Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Bobby Jenks In Danger Of Losing His Closers Role?

After posting a 3.73 ERA last year, his worst since 2006, White Sox closer Bobby Jenks was under a bit of a microscope this season. So far this season has not started well for the Pale Hose closer and last night he blew a save, his first of the year.

While it seems crazy to base too much on a small sample size start to the year that has seen Jenks struggle with his control to the tune of 5.25 walks per nine innings, that appears to be what the White Sox are doing. Apparently Manager Ozzie Guillen was supposed to be meeting with Pitching Coach Don Cooper after tonight's game.

"Maybe the next couple of days I might use someone different just to see if Bobby can regroup and come back to his form. Obviously, he's not throwing the ball well. It's a good thing we have options out there and we'll see what happens."

While Ozzie is certainly correct in stating that the team does have a number of viable options in the bullpen, it seems to be a bit of an over-reaction to be postulating a change at the closers role after just one blown save and twelve total innings of work.

Poor walk rate aside, Jenks has posted a very strong strikeout rate (12/9IP) and his struggles appear to be mostly BABIP related as his currently stands at an unsustainable high .440.

What's more, his walks appear to be an aberration as his overall strike rate is almost completely unchanged. For his career, Jenks has averaged a strike on 66.3% of his pitches. Last year that rate was 65.9%. This year it stands at 62.8%. That's seems like a bit of a drop-off, but it's perfectly within the margin of error for the sample size.

Consider if you will that of his 229 pitches this year, 144 have been for strikes, hence the 62.8% strike rate... Had just eight of his 229 pitches been called strikes instead of balls, his strike rate would be 66.3%.

Adding to that, there is very little to suggest that Jenks has changed at all from who he has always been. His fastball velocity is almost exactly the same, and his pitches are moving almost exactly like they did last year.

While I can't imagine the White Sox actually making a change at the closers position, should they decide to go that route, one would have to assume that fire-balling setup man Matt Thornton would be the ideal choice.

However, making that change makes little sense on a number of levels. Whether you choose to focus on the intangible aspect of switching the roles on players and how they may or may not react to that change. Or perhaps you realize that in moving Thornton to the closers role Guillen would lose his one effective situational lefty.

This entire gambit makes little sense and one can only hope that Guillen is simply pulling another of his stunts.

None of which is to say I think Thornton wouldn't excel as a closer. On the contrary, I think he would. I just don't think making that move, just because Jenks has walked a few more than normal at a VERY early point in the season makes any sense at all.

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