White Sox maligned manager Robin Ventura is dealing with a mediocre bullpen. Can Ventura succeed with this current bullpen in the final month of the season?
Over the course of the 2016 season, White Sox manager Robin Ventura has been heavily criticized for the use of his pitching staff. While that might be understandable, consider what he has to work with. Does he really have a opportunity to manage a bullpen when he doesn’t have one?
The biggest criticism of Ventura seems to be his overuse of Matt Albers. My point of view on this is very simple. That being the fact he doesn’t have a whole lot else. Outside of David Robertson (33 saves) and Nate Jones (26 holds), the White Sox have no real late inning relievers. Sure, Dan Jennings sports a solid 1.87 ERA, but his WHIP is nothing to be proud of with an ERA that low (1.40). Jennings is not special, as he has given up 50 hits in 53 innings pitched.
As for the rest of the bullpen, it is terrible. It is made up of Chris Beck (5.84 ERA, 1.95 WHIP), Tommy Kahnle (3.71 ERA, 1.88 WHIP), Jacob Turner(7.71 ERA, 2.14 WHIP), and Michael Ynoa (4.12 ERA, 1.58 WHIP). None of these guys are any better than Albers, who while sporting a horrendous 6.19 ERA and 1.67 WHIP can at worst get you some ground balls.
Other arms have been at the major league level, however none have been spectacular (Carson Fulmer comes to mind). While I am no fan of Albers, he is probably no worst than the rest of the pitchers previously mentioned.
Keep one issue in mind when analyzing the White Sox bullpen. Before the season started, both Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam were slated to play fairly large roles in the bullpen. Neither player made it to the All-Star break. When a team loses two of its key members of the pen, it is hard to replace them without some dropoff in production. The White Sox bullpen depth also suffered with the loss of Daniel Webb for the season to an injury. Assuming those three didn’t get hurt, the team would be in much better shape in the bullpen.
All things considered, even with a solid rotation no team can survive that kind of production out of their bullpen (outside of April). Even though Zach Duke was around until the end of July (traded to the Cardinals), he was less than dominant. This meant Ventura had two arms he could count on in his bullpen.
In that situation, both Robertson and Jones have shown flashes of fatigue as the season has worn on. If the White Sox had a Kansas City-like pen from the last two seasons, they could easily be in first place. However they have a similar bullpen to what they had in 2014. This makes it nearly impossible to compete with elite teams.
While bullpens are impossible to predict from year to year, they need to improve in that area next season. With a solid starting rotation, a good bullpen could keep them in the race. This is also assuming the team has an average offense. A lot needs to change, but they have the time to do it. The question is can they find the talent?