Closing Argument in Chicago for the Sox

No set closer might be the best move for the Sox

Bobby Jenks Photo by Icon SMI

How patient can the White Sox be with their closer Bobby Jenks when Minnesota continues to stay hot on their heels?

Jenks’ rollercoaster season has to stabilize if the Sox want to keep the Twins at bay in the American League Central or the Sox have to remove “closer” from Jenks’ job description and simply go with the hot hand.

Jenks’ ERA of 5.13 is abysmal for a closer. Only 10 of the 57 pitchers who have recorded a save in the Major Leagues this year have earned run averages higher. No one who has 12 or more saves is in Jenks’ boat regarding ERA – and that has to say something. Octavio Dotel of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the only other reliever in the top 20 for saves who has an ERA over 4.00. And Jenks is a full run per nine innings above that.

Yes, there are some bigger names than Jenks with higher ERAs. Trevor Hoffman, Kerry Wood and Joba Chamberlain are in that club of shame, but none are being given the ball with the game on the line. The White Sox continue to give the ball to Jenks with the club three outs away from victory.

And at times, Jenks has been brilliant. His lights-out appearances on July 28th against the Seattle Mariners striking out the side and August 1st against the Oakland A’s when he fanned two hitters brought back thoughts of 2005 for many fans. He had focus and he had presence, but those moments of swagger have been too far and few between this year for Jenks.

His inability to close out Thursday’s game against the Detroit Tigers when he gave up a hit and hit a batter before giving up a three-run home run to tie the game spoiled another amazing effort by the ageless wonder Freddy Garcia who was denied his 11th win.

Jenks continues to have control issues – something not acceptable for the guy called upon to record the final three outs. He has given up 25 runs in 40 innings of work, not exactly giving the team a reliable “go-to” guy for August and September. And it does not appear a case of overuse. Jenks has pitched the least of all closers with double-digit saves.

The Sox could hand the closer role to experienced reliever J.J. Putz, but Jenks’ flashes of brillance make that not so easy of a decision. With an impressive relieving core of Putz, Matt Thorton and Sergio Santos, coupled with the at-times dominant Jenks, could the Sox simply go with the hot hand and do a closer by committee? If one guy dominates the eighth, let him pitch the ninth too – and give him the next day off. And in come relievers B and C on Day 2.

You can play the percentage and let Thornton take the job when there are two lefties coming up in the ninth. Hand the ball to Putz, Santos or Jenks when the righties are coming up. Or use all four as set-up men/closers. It would be the nearest thing to the Cincinnati Reds‘ Nasty Boys that we have had in awhile.

With the game so specialized today and psyches so fragile, it is doubtful such a scenario will play itself out with the Sox in this divisional race. It is also doubtful that Jenks is their best solution at closer to hold off Minnesota.

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