Dallas Keuchel showing his value on and off the field

Sean Williams

When the White Sox signed Dallas Keuchel back in December, it was clear he would be filling a hole in a starting rotation that needed more depth. The fit made a lot of sense as well. The White Sox are a young team, and adding a veteran presence like Keuchel to the clubhouse and the rotation would be of benefit to the ballclub.

The White Sox have Dallas Keuchel and his services for three years, with the potential to make it four through a vesting option. While the 2020 season and the start of his contract is still young, it seems to be paying off already.

On the mound, Keuchel has been a solid No. 2 starting pitcher. Through four starts, he owns a 3.04 ERA with 15 strikeouts and four walks in 23 ⅔ IP. His ERA currently is the best among White Sox starters, and he also has posted a 57.9% ground ball rate, which is to be expected with his profile.

You can't ask for much more out of Keuchel up to this point. He's not the Cy Young version of himself anymore, but he's done a tremendous job of painting the corners of the strike zone and keeping the ball on the ground, while minimizing the damage opponents can string together.

Before spring training started, Keuchel already made his presence felt by taking the team and staff out to dinner and covering the bill for everyone. Now, with the regular season underway, Keuchel has once again stepped up and made an impact off the field.

On Monday night, the White Sox lost the series opener to the Detroit Tigers after a brutal homestand, and this is when we began to see more of the value of Keuchel off the field. 

After another impressive start, Keuchel met with the media to discuss his performance and the team's effort. He did not beat around the bush, and went on to say exactly how he was feeling in that moment.

While not trying to completely harp on everyone, Keuchel also stated that "some guys are having professional at-bats." However, he couldn't be more accurate with this quote. 

After the White Sox put together a six-game win streak and seemed like they were ready to turn the corner, since then they've fallen flat again. The team is 1-5 over their last six games and offensively, they've struggled to score runs. There seems to be a lack of an efficient approach with the majority of the batters.

It's been an ugly week to say the least, but Keuchel came out and said exactly what this team needed to hear. This is something you would like to hear come from the manager of the ballclub, or a player that has been around for a while, but at least someone is saying it.

During his same media session, Keuchel talked about how something as simple as coming to the ballpark ready to compete every night is a minor adjustment that can help the club start playing more inspired baseball.

Sure, the White Sox are a young team and are expected to have growing pains throughout the season. However, the effort level of the team has seemed minimal lately and as a result, the games have been painful to watch.

While this brutally-honest media session sort of came by surprise, Keuchel's feelings and comments were warranted. He didn't come out to the media and put the team on blast without the clubhouse knowing how he felt. He made sure to let the players know about his feelings before expressing them to other people.

Now, obviously, Keuchel's on-field performance has made his signing look like a good one thus far. But this moment from Monday night is showing that he brings a ton of value to the team off the field as well.

Keuchel has been in the league for eight seasons, and he's had his share of winning along the way. The veteran presence in a young clubhouse is beneficial, but also having someone that has been around a winning club is beneficial, too.

He's been through all the highs and lows of being a professional baseball player, knows how to fight through the slumps of a baseball season, and knows how to do what it takes to get to the postseason.

The White Sox had a lot of hype this offseason, and maybe they are feeling the pressure of trying to do too much to live up to that hype. All of the comments that Keuchel made about the team could prove be a turning point of the season. Did he light a fire under an offense that desperately needs it? Time will tell.

Regardless of what happens after Monday night, it was great to hear Keuchel step up and speak his mind because I'm sure he wasn't the only one feeling that way. It would've been nice to hear someone who has been around the team longer than a few months say these things, but there's no complaining because it needed to be said.

Keuchel has put together a solid start to the season, and he deserves to speak his mind when he feels things are off. He might be a fresh face in the clubhouse, but he's stepped in and immediately become a vocal leader that this team needed, and he showed that on Monday night.

We will see if Keuchel is able to continue the impressive level he is currently pitching at. Even if he does regress this season or beyond, one thing is for sure: his value off the field is going to be very important for the White Sox moving forward.

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