White Sox need less walks, more K’s from their bullpen

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White Sox bullpen numbers

Aug 12, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Zach Putnam (57) high fives catcher Tyler Flowers (21) after the win against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The Chicago White Sox defeated the San Francisco Giants 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Among relievers, the league average walk rate according to FanGraphs was 3.29 per nine innings. The White Sox had eight relievers pitch 24 innings or more and only Lindstrom, Zach Putnam, Ronald Belisario had a walk rate below league average. The major league average rate for strikeouts was 8.46 per nine innings.

Of those same eight pitchers only Maikel Cleto had a rate above league average. Simply put, from a talent standpoint, the White Sox lacked the players who could effectively throw strikes and miss bats.

With that in mind, White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn invested $61 million longer term in two relievers coming off excellent years in which they did exactly that.

David Robertson has been one of baseball’s best relievers for four years now and in 2014 added closer to his resume.

Taking over for the legendary Mariano Rivera in New York, Robertson saved 39 games, posted a 3.04 ERA and struck out 96 batters while walking just 23 in 64.1 innings. He brings much needed stability to a role that saw four different players share the position last season.

Zach Duke doesn’t quite have the impressive reliever resume that Robertson has but is coming off just as good of a season.

The former starter has redefined himself as a lefty specialists who throws strikes (2.61 walk rate), misses bats (74 Ks in 58.2 innings) and dominates left-handed hitters (lefties hit just .198 against him). The White Sox did not have one reliable left-handed reliever last season.

Putnam and Petricka are likely to join Duke as the seventh-eighth inning bridge to Robertson. Putnam had a team best 1.98 ERA last season while holding opponents to a .203 batting average. If there was any remaining reliever on the team that deserves the opportunity to be trusted, it is him.

Petricka led the team with 14 saves in 18 chances and posted a very respectable 2.96 ERA. But his high walk rate (4.07 per nine) and lack of swing and miss stuff (6.78 Ks per nine) makes me worry about him.

Next: Who are other relievers to watch out for?

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