Now we come to the bundle of pitchers who were asked to work far more and far harder then they probably should have due to the Black Hole of Sadness that was the #5 starter for the White Sox this season. In reality, the Sox should have sucked it up and used an opener for the 5th spot and it took them all the way until September after Carlos Rodon and Lucas Giolito had been shelved for the season. Yet they’ll tell you the front office is always at the forefront of new stats and ideas in MLB.
At any rate, the Sox bullpen over all was pretty solid all things considered. They ranked 15th out of 30 in the entirety of MLB, and were worth 2.7 WAR total. This is a drop from 2018 when they were 8th best in the league with 5.2 WAR, but some of that can be attributed to the 45 extra innings they were forced to throw this season.
There were a few breakouts in the pen this year, most notably Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall. Both took large steps forward in both their individual performance and solidifying the future of the Sox bullpen overall. Also Carson Fulmer was here.
Much like the rest of the Sox position players, I’m going to pick and choose who we discuss here mostly because nobody wants to read 15,000 words about the Sox bullpen which is what this would turn into if I did a rundown of each person who pitched out of the pen this season (AJ Reed would be here too, and that ain’t happenin).
4-5 Record/30 Saves/3 BS
2.80 ERA/1.06 WHIP/67.6% Strand Rate
0.6 WAR/4.08 FIP
Tell Me A Story: When Rick Hahn shipped Omar Narvaez to Seattle in exchange for Colome back in November, my eyebrows raised up a little bit. The Sox were definitely in need of a closer after sending Joakim Soria to the Brewers at the trade deadline in 2018 and Colome certainly fit the bill. With an additional 2 years of team control remaining, and a few catching prospects in the minors in addition to Wellington Castillo it seemed to be one of those trades that fit perfectly for both teams.
Colome rewarded the Sox for the trade by not blowing his first save until June 26th against the Red Sox, a game he eventually got a win for when the Sox came back in the 10th inning. He was nothing if not consistent, throwing his cut fastball 70% of the time regardless of hitter handedness. When it was on, it spun away from righties, and burned into the hands of lefties alike. He didn’t get a lot of strikeouts, averaging less than 1 per inning, but he induced a lot of weak contact and ground balls. With a 4.08 FIP and a 67.6% strand rate it would seem that Colome is living on the edge of falling apart completely, and while some of us were expecting it, the explosion never truly came.
Contract: Colome is in his final year of arbitration in 2020, and is projected to come in at about $10.3 million.
Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: It seems this will be a welcome back for Colome, as the Sox had a few chances to move him at the deadline to a contender and chose instead to stand pat. There is a possibility he’s moved during the winter meetings, but I don’t see the market for closers being anything different in December than it was in July. $10 million is a pretty high price for a closer who’s peripherals say he’s close to imploding, but with not much other than Kelvin Herrera with experience shutting down games the Sox are probably gonna ride it out with Colome.
0-0 Record/1 Save
2.13 ERA/0.99 WHIP/82.3% Strand Rate
1.3 WAR/3.14 FIP
Tell Me A Story: Here we come to the first success story out of the Sox bullpen, Aaron Bummer. This was his 3rd year with the big club since being drafted by the Sox in 2014 after holding out on the Yankees by returning to college. Bummer seemed to be a known quantity in his first two seasons, posting 4.5ish ERAs with similar walk and strikeout numbers. He started the season down in Charlotte and didn’t see his first action until the end of April. He never looked back, as he posted career high numbers in innings pitched and strikeouts.
He also became the most reliable lefty out of the Sox bullpen since Matt Thornton departed for the greener pastures of Boston. Lefties only hit .178 against him, and righties didn’t fare much better at .188. He credited his success this season to an increase in velocity of about 2 mph. This extra heat has helped his fastball move a little more, and added some drop on his cutter. He also ditched throwing the slider, only tossing it 6.6% of the time in 2019 down from 37% in 2016.
The last month of the season was the least successful for him, but it’s understandable as he almost doubled the innings he threw from 2018 so some of that can be attributed to wear and tear. Despite the rough September, this season is nothing short of a success for Bummer, and the Sox may have found themselves another piece of The Future™
Contract: Bummer earned $550,000 last season and is under team control until 2025. He doesn’t hit arbitration until 2022.
Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: There was some scattered talk about the Sox selling high on Bummer and moving him at the trade deadline, but that seemed more like wishful thinking from opposing GMs than actual heat. Bummer’s career year in 2019 has earned him a high leverage spot out of the pen to start 2020 and I expect him to stay there for awhile.
2.49 ERA/1.30 WHIP/84.8% Strand Rate
0.5 WAR/4.30 FIP
Tell Me A Story: Evan Marshall had a very solid year out of the bullpen for the White Sox this year, giving up 14 earned runs in 50.2 innings. While not quite the innings eater that Aaron Bummer was (or nearly as flashy), Marshall was there in a pinch, and with an almost 85% strand rate he ended up being the righty go-to guy that Kelvin Herrera was acquired to be.
Marshall’s 4.30 FIP somewhat suggests that his stats this season were somewhat due to batted ball luck, and his 2.66 BABIP lends a lot of credence to that. The 1.30 WHIP is a little up there for a high leverage reliever, but certainly not to the point where the Sox would be looking to cut bait on him.
Contract: Marshall will enter his first year of arbitration with the Sox in 2020, and he’s projected to earn $1.3 million.
Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Marshall has certainly earned himself another shot at middle relief in 2020 with his performance this season. That being said, Kelvin Herrera looked pretty good down the stretch and there are a bunch of prospects in AAA with hotter arms than Marshall so he doesn’t exactly have a firm grip on the 7th or 8th inning job. What he does have going for him is a cheap, team-controlled contract so he’s going to be given every opportunity to succeed in 2002.
3-3 Record/1 Save
6.14 ERA/1.61 WHIP/65.9% Strand Rate
0.4 WAR/4.58 FIP
Tell Me A Story: Kelvin Herrera was signed in the off-season to a 2 year, $17 million dollar deal by the White Sox. This was seen as the atypical “buy-low” type of move for Rick Hahn, as he was getting a former closer with 3 very good years of production on a shitty KC team who happened to have an issue with the lisfranc ligament in his left foot. This kept his activity in the off-season at the same level as MY off-season activity, namely drinking beer and reading comic books. When the season started up, Herrera was noticeably favoring his foot in his delivery though he said that the foot itself felt “fine” it very clearly was not.
During his best years with KC, Herrera was known for pinpoint control with very high velocity locking down the 9th inning. Through the month of June he was anything but that, logging a 7.63 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP with batters hitting .368 against him.With the lisfranc injury still fucking with his delivery, it was no surpirse when he hit the IL in the middle of July with an oblique strain as pitchers who overcompensate for an injury usually create another one.
The time off did him well apparently, as when he returned from the strain in August he hit the ground running. The entire month of August Herrera only gave up 5 ER and all of those came in a single blowup against the stupid ass Twins. If you take that game out of the equation he finished the season with a 1.76 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP with an 11.9 K/9. That’s more like what Rick Hahn was looking for when he signed Herrera to the deal which initially looked like a horrible overpay.
Contract: Herrera signed a 2 year deal at $8.5 million per, with a team option for $10 million in 2022 with a $1 million dollar buyout.
Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Not much choice here but to welcome him back and hope that the version of Herrera that showed up after the IL stint is the one the Sox get for the duration of the contract. If so, the 8.5 million will be very worth the price even to the point of potentially picking up his $10 million option in 2022 if Colome stumbles and Herrera charges in. If he doesn’t look like that, then expect him to spend a lot of time in the bullpen playing candy crush on his phone.
2.89 ERA/0.97 WHIP/79.9% Strand Rate
31 K/11 BB/3 HR
0.4 WAR/3.78 FIP
Tell Me A Story: After Carlos Rodon’s elbow vaporized like the Death Star in June the Sox found themselves with an extra spot on the 40-man roster and a need for pitching. Enter: Jimmy Cordero, fresh of his release by the Seattle Mariners. Rick Hahn scooped him up and sent him to Charlotte to get some work in with the Sox minor league pitching coaches. He responded well, pitching 16 innings and giving up one measly run. Considering the fact that balls were leaving the yard in Charlotte like Twins fans avoiding a shower that’s no mean feat.
He was called up to the big club in July after Kelvin Herrera went on the IL with an oblique strain and picked up right where he left off in Charlotte. He ended the season with a 2.89 ERA and a sub 1 WHIP. His 79.9% strand rate was 3rd best on the team, and he pitched 38 innings in 2 months showing that Ricky Renteria had no issue throwing him out there whatever the situation. Not too shabby for a guy on his 3rd major league team in less than 6 months.
Contract: Cordero is still under team control through 2024 and he’s not arbitration eligible until 2022, He’ll make $550,000 next season.
Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Based on what we saw during his limited audition this season combined with the fact that he makes the league minimum makes me think Cordero is going to receive every chance to make the team outta spring training. The kid definitely pitched like he had a chip on his shoulder, and you can do a lot worse in MLB with $550,000.
Josh Osich and Jace Fry
Tell Me A Story: Osich and Fry were basically two sides of the same coin for Ricky Renteria this season. Two left handed pitchers with pretty electric stuff but not nearly enough control and too many damn walks. They ate a lot of innings this season thanks to the #5 starter being made of straw and edible paste, but their WHIP and ERA left something to be desired.
Contract: Osich is arbitration eligible this season and estimated to make $1 million. Fry is still under team control and will make the league minimum.
Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Fry will be back next season if the Sox don’t sign any relief depth in the off-season (which better not fucking happen), so odds are he’s back in Charlotte. Osich will most likely be let go
The rest of the Sox bullpen was filled with “some guys” that should not be back on the major league roster next season unless things go horribly wrong. The exception to this might be Ryan Burr, as his stuff is pretty impressive if he can keep it under control. He’s also very, very cheap which we all know is how Jerry Reinsdorf loves his pitchers.
Well, that’s about it for me this season. I’ve really enjoyed covering this team in what was an exciting but ultimately disappointing season. That being said, the future is very bright and I hope to see you all back here soon as we discuss the myriad (hopefully) of signings Rick Hahn has made during the winter meetings. Thanks again to Sam for giving me a shot here in the baseball universe, it was a fucking blast.