Over the past two years, it has been shown that a baseball team is only as good as its bullpen. Even a team that has the best starting rotation in baseball, they could still not live up to potential because the bullpen is atrocious. And over those same two years, the White Sox bullpen has been up and down.
In 2008, both starting pitching and the bullpen were at their best. It seemed as though each bullpen pitcher was the go to Guy for weeks at a time. There were a few exceptions to the rule (Scott Linebrink). Last season, the bullpen was very inconsistent, costing the starters many wins.
the two most telltale signs that your bullpen is performing well are save percentage and holds. As a team, the White Sox were ranked 12th with 55 holds,and 8th in save percentage (67%) in the American League. Both of these statistics were below the league average. The league average for save percentage was 68%, while the league average for holds was 68. earned run average is not that important in determining whether or not the bullpen is successful, but it does show how much talent you have in your relievers. the 2009 White Sox were second in the American League with a staggeringly high ERA of 4.52 for the bullpen.
If we compare those numbers to the bullpen numbers in the World Series season of 2005 we find an interesting disparity.the White Sox were third in the American League with a save percentage of 74% and were first in the American League with 79 holds. the 2005 White Sox had a bullpen ERA of 3.80.
These disparities seem to point to the fact that teams that win in the playoffs have good bullpen. However, for the White Sox it is hard to find relief pitchers that remain consistent from year to year. The only consistent player in the White Sox bullpen over the last two years Has been Matt Thornton. Last year, Thornton had a fantastic year with an ERA under three (2.74) and had 87 strikeouts in 72.1 innings. He also had nine save opportunities, of which he completed four. He helped the White Sox out of many Jams with runners in scoring position, and his fastball was sometimes impossible to hit. there is no reason to believe that he will ave a letdown in 2010.
The White Sox closer situation may be a little bit more interesting this season. in his second full season closer Bobby Jenks recorded 40 Saves and had 56 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched. Last season may have statistically been his worst full season so far. He only had 29 saves, and had six overall blown saves. The most troubling part about his performance last year, if that his fastball was considerably less effective speed wise than it has been his entire career. Another troubling trend is that he allowed nine home runs. The one thing a closer does not want to do is allow home runs, a few of them were even game winners. as of now, it is difficult to say how Bobby will perform going forward, but hopefully he spent the off season getting a little bit better shape and preparing for another All-Star season.
Luckily for White Sox fans General Manager Kenny Williams has taken out a little bit of an insurance policy with the signing of veteran closer JJ Putz. Even though 2009 was not his best year, he has shown the ability to be a dominating force in any team's bullpen. During his best season in 2007, he finished the year with an ERA of 1.38, and recorded 40 saves. However based on his performance last season,Bobby Jenks will start the season as the White Sox closer.Putz will primarily be used as a setup man for Bobby or maybe even a seventh inning guy, since Octavio Dotel will not be returning.
These three guys are probably the most important in the White Sox bullpen, but there are definitely some holes that need to be filled. Scott Linebrink hasn't lived up to his potential so far in his career with the White Sox. And the rest of the bullpen as we know it now consists of Tony Pena and Carlos Torres. the question right now is who the White Sox have in a long relief department. It doesn't look like the White Sox I'm going to make any more move outside of the organization. Which means that they have to make due with what they have. Going into spring training look for Daniel Hudson and either Jeff Marquez or Johnny Nuñez to be the White Sox long relief option for the foreseeable future.
This early in the game, it is hard to tell just what you'll get from your bullpen. As of now there seems to be more questions than answer's when it comes to the White Sox bullpen. I guess we will just have to wait and see what the Spring brings us, and hope that we make any necessary moves as soon as possible.
Be sure to visit here tomorrow as we talk about the new addition to the White Sox lineup, and maybe an answer to the designated hitter question now that it's official that Jim Thome will not be returning after all.