White Sox

He Gone: Sox risk big in non-tendering Jenks

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He Gone: Sox risk big in non-tendering Jenks

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
3:01 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

To no ones surprise, on Thursday the Chicago White Sox non-tendered closer Bobby Jenks, ending his South Side career just 29 saves short of the Bobby Thigpens franchise record.

All signs pointed to todays move, as Jenkss rising salary, declining conditioning, and sour attitude were all supporting evidence of the decision.

Jenks didnt get along well with manager Ozzie Guillen, who doesnt mask the fact that he believes Jenks doesnt take his job seriously (conditioning) andor exaggerates injury to miss time. And in speaking for a half-hour with pitching coach Don Cooper on Wednesday, Coopclearly still appreciative of his fireballing protgdidnt bring up Jenkss name once.

But most importantly are the thoughts of the man who offers the contracts, and GM Ken Williams was pointed in his remarks about Jenks in his final address of the 2010 season: Jenkss return is something we have to evaluate strongly, because Ive been disappointed on a number of levelsand there are certain things that Im not going to talk about right now.

So between the lines and emblazoned on the marquee, the writing on Jenks was there: He gone.

However, cutting Jenks loose without a true backup plan could spell doom for the White Sox. The offseason attention is being paid to the return of Paul Konerko or the acquisition of Adam Dunn, but breaking camp with the dominoes still scattered after Jenkss dismissal would be catastrophic.

Did Jenks have a down 2010, arguably his worst yet in the majors? Absolutely. Via arbitration, he has become far too expensive, and as a player hes turned increasingly fragile and relatively unreliable. But unless there is a serious problem with Jenks that both the reliever and the team have kept well sequestered, hes due for a major bounce-back. Jenkss price for 2011 will still be high, but the cost of selling him off low (in his career arc, at least) could be a terrible mistake.

The case for Jenks is already made rather handily by my colleague J. Jonah Stankevitz, but the summary is that of all the serious factors listed above that can be used as reasons not to keep Jenks on board, the burly fireman was more a victim of bad luck and a corresponding lack of confidence than anything.

Take Jenkss batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In 2010, hitters safetied at a .368 clip vs. Jenks, which was a far higher rate than any other season in his career (his career average BABIP is more than 60 points less, at .306). So more balls were falling in on Jenkssomething he could not control.

Bad luck isnt entirely new to Jenks. In his first two seasons batters posted a BABIP of around .340 against him. However, those were Jenkss salad days, when even a superstar like Jeff Bagwell would soil his shorts over not just the Jenks heater, but a curveball that made vendors selling popcorn jump back and spill.

Jenks has lost confidence in his deathly yakker, and must regain it to become an elite closer again. He threw it just 7.4 of the time in 2010, the lowest of his careerand often replacing it is his most hittable pitch, the slider.

And its not as if Jenks has lost his stuff, with a sweet K rate (10.42 K9, second best of his career). His Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP, essentially an ERA-type figure taking fielders out of the equation) was as good as any in his career, at just 2.52. And his ground ball-to-fly ball ratio, which must be high to ensure success in a microwave like U.S. Cellular Field, was a career-best 2.80, indicating that Jenks, for all his woes, is keeping the ball down and mastering the ability to pitch in his tricky home park.

So a strong case can be made that Jenks is due for a strong, if not stellar, bounce-back season. Sabermeister Bill James envisions (not entirely because of but largely due to better luck, a BABIP trimmed to .307) a 32-save season and a 3.12 ERA.

But theres an equally-important reason why Jenks, sans a doable Plan B involving a player outside the organization, needs to return: the domino effect.

Talking with Cooper yesterday left no indication, as many (including me) have speculated, that Sergio Santos will get much of a sniff at closing in just his second major-league year. Coop talked of Santos repeating and improving on his great 2010, but in a context that pointed to another season setting up.

J.J. Putz could return to the South Side, re-inked with a promise to get a chance to close. But he would be wise to refuse that option, given his relative success last year in a lower-pressure role vs. his awful work as a substitute closer. While unstoppable as a fireman in 2006 and 2007 for the Seattle Mariners, Putz has battled to just a .588 save percentage over his last three seasons, including just .429 last year in seven chances.

That leaves lefty All-Star Matt Thornton as the likely closer in 2011. Great, right? Thornton was all but unhittable in 2010 and has been building a case to close for years now.

But shifting the only viable lefty in the pen to closer is the capper of a terrible domino effect. Santos could well be left as the only proven bullpen short manand hes been proven for just a single season. There are no obvious reinforcements in the minors, and the sole promising lefty in the pen, Erick Threets, went down with a torn ligament in his elbow in August and was non-tendered along with Jenks on Thursday.

An argument can be made that Jenks himself, with his self-immolating series vs. the Minnesota Twins to open the 2010s second half, started the clock ticking toward his demise. Believe me, as a diehard following the team daily, it was tempting to measure the what-me closers neck for the guillotine. But imagine Jenks being lost for the season in spring training, and the train wreck of a pen that would have been unleashed on fans from April on. Like it or not, even in Jenkss worst year, he was the linchpin of the pen.

The speculative 2011 White Sox bullpen sans Jenks lists Thornton as closer and Santos as his setup man, Scott Linebrink in a mop-up role and possibly a returning Tony Pena in long reliefand theres not a supporting lefty arm within hollering distance.

Chris Sale certainly could be the answer, even as the teams closer. But Sale was drafted to pitch a solid innings load, as a starter. Inasmuch as hes the sixth-man in a five-man rotation right now, the White Soxs best chance to improve via trades would come in swapping a proven armsay, the revitalized wing of Edwin Jackson. And regardless, injuries will occur (no one knows if Jake Peavy will be ready in April) and Sale cannot be expected to start the season in short relief and stretch out to sub in the rotation on the fly.

As for Jenkss cost becoming prohibitive, well, if the White Sox valued him properlyespecially in light of the Threets injury, which ironically may have set the dominoes falling months agochances are a deal lowering his salary, but adding years, could have been secured. Ensure Jenks is your top-salaried reliever (say 5.6 million to top, ack, Linebrink) for two or three seasons, and the White Sox would have seen a return on the investmentin five full seasons, Jenks gave 31.1 million in value to the White Sox per FanGraphs, an average of 6.2 million per season.

At the moment, speculative perceptions and hazy projections have run Jenks out of town. Who replaces him, and how can the 2011 possibly be as strong as it was in 2010?

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Happy Birthday, Big Hurt! 50 Frank Thomas dates and fun facts for his 50th birthday

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AP

Happy Birthday, Big Hurt! 50 Frank Thomas dates and fun facts for his 50th birthday

May 27, 1968 – Frank Thomas born in Columbus, Georgia

June 5, 1989 – Frank Thomas drafted 7th overall (out of Auburn) in first round of 1989 MLB Draft

August 2, 1990 – MLB Debut – 0 for 4 with RBI at Milwaukee (Game 1 of doubleheader).  First PA was flyout vs Teddy Higuera. Knocked in GW run with a fielder’s choice off Randy Veres in top of 9th.

August 3, 1990 – First Major League hit – a 2-run triple off Mark Knudson in 7th inning at Milwaukee

August 28, 1990 – First career HR.  Solo HR at Metrodome off Gary Wayne in 9th inning

September 27, 1990 – First career Major League home run in Chicago (at Comiskey Park)

September 28, 1990 – Thomas hits the last White Sox home run at old Comiskey Park (off Randy Johnson)

June 24, 1991 – First career Grand Slam – off Michael Jackson of Mariners at New Comiskey Park

July 15, 1991 – First career multi-HR game – both off Mike Gardiner of the Red Sox at New Comiskey Park

September 28, 1991 – 128th walk of season, breaking Lu Blue’s club record set 60 years prior.  Thomas finished with 138.

September 16, 1992 – Lone career 5-hit game (in this game, Don Mattingly took a handful of some kid’s popcorn on a pop foul by Tim Raines)

August 31, 1993 – 100th career HR – off Sterling Hitchcock at Yankee Stadium

September 1, 1993 – 38th HR of season (at Yankee Stadium off Scott Kamieniecki), setting a new White Sox record (breaking record previously held by Dick Allen & Carlton Fisk)

September 5, 1993 – 40th HR of season – first player in White Sox history to reach 40.  Thomas finished with 41.

October 5, 1993 – First career postseason game.  He reached base 5 times. (1 for 1 with 4 walks) in Game 1 of 1993 ALCS vs Blue Jays at New Comiskey Park

October 9, 1993 – First career postseason home run.  Game 4 of 1993 ALCS vs Blue Jays at Skydome off Todd Stottlemyre

November 10, 1993 – Thomas named American League MVP by the BBWAA

April 19, 1994 – Home Run for the 5th straight game.  It’s the first of two 5-game HR streaks in 1994

May 29, 1994 – Home Run for the 5th straight game.  It’s his second 5-game HR streak of the season.

October 26, 1994 – Thomas named American League MVP by the BBWAA for the second straight season

July 10, 1995 – Won 1995 Home Run Derby at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas

July 11, 1995 – First All-Star Home Run in White Sox history (at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas)

March 31, 1996 – Frank Thomas hits the first regular season home run in March in MLB history (off Randy Johnson)

May 15, 1996 – Career-high 6 RBI (first of two times he did it) in 20-8 win vs Brewers in Milwaukee

June 9, 1996 – 200th career HR – off Jimmy Haynes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

September 15, 1996 – first career 3-HR game (all three off Tim Wakefield); the first of which is career HR #215, passing Carlton Fisk for most HR in White Sox history  

May 20, 1997 – Thomas reaches base for the 15th straight plate appearance (HR, 1B, BB, 2B, 2B, BB, 1B, BB, 1B, 1B, 1B, 1B, 2B, BB, BB)

July 14, 1998 – First career walkoff HR (off Rick Aguilera of the Twins)

June 15, 1999 – Extended his hitting streak to 21 games – a career-best.  He reached base 44 times during the 21-game stretch (33 hits, 10 walks, 1 HBP)

August 7, 1999 – 300th career HR – off Kevin Appier at the Oakland Coliseum

July 15, 2000 – Career-high 6 RBI (second of two times he did it) in 15-7 win vs Cardinals at New Comiskey Park

July 23, 2002 – 495’ home run off Johan Santana in Chicago.  His longest home run at New Comiskey Park/Guaranteed Rate Field

July 2, 2003 – Second career Walkoff HR – off Eddie Guardado of the Twins

July 25, 2003 – 400th career HR – off Jorge Sosa of the Rays at US Cellular Field

August 4, 2003  - 2,000th career hit – a home run off Nate Field of the Royals at US Cellular Field

August 18, 2003 – Third career Walkoff HR – off Jarrod Washburn of the Angels

July 18, 2005 – 448th and final home run in a White Sox uniform (448 remains a franchise record)

July 20, 2005 – Last game in a White Sox uniform.  He went 1 for 4 (single off Nate Robertson) in 8-6 loss vs Tigers at US Cellular Field

May 22, 2006 – First game AGAINST the White sox.  He homers twice at US Cellular Field (2 solo HR off Jon Garland) but the White Sox win 5-4

July 6, 2006 – Fourth and final career walkoff HR (only one not in a White Sox uniform).  With Oakland A’s off Scot Shields of the Angels

September 11, 2006 – Home Run for the sixth straight game (with the Oakland A’s); his career-long streak

October 3, 2006 – His lone career postseason multi-HR game.  In his first postseason game not in a White Sox uniform (with A’s – vs Twins at Metrodome)

June 28, 2007 – 500th career HR (with Blue Jays – off Carlos Silva at the Metrodome)

September 17, 2007 – Second of 2 career 3-HR games.  This game was with Toronto Blue Jays.  Tim Wakefield allowed the first 2 (Wakefield allowed all 3 of his HR 9/15/1996)

August 9, 2008 – 521st and final career HR (with Oakland A’s) – off Armando Galarraga at Comerica Park

August 29, 2008 – Final MLB game – he went 2 for 4 vs Twins at the Oakland Coliseum.  His final hit was off Kevin Slowey; final plate appearance was strikeout vs Craig Breslow

February 12, 2010 – Held press conference at US Cellular Field to formally announce his retirement

August 29, 2010 – White Sox retire #35 on Frank Thomas Day at US Cellular Field

January 8, 2014 – Thomas elected to the Hall of Fame

July 27, 2014 – Inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa & Joe Torre

 

 

 

50 Frank Thomas fun facts

 

  1. 521 career Home Runs.

Tied for 20th in MLB history with Willie McCovey & Ted Williams

One of 27 players in MLB history with 500+ Home Runs

 

  1. Thomas had 11 career grand slams

 

  1. 7 extra-inning home runs is a White Sox franchise record.

 

  1. Thomas holds the White Sox season record for both

Home runs at home (30 in 2000)

Home Runs on the road (25 in 1995)

 

  1. Thomas homered against every MLB team except the Pirates

 

  1. Thomas homered more against the Twins (52 HR) than any other team

 

  1. Thomas had 2 career pinch hit home runs.  Both times he pinch hit for pitchers.  Jim Parque & Luis Vizcaino

 

  1. Thomas hit 3 triples before he hit his first Major League home run.

He’s one of two 500-HR club members with 3 or more triples before hitting his first HR.  The other one is Reggie Jackson (4 triples before first HR)

 

  1. Thomas had 3 triples in his first 17 MLB games.

Thomas had 9 triples in his remaining 2,305 MLB games.

 

  1. Thomas was born the same day as Jeff Bagwell.   They both won 1994 MVP awards.

 

  1. Thomas (1993-94) was the first to win American League MVP in consecutive seasons since Roger Maris in 1960-61.  Only Miguel Cabrera (2012-13) has done it since.

 

  1. Thomas’s .419 career On-Base percentage is the best by any right-handed hitter alive (with at least 100 career Major League plate apperances).

 

  1. His last 162 games in a White Sox uniform:  .254/.387/.566, 104 Runs, 47 Home Runs, 121 RBI

 

  1. Thomas (the White Sox 1989 first round pick) and Alex Fernandez (the White Sox 1990 first round pick)

made their Major League debuts in the same game (August 2, 1990 – game 1 of doubleheader at Milwaukee)

 

  1. Frank Thomas had 9 seasons with 100 Runs, 100 RBI and 100 Walks.  Only three players had more.

Babe Ruth (11), Lou Gehrig (11) and Barry Bonds (10)

 

  1. 521 career HR x 4 bases per HR x 90 feet per base = 187,560 feet.  Or roughly 35.52 Miles.  Thomas’s #35 is retired by the White Sox.

 

  1. Thomas collected his 500th career home run the same day Craig Biggio collected his 3,000th career hit.  June 28, 2007

 

  1. Thomas collected his 300th career home run the same day Wade Boggs collected his 3,000th career hit.  August 7, 1999

 

  1. Thomas hit the last White Sox home run at Old Comiskey Park (9/28/1990) and the first White Sox home run at New Comiskey Park (4/22/1991)

 

  1. Thomas also had the first White Sox home run at five other parks.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards (5/8/1992), Progressive Field (7/21/1994), Rangers Ballpark (5/13/1994), Tropicana Field (4/4/1998) & Minute Maid Park (6/2/2000)

 

  1. In 14 career games on his birthday, Thomas hit .468/.583/.766 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, 22 Hits & 13 Walks

 

  1. From 1951-present, 1,109 players have appeared in at least one game with the White Sox**  One has won a batting title for the White Sox.  Frank Thomas (.347 in 1997)

(prior to Thomas, Luke Appling won two batting titles – 1936 & 1943.  His last game with the Sox was 1950)

                **through May 24, 2018

 

  1. In 1997, Frank Thomas hit .417/.524/.748 in 185 PA with RISP.

He had 39 walks.  Only 14 strikeouts.

 

  1. Frank Thomas had 3 receptions for 45 yards as a Tight End for Auburn’s football team in 1986

 

  1. Thomas’s #35 is retired by the White Sox, but his first career Major League hit came while wearing #15.

 

  1. Had a hit off Charlie Hough (born 1/5/1948) & Felix Hernández (born 4/8/1986)

 

  1. In Thomas’s first 8 MLB seasons (1,076 games), he hit .330/.452/.600 with 879 walks and only 582 strikeouts.  And a 177 wRC+  Mike Trout is in his 8th MLB season.  His career wRC+ is 170

 

  1. Thomas is one of six players in MLB history with 500+ Home Runs and .300 BA, .400 OBP & .500 SLG. The others: Babe Ruth, Manny Ramírez, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams & Mel Ott

 

  1. Prior to joining the White Sox, Frank Thomas had 112 walks in 109 games with Birmingham in 1990

 

  1. Joe DiMaggio had 361 career home runs.  Frank Thomas had 361 career home runs… against right-handed pitchers alone.

 

  1. Frank Thomas had more career stolen bases (32) than Joe DiMaggio (30)

 

  1. Thomas homered in 28 different MLB ballparks, off 336 different pitchers.

 

  1. The most home runs Thomas hit off a pitcher was 9 off Mike Mussina.

30 hits is the most by Thomas off any pitcher during his career

 

  1. 9 of Thomas’s home runs were off pitchers currently in the Hall of Fame.

5 off Randy Johnson, 2 off Jack Morris, 1 off Pedro Martínez, 1 off Goose Gossage.

 

  1. Thomas homered off 17 different pitchers who won a Cy Young award

(Clemens, Colón, Cone, Hentgen, Hershiser, R. Johnson, P. Martínez, McDowell, Sabathia, Saberhagen, Santana, Sutcliffe, Valenzuela, Viola, Webb, Welch & Zito)

 

  1. Thomas homered off 6 pitchers who threw a perfect game

(Mark Buehrle, David Cone, Dennis Martínez, Kenny Rogers, David Wells & Randy Johnson)

 

  1. Thomas had 1,704 career RBI. 

He drove himself in 521 times.

He drove in exactly 100 different teammates

Most often driven in?  Ray Durham (184 times)

 

  1. 1,047 players had at least 100 career plate appearances at old Comiskey Park.  Frank Thomas had the best on-base percentage of all of them

(.510 OBP in 102 PA)

 

  1. Thomas had a 52-game on-base streak to begin 1996… the streak was 57 games if you included the last 5 games of 1995.

 

  1. In his first 162 career MLB games, Frank Thomas reached base 313 times.

He hit .317/.449/.532 with 110 Runs, 27 HR, 106 RBI, 134 BB, 132 K, 3 HBP

 

  1. Frank Thomas has 5 of the 12 seasons of at least 40 home runs in White Sox history.  Nobody else has more than two. 

 

  1. A Double in his 149th career plate appearance (in his 39th career MLB game) put his career batting average at .303.  That career batting average never fell under .300 again.

 

  1. Frank Thomas has the most career HR by a player named Frank Thomas (521); which is 235 more than the other Frank Thomas, who was the Frank Thomas who played his final MLB game in a Chicago Uniform (5/30/1966 – with the Cubs).

 

  1. Frank Thomas’s first career grand slam (6/24/1991) scored two future Hall of Famers (Thomas & Tim Raines) and two future White Sox managers (Ozzie Guillen & Robin Ventura)

 

  1. Four position players were picked ahead of Frank Thomas in the 1989 MLB Draft.  Two never reached the Majors (Jeff Jackson & Paul Coleman) and the other two combined for 65 career home runs (Tyler Houston & Donald Harris).

 

  1. 508 players had at least 1,000 plate appearances during the 1990s.  Of those 508 the top two in on-base percentage were Frank Thomas (.440) and Barry Bonds (.434)

 

  1. Thomas hit .322/.448/.635 career vs lefties

 

  1. Thomas is the only player in White Sox history with multiple 5-game home run streaks.  Both were in 1994.

 

  1. In 38 career plate appearances against Bartolo Colón, Thomas hit .483/.605/.828 with 2 HR, 14 hits & 9 walks

 

  1. Besides his 448 HR, Thomas also is the White Sox franchise career leader in Runs (1,327), Doubles (447), RBI (1,465), Walks (1,466), OBP (.427 – min 1,500 PA) & SLG (.568 – min 1,500 PA)

The White Sox turned Comerica Park into a Home Run Derby in Saturday's win

The White Sox turned Comerica Park into a Home Run Derby in Saturday's win

Chicks dug the White Sox on Saturday.

The South Siders hit four home runs in their 8-3 dismantling of the Tigers at Comerica Park. Tim Anderson stayed red-hot with a pair of long balls, Jose Abreu went deep in addition to his pair of doubles, and Daniel Palka made some interesting history with his long ball (see below).

We'll let our stat guru Chris Kamka take it from here.

Since their 10-29 start the White Sox are a respectable 6-4. Days at the plate like Saturday sure help.