MLB Odds & Picks for Royals vs. White Sox: Target the Total in AL Central Matchup (Thursday, April 8)

Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images. Pictured: Lance Lynn.

Royals vs. White Sox Odds

Royals Odds +135
White Sox Odds -160
Over/Under 9 (-110/-110)
Time 4:10 p.m. ET
TV MLBTV
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via BetMGM.

In the past 10 games between the White Sox and the Royals, the White Sox are 9-1 with a +31 run differential.

However, a lot has changed since the Royals and White Sox last played. The Royals’ offense has sparked hope in Kansas City, and the White Sox have entered 2021 with really high expectations.

But there isn’t any value in either side in this game. Instead, I’m looking to target the total in this series opener.

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Kansas City Royals

A lot of people were saying the Royals’ offense would be sneaky good in 2021, and it exploded out of the gates.

The Royals scored 25 runs in their first two games against the Rangers, and Whit Merrifield recorded seven hits, six RBIs and two home runs in those wins. However, since the initial outburst, Kansas City’s offense has stalled, with the Royals scoring just eight total runs in the past three games.

Kansas City is still third in OPS, wOBA and wRC+ to start this young season. That’s great for a team that finished in the bottom-12 in all of those statistics last season.

I’m very interested to see which version of the Royals’ offense we get this season. Per FanGraphs, just three Kansas City batters were projected to post above-average wRC+ in 2021.

The pitching may also be a problem for the Royals. They are projected to be one of the worst bullpens in baseball this season, per FanGraphs, and its rotation is headlined by Mike Minor and today’s starter Brad Keller.

Starting Pitcher: Brad Keller

Keller had a brutal 2021 debut and two rough games to end spring training.

In his first regular season start, Keller allowed six runs on nine hits and managed just 1 2/3 innings against the Rangers. He also walked two and struck out none in the abysmal outing.

In his final two starts of spring training, Keller allowed seven runs on 11 hits and walked four through just seven innings. Needless to say, he’s in a slump right now.

However, Keller had a career year in 2020. He pitched 54 2/3 innings over nine starts and posted a 2.47 ERA, a 3.43 FIP and a 1.02 WHIP. He also finished in the 89th percentile in barrel percentage and the 93rd percentile in wOBA, per Baseball Savant.

It’s worth noting that Keller’s xERA and xFIP were closer to his career averages, so there may have been some luck involved in his career-best nine game stretch.

Keller is a fastball pitcher, primarily throwing a four-seam and a sinker. However, he doesn’t strike guys out, and he doesn’t miss bats. He finished in just the eighth percentile in whiff rate in 2020 while recording only 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a swinging strike rate of 8.4%.

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Chicago White Sox

The loss of Tim Anderson is brutal for this White Sox lineup. Luckily, he shouldn’t be out too long.

The White Sox came into the year with a lot of hype, but they’ve had a strange season so far. They dropped three of four to the Angels to start the season but also won two of three from the Mariners. Plus, the White Sox are still a top-10 offense in early-season play.

The White Sox have also faced three left-handed pitchers so far, and we all know just how dominant the White Sox are against southpaws. Against right-handers in early-season play, the White Sox have been below-average, posting a .668 OPS and 92 wRC+.

All-in-all, the White Sox are short-handed and currently falling short of lofty preseason expectations. But it’s still early, and they still have one of the best all-around rosters in baseball.

Starting Pitcher: Lance Lynn

Lynn is on a below-average streak lately. Including spring training, Lynn has allowed eight runs on 17 hits over his last 13 1/3 innings.

However, Lynn’s pitched well in the past few seasons. In 2020, Lynn posted a 3.32 ERA and a career-low 1.06 WHIP in 13 starts.  He also finished in the 78th percentile in xERA, xBA and xwOBA.

Lynn throws a lot of fastballs, and while he tends to get hard-hit a lot, he’s also excellent at missing bats. His swinging strike rate has increased steadily every year since his MLB debut, and he posted a career high 15.2 swinging strike rate in 2020. He posted the highest K/9 of his career last season as well.

Moreover, Lynn doesn’t walk guys. He’s finished in the top 20 of qualified starters in total walks every season since 2012.

Personally, I believe Lynn is pitching better than he ever has. He posted some career-best numbers last season, and his expected numbers finished roughly in line with his actual ones.

Chicago fans are hoping he continues this pace, as the White Sox need him as a legitimate third starter behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Kuechel.

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Royals-White Sox Pick

While the White Sox have dominated this matchup recently, I really lean Under in this game, for a few reasons:

First, the Royals offense is probably overvalued in this game. As mentioned, they started the season with two massive offensive games, but have since regressed. Kansas City’s 2021 offensive numbers are super inflated after the hot start.

Second, Brad Keller is an Under pitcher. The Royals are 23-13-1 to the Under in Keller starts since the beginning of 2019. Plus, as mentioned above, the White Sox offense mashes southpaws but have been much-less efficient against righties this season.

Third, the White Sox bullpen is one of the best in the league. As long as Tony La Russa decides to use his guys (specifically Liam Hendriks) once Lynn is finished, I don’t expect the Royals to score a lot.

Finally, our model projects the total closer to 7.7. Therefore, I’ll gladly play the value and take the Under 9 in this spot.

Pick: Under 9 (-110)

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