Feeling Bullish on the Bullpen


The 2013 White Sox bullpen could fly under the radar yet again (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports).

The White Sox recent signing of free agent relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom not only reminded me that the White Sox are, indeed, allowed to make offseason moves, but got me thinking about the state of the bullpen.

A bullpen that, in 2012, featured two rookies as closers, rookies as setup men and a rookie as a left-handed specialist.   A bullpen that everyone expected to eventually wear down last season, yet never did.  A bullpen that now features Addison Reed, Nate Jones and Hector Santiago with a year under their belts.  A bullpen that replaces Will Ohman and Zach Stewart from last year’s opening day roster with Donnie Veal and Lindstrom for this year.

So excuse me if I’m a little bullish about the 2013 White Sox bullpen.  If Reed can grab a tight hold onto the closer’s role (a significant “if”), then the bullpen roles are already clear as day.  Santiago and Jones should serve as the long-relievers, Donnie Veal as the left-handed specialist, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton and Lindstrom as the setup men and Reed as the closer.

Taking a step back and looking at these roles, there seems to be a nice balance between rights and lefties, as well as young and old.

The Sox will have long-relievers from both sides of the mound, whose maturity should benefit from not being used in too many pressure-packed situations (although both have experience in those situations from last year).  Veal filled the left-handed specialist role (sometimes affectionately known as a “LOOGY”) nearly perfectly, allowing only five base runners over 34 plate appearances against left-handed hitters. The White Sox will have veterans in setup roles from both sides of the mound to pitch in those before mentioned crucial situations and who also will provide insurance (especially Lindstrom) to Reed in case he struggles.

The most likely situation for bullpen failure (and frankly, the most damaging scenario) is if Reed struggles in the closer role.  While ERA isn’t as telling of a stat for relievers as it is for starters, Reed’s 4.75 ERA and 1.36 WHIP are reasons for concern.  However, Reed was still 29 for 33 in save opportunities last season.

While Reed’s 33 opportunities at trying to close games last season could prove valuable for next season, he never seemed like a guy who let the game affect his nerves or emotions.  His 62 appearances from last season should give him greater arm endurance for this upcoming season, which could prove vital in August and September.

The 2012 White Sox bullpen was a Kenny Williams specialty, completely flying under the radar and surpassing most, if not all, expectations.  Yet even though major league hitters have now seen the Sox’s young guns over the course of a season, don’t be surprised if this bullpen—one that seems to have its pieces in place and has a good mix of both righties and lefties, as well as young and old—somehow gets overlooked by many yet again.  And that’s probably just the way they like it.