Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

A “Closer” Look at Sox Relievers


The Chicago White Sox have had their fair share of closers over the past decade. In their defense, so have most teams who weren’t fortunate enough to have a man with the last name of Rivera in the back of their bullpen. In fact, with the exception of the game’s all-time greats, most closers seem to thrive for less than a handful of years before either hanging up their cleats or reducing to a lesser role in the bullpen.

Although the duty of a closer is simply to record three outs per game, the three outs they are responsible for happen to be in the most intensified half-inning of the game. At times, bad teams happen to have good closers, as we saw with Addison Reed and the Sox in 2013. But very rarely does a team make it to the playoffs after suffering through a season of failed closers.

The Sox closer role in 2014 has as many question marks as it has. First of all, who is the closer? As of right now, Nate Jones seems to be the favorite, but given the fact that Jones has no experience in that role, a setback in Spring Training could cost him that job. Secondly, if Jones is indeed the closer, what can we expect from him? Thirdly, who are the Sox other options to be the stopper if Jones fails? The uncertainties will keep building until the Sox prove that they have a reliable replacement for the budding star (Reed) that they traded away this off-season.

Here is a look at how the Sox have fared over the past decade with their assortment of closers. Hopefully this list can answer at least some of our questions, as we analyze just how important it for the Sox to have a reliable arm at the back of their bullpen.

 

2013

Record: 63-99 (missed playoffs)

67% in save opportunities

2012

Record: 85-77 (missed playoffs)

65% in save opportunities

2011

Record: 79-83 (missed playoffs)

67% in save opportunities

2010

Record: 88-74 (missed playoffs)

75% in save opportunities

2009

Record: 79-83 (missed playoffs)

67% in save opportunities

2008

Record: 89-74 (AL Central Division Champions)

65% in save opportunities

2007

Record: 72-90

65% in save opportunities

2006

Record: 90-72

73% in save opportunities

2005

Record: 99-63 (AL Central Division Champions)

74% in save opportunities

2004

Record: 83-79

74% in save opportunities

 

What do you salvage from this data? Here is what I got:

1. As far as recent Sox history goes, 70% seems like a good save success rate for the Sox bullpen to shoot for. The Sox have posted a 70% save success rate four times over the past decade, all of which resulted in winning seasons.

2. In the span of the Sox five-year playoff drought, four out of those five seasons consisted of a save success rate under 70%. Sometimes, just a couple of blown saves could mean the difference between an October spent on a baseball field or a sofa. The Sox finished just three games behind the division champion Tigers in 2012 while posting a save success rate of 65%.

Finally, I will send you off with some food for thought as we head into Spring Training. Addison Reed converted 69 saves in 81 opportunities over the past two seasons with the Sox. That pencils out to a save success rate of 85%. The remainder of the Sox bullpen converted 8 saves in 36 opportunities over that span, including an 0-for-12 effort last year. Given the fact that an already “shaky-at-best” bullpen just lost its best pitcher, Nate Jones and the rest of the Sox relievers will face a mighty challenge in 2014.

 

Tags: Chicago White Sox Nate Jones