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Who’s No. 1?

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With an unexpected day off, let’s line up the White Sox playoff rotation.

Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodón and Michael Kopech should all play a role in the White Sox playoff run. When do you pitch them?
Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Remember the White Sox playoff run of just a year ago?

Yeah, it’s a painful, you may have blocked it out, because those last 10 days or so were rough — setting the team up, in retrospect at least, for an early postseason exit.

But here’s something you might have forgotten: Heading into that last couple of weeks, and without the benefit of days off due to the compressed season, the rotation was not lined up for the postseason.

The White Sox, again facing guaranteed playoffs but positioning (where-do-we-play-Game-1 battle with Houston, which unfortunately seems a shoo-in win for the Astros with their magic number for the No. 2 spot at 6) up for question, need to shuffle their arms in order to get their horses ready for October 7 and 8.

But with 2021’s schedule returning to some sense of normalcy, the two days off between the end of the regular season and start of the ALDS provide a cushion 2020 did not offer.

Thus this article isn’t about how Tony La Russa will need to desperately juggle arms in the last 10 days. It’s more a survey of how the White Sox should tackle the postseason, with just two pitchers (and one core starter, Dylan Cease) apparently heading to October “fully healthy.”

Let’s review the options, walking wounded or otherwise:

  • Lucas Giolito had a “slight” hamstring injury that took him out of a a couple of starts to begin September; could have been more a case of fill-the-tank-back-up-Luc than serious malady
  • Lance Lynn has a knee injury that not only landed him on the IL but has been visible in games; he’s a hoss so he’ll just bull through it, but he doesn’t appear 100% even though the results are there
  • Dallas Keuchel had been tumbling out of the playoff rotation, but a combination of rotation injuries, “veteran savvy,” handedness and slight performance revival keeps Kid Keuchy in the mix
  • Carlos Rodón has been battling soreness and velocity drop for at least six weeks now, and just left his last start after three innings, which was rightfully “concerning” to La Russa. He will get one more tune-up start next Wednesday vs. the Reds, but Hard Karl doesn’t appear as if he’ll be 100% for the rest of 2021
  • Dylan Cease is the best combination of health and performance in the rotation right now and seemingly will pitch his way into the first-round rotation on that merit
  • Reynaldo López benefits from the same circumstances as Cease, but is much more of a long shot to start a game in the playoffs — especially as he’s fallen back to earth in his last one or two starts as part of a six-man rotation bleeding out the rest of this suspenseless regular season
  • Michael Kopech is the X-factor, seemingly with innings left in his arm and available (possibly preferred) for a spot start — say, in an ALDS Game 5 or ALCS Game 4 or 5. Way back before spring training, Rick Hahn spoke of limiting Kopech’s innings in the regular season so he would be fresh for October

There is no clear No. 1 in this rotation. Lynn and Rodón were Cy Young candidates, now falling from the short list more due to health than performance. Giolito was the ace to start the season and seems the sharpest of all starters now. Cease or Keuchel are not Game 1 starters, but could rise to as high as No. 2 due to health or handedness.

So let’s take the temperature of the South Side Sox electorate, with a series of questions designed to formulate the playoff rotation. Weigh current health/performance status more heavily in your decisions than full 2021 season resume, as it seems that’s what the coaching staff will have to do.

Poll

Who should be the Game 1 ALDS starter, and No. 1 arm through the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Lucas Giolito
    (202 votes)
  • 56%
    Lance Lynn
    (331 votes)
  • 3%
    Carlos Rodón
    (23 votes)
  • 3%
    Dylan Cease
    (18 votes)
  • 0%
    Dallas Keuchel
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Reynaldo López
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Michael Kopech
    (5 votes)
585 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who should be the Game 2 ALDS starter, and No. 2 arm through the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Lucas Giolito
    (266 votes)
  • 31%
    Lance Lynn
    (164 votes)
  • 11%
    Carlos Rodón
    (57 votes)
  • 4%
    Dylan Cease
    (24 votes)
  • 0%
    Dallas Keuchel
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Reynaldo López
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Michael Kopech
    (1 vote)
516 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who should be the Game 3 ALDS starter, and No. 3 arm through the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Lucas Giolito
    (53 votes)
  • 3%
    Lance Lynn
    (17 votes)
  • 44%
    Carlos Rodón
    (229 votes)
  • 39%
    Dylan Cease
    (203 votes)
  • 0%
    Dallas Keuchel
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Reynaldo López
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Michael Kopech
    (7 votes)
515 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who should be the Game 4 ALDS starter, and/or No. 4 arm through the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Lucas Giolito
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Lance Lynn
    (9 votes)
  • 32%
    Carlos Rodón
    (162 votes)
  • 49%
    Dylan Cease
    (245 votes)
  • 4%
    Dallas Keuchel
    (24 votes)
  • 2%
    Reynaldo López
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    Michael Kopech
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    No fourth starter, I’m riding a three-man rotation all the way to the parade.
    (20 votes)
498 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Do you carry a five-man rotation into the playoffs, at any point?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    No
    (282 votes)
  • 9%
    Yes
    (44 votes)
  • 25%
    Not for the ALDS, but open to it in later series
    (119 votes)
  • 6%
    Maybe; I too like to live dangerously, so let’s keep the opposition guessing
    (30 votes)
475 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who would you LEAST like to see make a playoff start?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Lucas Giolito
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Lance Lynn
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Carlos Rodón
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Dylan Cease
    (2 votes)
  • 58%
    Dallas Keuchel
    (278 votes)
  • 31%
    Reynaldo López
    (151 votes)
  • 7%
    Michael Kopech
    (36 votes)
476 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What innovation would you most like to see the White Sox employ in the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    A surprise opener to throw off the top of the opponent’s lineup.
    (24 votes)
  • 18%
    A righty mini-starter paired with a three-inning start from Keuchel or Rodón.
    (76 votes)
  • 23%
    If not 100% but still OK to pitch some, Rodón deployed out of the rotation, as secret weapon (opener, spot starter, closer).
    (101 votes)
  • 24%
    Splitting up Hendriks and Kimbrel so both pitch every other game, as a shared closer/high-leverage role.
    (104 votes)
  • 27%
    None, these innovations suck, I want a beer and a dog at the game, turn down the loud music, parking is too expensive and get off of my lawn.
    (116 votes)
421 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who should be our highest-leverage reliever — not necessarily the ninth-inning closer — appearing in the tightest playoff moments?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Liam Hendriks
    (258 votes)
  • 4%
    Craig Kimbrel
    (20 votes)
  • 25%
    Michael Kopech
    (114 votes)
  • 7%
    Ryan Tepera
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    Garrett Crochet
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    Aaron Bummer
    (9 votes)
445 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Hey, while we’re at it, how will the White Sox do in the playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Lose ALDS
    (145 votes)
  • 22%
    Lose ALCS
    (104 votes)
  • 13%
    Lose World Series
    (60 votes)
  • 30%
    Win World Series
    (138 votes)
  • 1%
    Somehow find a way not to clinch and don’t make the playoffs
    (6 votes)
453 votes total Vote Now