White Sox

Poetry in Pros: Jenks is a stand-up closer

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Poetry in Pros: Jenks is a stand-up closer

Thursday, July 29, 2010
9:20 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

When fans think of Bobby Jenks, they think of big.

Its not unfair. Jenks is big in every way. His off-field demeanor may be sweet, but hes physically imposing64 with a goatee somewhere north of ZZ Top and 275 pounds you wouldnt want to enrage. His smoke is legendaryyou see him scale the mound and still remember the baby face who stared down mountain man Jeff Bagwell in Game 1 on the 2005 World Series.

Jenks hit 99 on the gun in that matchup five years ago, and hit it again Wednesday night, reducing Seattle Mariners cleanup hitter Russell Branyan to a pillar of salt with 99 mph wickedness. Short of a game-ending home run, theres little else that jacks up a crowd more than a dominant closer performance.

And Jenks has seen his share of them. Hes second on the Chicago White Soxs all-time saves list with 167thats 60th all-time and 12th among active pitchers. Jenkss 9.3 is also 204th all-time in Win Probability Added, a stat that attempts to measure an individuals contributions to wins, as well as 46th among active pitchers.

All fine and good, right? But while Jenkss name is almost always preceded by Bad, his statistics this season so far are bad, and not in a good way.

Jenks has a 4.82 ERA, on track for his first career mark above 4.00. His ERA is less than 100 (below average) for the first time ever. Jenks has a 9.9 H9, which is more than one hit per nine innings-higher than his previous career worst. His 3.9 BB9 equals his career worst, but his 11.3 K9 is a career best, indicating Jenks is pitching less to contact than ever.

The 2010 season is also shaping up to be Jenkss first with a negative WAR (-0.2), and for an arbitration-eligible player making 7.5 million, thats a formula for non-tendering a contract in the offseason.

To his credit, Jenks remains focused on the task at hand, winning games. He sees closing out games as a point of pride, and admits disappointment over the recent is-he-or-isnt-he closer controversy, but only from the standpoint where he feels hes a proven commodity.

Jenks is a standup guy, almost beyond belief. He had a week from hell during the road trip, badly blowing games on July 18 at the Minnesota Twins and July 21 at the Seattle Mariners, yet in both circumstances was forthright, even welcoming, when it came to discussing his performance.

Wednesday night, Jenks had every excuse to crow a string of I-told-you-sos after an impeccable, vintage performance that touched every stone for his return to dominance, including a blistering fastball, a grip-lock on the zone and a complete lack of intimidation give a save situation vs. Seattles 3-4-5 hitters.

Did he? Not even close. In fact, Jenks took pains to credit every member of the White Sox bullpen after his best performance of the seasonas well as his first 1-2-3, three-strikeout save in four years. And thats not just Sergio Santos, Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz, all of whom are embroiled in some manner of scoreless streak, but the little guys like Tony Pena and Erick Threetseven Randy Williams got some love.

This is Bobby Jenks; a stand-up guy who is beloved by his bullpen mates, as well as the entire team. Not a player who spoke postgame Wednesdaya list including Mark Buehrle, Santos, Putz, Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierrehad anything but admiration and support for Jenks. As manager Ozzie Guillen said, were behind Bobby 100, and thats a statement that applies to every man in the White Sox clubhouse.

Castro Comfortable

Backup catcher Ramon Castro credits hitting coach Greg Walker with his resurgent season, one that could see him stealing starts from slumping A.J. Pierzynski if the incumbent doesnt turn his season around soon.

Castro is stroking at an .870 OPS clip, which dwarfs his career .729. His OPS is 129 despite a below-average career figure of 90. Hes boasting a 0.7 WAR, impressive for a player seeing such modest action, and his seven walks12 Ks is a ratio Castro hasnt produced since his rookie year in 1999.

Its just hard work, Castro said of his resurgent season at age 34. 'Walk' helped me with keeping my head still, keeping my hands a little more open.

Count Castro as yet another White Sox player who applauds Walker for developing batting strategies around a players strength vs. forcing a roster to adapt to his beliefs.

And if theres any doubt in his growth as a hitter, Castro laughed and said, The numbers dont lie. The production doesnt lie.

In his first three at-bats Thursday, Castro had a run-scoring double and two towering, solo home runs.

Gold Gloving

In a surprisingly sedate pregame session, Guillen riffed on Gold Gloves, saying theyre a bit of a sham based only on offensive stats. Rafael Palmeiro winning a Gold Glove in 1999 despite playing only 28 games at first base that season was Exhibit A for Guillen.

Guillen isnt the first to point this out, of course, but he may be the first to use himself as an argument for how silly the selection process is. But the manager also pointed the finger in the mirror, noting that the one season he won a Gold Glove, 1990, he hit really well.

Really well for Guillen counts as a modest, to that point career-best .279with 17 errors. But Guillen also garnered the only MVP votes of his career in that season, so his visibility was at its highest point.

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

Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

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USA TODAY

Lucas Giolito’s streak comes to an end, and now comes true test of his transformation

Mama said there’d be days like this.

I’m not entirely sure whether Lucas Giolito’s mama told him that or not. But you don’t need a baseball-lovin’ mama to know that even the best pitchers in the game can get lit up sometimes.

If Giolito is truly that now, one of the best pitchers in the game, he’ll prove it with what follows, not with what happened Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

A year after struggling to the tune of seven walks and three wild pitches in a Crosstown game he still won, Giolito entered the second of the two North Side rivalry games as a surefire All Star, a completely transformed pitcher who currently sits as one of the best Cy Young candidates in the American League. But you might not have known that watching him give up three homers worth a combined six runs in his 4.1 innings Wednesday.

This wasn’t exactly shades of the 2018 version of Giolito, who gave up more runs than any pitcher in baseball, had the highest ERA and WHIP of any qualified starting pitcher in baseball and walked more batters than any pitcher in the AL. No, Wednesday he still managed to strike out nine Cubs hitters and walked only three. But the Cubs hit him hard, with three balls leaving the yard, the back-breaker of which was a first-inning grand slam off the bat of White Sox killer Willson Contreras.

It doesn’t compare to some of the worst outings Giolito had last season, but it was shocking to see considering the incredible run he came in on. Entering Wednesday night’s contest, Giolito had won eight straight starts, with a 0.94 ERA during that stretch. He had given up as many runs after facing five batters Wednesday as he had in his previous five starts combined.

That stretch is now over, and it’s up to Giolito to make this a blip rather than a turning point.

What he’s done so far this season would lead you to believe that’s very possible. One of the biggest talking points for Giolito, as well as catcher James McCann, when it comes to describing the difference between the 2018 and 2019 versions has been Giolito’s ability to turn the page. That’s typically been discussed as something that happens within games: A bad first inning hasn’t led to a complete meltdown like it did too often last season.

“The physical stuff has always been there,” McCann said before Wednesday’s game. “There's a few tune-ups he did, shortened his arm, all that stuff. But obviously, it's the mental approach.

“I can point to multiple occasions this season where he's had a rough first inning. In Toronto, he gave up three base hits to the first four hitters, and then the next thing you know he's hasn't given up another base hit and we're in the eighth inning. He gave up a three-run homer to the Royals in the first inning, and all of a sudden it's the eighth inning and those are the only three runs he's given up.

“So that's kind of been the most impressive thing to me. His last outing, he gave up the solo homer in the first and really didn't have his best stuff, and next thing you know it's the sixth, seventh inning and that's the only run he's given up. Last year, some of those outings turn into bad outings where he gets chased in the fourth inning. This year his mental approach, his determination, his grit is a little different.”

Now he’ll have to do something he’s rarely had to in 2019, and that’s flush a bad start. Wednesday night’s outing was Giolito’s shortest of the season, matching the 4.1 innings he threw against the Seattle Mariners on April 6 and not including the 2.2 innings he logged before being removed with an injury against the Kansas City Royals on April 17. Wednesday marked the first time Giolito gave up multiple home runs in a start this season.

The bottom line is that Giolito has been so good in 2019 that he hasn’t had to deal with the fallout of a bad outing. Giolito has credited his turnaround to the improvement in his routine. That will be tested now, and it’s no surprise that he’s confident enough in it to be ready for anything.

“I'd say now I'm just on the same mental routine, the same physical routine day in and day out. Nothing changes,” Giolito said Tuesday. “It's just like my last start or future starts, I'm going to go out there with the same good, positive outlook going into the game. Whereas last year, I think I was searching for things a lot, so it was a little more up and down. Now it's much better.”

One rough start won’t change Giolito’s status as an All Star or put a damper on what’s been a season worth celebrating. But how he responds will be the true test of whether the transformed Giolito is here to stay.

 

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MLB Power Rankings: It's Eloy's world and we're all just living in it

MLB Power Rankings: It's Eloy's world and we're all just living in it

Eloy Jimenez is wasting no time endearing himself to the South Side. His game-winning, broken bat homer against the team that traded him away, in his first time back, is the stuff of legend. The Quintana-Eloy trade still probably has 10-15 years of barguments ahead of it, but it's quickly becoming one of the more fascinating storylines in recent memory. 

There's apparently baseball going on outside of Chicago, though, and as it turns out, the teams that were still really good last week are still really good this week. The Astros and Yankees are actually probably getting better. The Orioles are not. 

To the rankings! 

YOU CAN SEE THE ENTIRE MLB POWER RANKINGS RIGHT HERE