For Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, success in 2013 largely hinges on how well the bullpen performs. See, if the White Sox are going to win the AL Central, the bullpen Hahn puts together will need to be the principal piece.
Does he have the bullpen ready, though?
Much like the 2012 season—the answer is a mixed bag.
On the positive side of the conversation, the bullpen finished the 2012 season with a 3.75 ERA, a 1.282 WHIP and a .240 BAA. Amazingly, those numbers take into consideration the poor efforts of Philip Humber (8.36 ERA in relief), Will Ohman (6.41) and Zach Stewart (6.00).
While those stats are pretty good, the results sure weren't.
That's because the bullpen had 20 blown saves last year, which is unacceptable. Further, they finished the season tied with the Seattle Mariners for last in the AL with 25 losses. Ouch.
Another positive is that the White Sox have Dylan Axelrod, Matt Thornton and Jessie Crain returning. All told, Hahn already has a formidable group already put together.
Now, while the relievers that are in place are undoubtedly talented and have found some success—there is room for individual improvement.
Reed, for example, needs to improve his focus. Last season, the first-year closer struggled in non-save situations, posting a 6.75 ERA and a .294 BAA.
The White Sox are going to turn to Reed in a tie game at some point next season, and Robin Ventura must be able to have confidence doing so. The right-hander must also improve upon his rather pedestrian 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
More concerning, Reed went almost two months without recording a perfect ninth inning. Tight-rope saves can quickly get the better of a closer. He needs to find a way to lock that down, and improving his changeup would be the first step.
Much like Reed, Jones walks far too many hitters, and that is problematic. See, Hahn may be counting on him to do more of the heavy lifting this upcoming season.
Are you confident the bullpen will be up to the challenge when the season begins?
As Reuters noted last week (h/t Chicago Tribune), Jones is more than likely going to assume the role that Brett Myers held after his midseason acquisition. If the right-hander continues his habit of trying to be too perfect with his pitches, he could quickly pitch himself out of a role.
Other question marks remain that the new GM will have to address, too.
The White Sox need someone to fill the spot vacated by the aforementioned Myers. Brian Omogrosso and Jhan Marinez are two in-house candidates, while Hahn could choose to fill the roster sport via free agency.
Finally, Santiago may end up being a surprise question mark heading into the season.
He may find himself either in the starting rotation—or on another team—by the time spring training rolls around, so another lefty may be needed. With Leyson Septimo’s continued struggles, Hahn may have to look outside the organization for help there, as well.
The good news is that the White Sox have a solid foundation in place.
It will be interesting to see the final touches Hahn puts on the bullpen heading into the season.
*All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com and ESPN.com