White Sox

The White Sox and closer turnover

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The White Sox and closer turnover

Only four closers in baseball -- Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Joakim Soria and Mariano Rivera -- have finished off games for two years or more with the same team. Half of baseball will open 2012 with a new ninth-inning guy, including the White Sox.

That may seem startling, but there are two perfectly good explanations for that kind of turnover: The up-and-down nature of closer performance and the high cost of paying for premium talent.

A typical closer will throw 60-70 innings per season, which is a number that is quite prone to luck-fueled fluctuations. One bad stretch can cast a pall on an entire season, and it's rare to find a pitcher who is good enough to sustain a high level of success closing games over a three or four-year span.

The White Sox had that in Bobby Jenks. From the back end of 2005 through 2009, Jenks was reliable as a game-finisher, although he began to slip in 2009 after putting up elite seasons in 2006 and 2007. Even when he saved 27 of 31 games in 2010, his season was deemed a failure.

Before Jenks, the Sox didn't have much stability in the ninth inning. And it didn't matter. Shingo Takatsu was marvelous in 2004, saving 19 of 20 games after Billy Koch failed to rebound after a miserable 2003.

When Takatsu fell apart in 2005, Dustin Hermanson stepped in and saved 34 games for the eventual World Champions. And then when Hermanson ran into some injury issues, Jenks -- a former top prospect who had a high-profile flameout with the Angels -- stepped in and saved the game that won the Sox their first title in 88 years.

Not everyone can be a closer -- there's a certain ability to forget a bad game, a loss that seemingly falls directly on your shoulders, that isn't found in every pitcher. That being said, serviceable closers have proven to be fairly easy to find. It's just that if your team doesn't have one, all of a sudden it becomes your most glaring weakness.

But going into a season without certainty in the ninth inning -- as the Sox have done the last two years now -- is something that quite a few teams are doing. Despite the availability of cheap, young power arms with the ability to close, plenty of teams still pay out the nose for closers.

Philadelphia didn't need to pay Jonathan Papelbon 50 million. Miami probably didn't need to include Heath Bell in their spending spree. Both those guys may work out, but both teams probably could've found options who could produce similar results for a fraction of the cost.

Kenny Williams hasn't sought out a high-priced closer since Koch bombed in 2003 and 2004. He and the White Sox have handled the ninth inning perfectly, seeking options on the cheap and spending their money elsewhere.

If Matt Thornton struggles as the team's closer, the Sox have Addison Reed waiting in the wings. If Reed struggles, Jesse Crain is there. And down the road, power arms like Jacob Petricka, Simon Castro or even Jeff Soptic could be in line for a ninth-inning role.

Of course, even a short stretch of blown saves might be enough to lead some to call for the Sox to sign someone to a Jonathan Papelbon-type contract. They'd be smart to avoid that, and if recent history is an indication, they won't go that route.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Memories of Old Comiskey Park

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Memories of Old Comiskey Park

For many White Sox fans, Comiskey Park was their introduction to White Sox baseball when they were young. Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey, and Chris Kamka share their memories of the old ballpark. Among them: Chuck talks about seeing Al Cowens charge Ed Farmer on the mound in 1980 creating a bench clearing brawl, Ryan tells the story about catching a Mike Greenwell foul ball, Chuck talks about being there for the 1983 All-Star Game, they discuss the final game ever played there and read favorite memories sent in by White Sox fans.

You can listen to the whole thing right here, or in the embedded player below.

8:26 - Chuck talks about seeing Al Cowens charge Ed Farmer on the mound in 1980 creating a bench clearing brawl.

10:11 - Ryan tells the story about catching a Mike Greenwell foul ball.

12:49 - Chuck talks about being there for the 1983 All-Star Game

15:11 - The guys talk about the final game ever played there.

16:44 - The guys read favorite memories sent in by White Sox fans.

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'White Sox to the Letter'

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AP

'White Sox to the Letter'

Inspired by Ogden Nash’s 1949 poem “A Lineup for Yesterday”

 

A is for A.J.

Once punched in the face

If strike three ain’t caught

He’ll steal first base

 

B is for Baines

Who’s known to speak gently

When asked if he’ll homer

He said, “Evidently!”

 

C for Comiskey

The old baseball yard

When it was torn down

I took it quite hard

 

D is for Donkey

I mean Adam Dunn

He’d strike out or walk

Or hit a home run

 

E is for Eloy

He isn’t here yet

Though an All-Star career

Is still a good bet

 

F is for Fisk

The incomparable Pudge

From his perch behind home

Not an inch he would budge

 

G is for Gold

G is for Glove

Aparicio is

Who I’m thinking of

 

H is for Hawk

Unforgettable voice

Stretch! Dadgummit!

And don’t stop now boys!

 

I for Iguchi

Second base man

Won World Series

Returned to Japan

 

J is for Jackson

The legend still grows

A home run or touchdown

Only Bo knows

 

K is for Kopech

Speed, he has plenty

He’ll pile up strikeouts

In two thousand twenty

 

L is for Luke

Old Aches and Pains

Hit .388

That record remains

 

M is for Mark

As in Mister Buehrle

When he takes the mound

The game will end early

 

N is for no-no

Wilson Alvarez, Humber

Two by Mark Buehrle

Too many to number

 

O for Orestes

Miñoso’s real name

Not in the Hall

And that’s a real shame

 

P is for Paulie

He gave it his all

At the championship rally

Gave Jerry the ball

 

Q for Quintana

Kept coming up short

Only because

Of no run support

 

R is for Richie

But please call him Dick

A dangerous man

When he’s swinging the stick

 

S is for shoes

Which were not worn by Joe

In 1919

Please say it ain’t so

 

T is for Thomas

Amazing career

He went to the Hall

And brewed Big Hurt Beer

 

U for Uribe

He played everywhere

When the ball left his bat

Hands waved in the air

 

V is for Veeck

He knew how to sell

Fireworks, promotions

And Eddie Gaedel

 

W is for William

Or Bill; He was Beltin’

So hot was the corner

Third baseman was Melton

 

X is for Fox

At least the last letter

Among second basemen

Nobody was better

 

Y is for Yolmer

He has sneaky power

The master of giving

A Gatorade shower

 

Z is for Zisk

And others I missed

Unable to fit

In my White Sox list