We’re closing in on a month of baseball. We can still say “It’s early,” but that window is closing. Trends are starting to solidify. Themes are starting to build. You get the point.
There is nothing so volatile in baseball as the bullpen so even making this observation is, perhaps, foolhardy but… The White Sox bullpen has been nails.
Let’s start from the back. David Roberston has thrown 7.2 innings, recorded five saves in five chances, struck out 13 of 29 batters faced and holds a WHIP of .783. He’s produced like the David Robertson of old. Or, at least, not the 2016 version. While Nate Jones seemed to take a few outings to round back into form, he’s achieved his requisite nastiness. If you take Jones’ first three outings (3.1 IP, 4 BB, 2 ER, .364 BA) and toss them by the wayside, his numbers look a lot like Robertson’s. Eight and a third innings, a 1.08 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 33 batters faced. Anthony Swarzak has been a revelation. Not only has he struck out over a third of the batters he’s faced (14 of 38), he’s walked exactly one hitter. He put up a stretch of 18 consecutive hitters retired. He’s given length to the ‘pen by pitching multiple innings in five of his eight outings. Considering the White Sox rotation has had some shorter (albeit decent enough) starts from Derek Holland and James Shields, getting length out the pen has been necessary. With Shields joining Carlos Rodon on the DL and Mike Pelfrey working to get back into shape and deeper in games, length is even more than that.
And let’s not leave out Tommy Kahnle. He’s striking out 18/9 IP. That’s bananas. Kahnle and I talked last Saturday on White Sox Weekly about the mechanical changes he’s made to his delivery. There are a few small tweaks that have helped him throw strikes at a far, far higher rate than ever before. Couple that with his velocity ticking up into the triple digits and you’ve got an arm that even the big national writers can’t ignore.
Seriously. Check it out. This is big-time, smart baseball stuff: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-white-sox-have-had-one-of-the-best-pitchers-on-the-planet/
The Sox bullpen isn’t even healthy. They lost Jake Petricka to a lat strain after just one outing and Zach Putnam is back on the DL with an elbow issue. There’s no telling when either will be back. Putnam was part of the Nails Brigade while he was healthy, however. His performance (8.2 IP, .346 WHIP) speaks for itself but his ability to pitch to right or left handed batters made the bullpen more versatile.
Like all “It’s early” observations, this one comes with the same caveat: They probably can’t all keep this up. These are staggering rates at an individual level. Having them all in the same bullpen? Even more so. Baseball will turn even the most heart-warming story into a mid-June fizzle but, for now, the White Sox bullpen has been nails.