/.426 while adding 18 doubles and 8 home runs of his own and ranking just behind Anderson among the team’s WAR leaders.

Speaking of WAR, Old Friend Yasmani Grandal has managed to be worth 2 WAR despite hitting below .200, thanks to his OBP being an incredible 200 points higher and his usual excellent defense. You could have made a solid argument that Grandal could’ve been an All-Star this year despite his unusual .188/.388/.436 line — despite the batting average, he’s put up an incredible 130 OPS+ and 135 wRC+ to this point.

The Probable Pitchers

This is really a phenomenal weekend of pitching matchups.

Friday, 7:10 p.m. CDT - Lucas Giolito vs. Freddy Peralta

Giolito comes into this start with a 3.90 ERA but the metrics suggest that number should be quite a bit lower, with Statcast saying his expected ERA is closer to 3.37 thanks to his 29.2% K% and an expected opponent batting average of .219 based on the type of contact he’s given up this year. And there hasn’t been very much contact, as Giolito carries a whiff rate approaching the top 15% of the league while he’s been better than 2/3 of pitchers in baseball in getting batters to chase out of the zone. He’s coming off a gem of a start against Houston, a complete game in which he struck out 8, walked none, and only allowed one run on a solo homer.

Saturday, 6:10 p.m. CDT - Carlos Rodon vs. Corbin Burnes

The former Brewers draft pick has enjoyed a career renaissance after it looked like injuries may have derailed everything. After throwing a perfect game in his second start of the year, Rodon has continued that momentum, making his first career All-Star team this year. He comes into this start with a 2.16 ERA in 16 starts with a league-best FIP of 2.20, league-best WHIP of 0.90 and a league-best 13.0 K/9. Basically, he’s gone from being non-tendered last winter to being an AL Cy Young candidate. He’s also coming off a dominant start against the Astros, allowing just one hit while striking out 10 and walking nobody over 7 innings.

Sunday, 6:08 p.m. CDT - Lance Lynn vs. Brandon Woodruff

A reminder — this one is front of a national audience on Sunday Night Baseball. The Mets and Dodgers must have been busy, but we’ll take it. Lynn has been incredibly difficult to hit this year, coming into the weekend with an AL-best 1.94 ERA and 220 ERA+ in 17 starts. The fancy metrics back up those surface-level numbers, too, with Statcast giving him an expected opponent batting average of just .191 and an expected ERA of 2.76 — both in the top 10% in baseball. He’s done it despite throwing almost entirely fastballs, using a 4-seamer 42.9% of the time, a cutter 32.3% of the time and a sinker 16.9% of the time. The former Cardinal has also typically dominated the Brewers during his lengthy career, putting up a lifetime 2.20 ERA in 20 appearances (16 starts) against the Crew.

Statistics courtesy of Statcast and Baseball-Reference