CHICAGO -- Dallas Keuchel has played a great deal of golf since the 2021 White Sox season came to a close, trying to reset in Arizona following a rough campaign where the southpaw finished with a 5.28 ERA and a 6.82 ERA in the season’s second half.
That reset shouldn’t be confused with a loss of confidence for the 10-year veteran. In fact, Keuchel is more motivated than ever to show his true mound value during the ’22 season.
“It’s something that is at an all-time high, the motivation is right now,” said Keuchel during a Monday night Zoom session. “I’m being serious with that.
“I’ve already relayed that to a couple of guys, [White Sox general manager] Rick Hahn and [assistant general manager] Jeremy Haber, that second half was not who I am, and I want to get back to who I am. So, I mean, I can talk about it. But I would really like it to be February or March and be able to come out and show everybody.”
Viewing Keuchel as past his prime would be a disservice to a knowledgeable hurler one year removed from a 1.99 ERA over 11 starts in ’20 and a fifth-place American League Cy Young finish. But as Keuchel referenced, past success and the ultimate motivation doesn’t retire opposing hitters.
Over 32 appearances, of which 30 were starts, Keuchel allowed 59 walks, 189 hits and 25 home runs in 162 innings. His .298 XBA was in the bottom 1% of the league, while his 6.08 xERA was in the bottom 4%, per Statcast.
The White Sox ultimately didn’t put Keuchel on the playoff roster against Houston, a team he pitched for during the first seven years of his career and a team that dispatched the White Six in four games during the Division Series. Keuchel watched the rest of the postseason from home, getting ready to join Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and AL Cy Young finalist Lance Lynn as part of the ’22 rotation as of Nov. 8.
“My season just kind of correlated with the White Sox season,” Keuchel said. “I didn't have a great second half, by any means, and I'm itching to get back out there again for 2022. But we had such high hopes, and to not play that well in the Division Series was really just kind of a climax to a difficult ending.
“I really thought we could have gone farther. We had a young group, but at the same time, we kind of ran into a more experienced playoff team and it showed. I'm hoping we take this with us and make sure we're thinking about what happened this past year but also moving forward to make sure we're making a deeper playoff run.”
Despite these rough results, Keuchel’s defense did not suffer as he won his fifth career American League Gold Glove Award. Keuchel, who turns 34 on New Year’s Day, previously received the honor with Houston from 2014-16 and in ’18.
He is tied for the eighth-most Gold Gloves among all pitchers, trailing Greg Maddux (18), Jim Kaat (16), Bob Gibson (9), Bobby Shantz (8), Mark Langston (7), Mike Mussina (7) and Zack Greinke (6), and he is tied with Ron Guidry, Phil Niekro and Kenny Rogers. Keuchel is the first White Sox pitcher to win a Gold Glove since Jake Peavy in ’12, beating out fellow AL finalists Greinke and José Berríos.
This winning nod over Greinke gives the Gold Glove special meaning, as Keuchel explained.
“Honestly, this year it really meant a lot more because of the fact that somebody I respect a lot in this game and someone I've competed against, Zack Greinke, I was fortunate to win it over him,” Keuchel said. “We had joked a few years ago, at one of the Gold Glove events, that hopefully we're never in the same league together, because it would kind of be a shame if only one of us [was able] to win it.
“So I'm very thankful to be in that company. But that's really my kind of stamp this year.”
Keuchel finished with 41 assists, one error, two stolen bases allowed in six attempts and a career-high 12 defensive runs saved, per Baseball-Reference. Keuchel was the only Gold Glove finalist from the White Sox and joins Mark Buehrle (3), Kaat (3) and Peavy as White Sox pitchers to win a Gold Glove.
With one year at $18 million left on his deal, Keuchel has a target for his pitching to once again match his defense in ’22.
“I’m playing golf, trying to put the bad second half past me,” said Keuchel, who has a $20 million option for ’23, with a $1.5 million buyout. “But [I’m] using it at the same time to motivate me to being back to where I want to be.”