Yes, the White Sox are rebuilding. We know that, but it doesn’t mean that the team should have a bullpen that implodes on a regular basis.
The ninth-inning loss on Wednesday night was not a fluke as White Sox pitchers have been struggling to close games all season long.
It is easy to see the success of the bullpen by looking at the number of saves that closers have. And, there aren’t many. Of course, the White Sox have more losses than wins, which does take away save opportunities.
Since Joakim Soria was traded, no Sox pitcher has more than four saves. Those four saves belong to Jace Fry. When Soria was traded, he had 16 saves. And, notably, not one bullpen pitcher has a WAR over 1.0. The highest WAR for a bullpen pitcher belongs to Juan Minaya, with a 0.6. So, he really adds very little statistical value over a replacement player. No wonder the White Sox have so much trouble in late innings.
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When looking at teams with reliable bullpens, the Sox struggles become even more noticeable. Take the Oakland A’s, for example. Only three of their pitchers on the roster are under 0.0 WAR. THREE! Seven of them are over 1.0 WAR. Four White Sox pitchers – total – have a WAR over 1.0.
So, who should the ChiSox get to fill the void in the bullpen? There’s a bunch of good arms that will be free agents in the off-season. Since the Sox are not paying their position players and starting pitchers very much, there is money that could be spent on veteran relievers. The Sox could make a play for the AL Central with investment in a solid bullpen.
Some of the pitchers who are available in free agency in the off-season include men like Kelvin Herrera, Tony Sipp, and Adam Ottavino. Even the big guns like Craig Kimbrel, Bud Norris, Andrew Miller, and Zach Britton are free agents.
With the Tigers and Royals in the conditions they’re in and will be in in 2019, the ChiSox could put forth a solid effort at attacking the Indians. It is clear that the Sox starting pitching can contain the Indians. And, the Sox batters and defense can do their jobs, too. With reliable relievers, this series could have had a totally different story.