The chatter in the Chicago area, at least on the South Side, has been the starting rotation of the White Sox. Chris Sale and company have given fans more than enough to applaud over, sitting three games up in the AL Central with the best record in the majors.
But there’s more to this fairy tale than the Cy Young contender. The White Sox bullpen has been phenomenal, combining for a league-leading 1.68 ERA (up a bit after Manny Machado‘s sixth inning grand slam off Jake Petricka). The group, led by closer David Robertson, was pieced together a season ago in a new-look Chicago team making a push towards October, but the core has taken a step forward in 2016.
This week, the White Sox completed a three-game sweep over the offensive juggernaut Toronto Blue Jays, going on the road to outscore them in Toronto, 21-6. The bullpen allowed just three hits over three games, simply outmatching the frustrated Blue Jays at the plate.
Let’s break it down.
Starting with Robertson, the closer appeared in two of the three games, earning one save with two of the bullpen’s three hits allowed in the series.
Opposing batters know what to expect from Robertson – strong cutter and knuckle curve when he’s ahead in the count.
Get you some, Tulo:
Robertson is notorious for starting great – last season he held a K-BB ratio of 17-1 with three hits given up in April. On the other hand, May has been unkind to Robertson, so we shall see how the upcoming month treats him.
The Chicago veteran has been as impressive, if not more than, the remaining relievers on staff. Jones possess a remarkable story in his own right, overcoming both back and Tommy John surgeries in 2014 to become a centerpiece of the Sox relief staple last season.
Despite being two years removed from the procedures, Jones continues to command his sinker, an average velocity of 98 mph in 2016. With his unique release point, opposing batters have struggled reading the pitch, as evidenced below:
After one scoreless frame tossed on April 27, Jones now stands at a 0.84 ERA. He’ll continue serving a late-game role for the White Sox.
Only Wade Davis has a lower ERA over the past two season than Albers. Think about that.
His stuff isn’t overwhelming, but according to Baseball Prospectus, Albers had the highest strand rate (95 percent) in the league a season ago.
This year, his left-on-base percentage is perfect, considering the right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in 10.2 innings to begin 2016. The sinker is working overtime this year, with its average velocity up from last year at 93 mph.
One of two lefties in the Chicago pen, Zach Duke doesn’t have an overpowering sinker like Albers, but offers a nice option in his second year with the White Sox.
Duke saw his ERA drop to 2.25 after making one appearances in Toronto, including this strikeout:
Quietly, Zach Putnam is posting nice numbers as a middle reliever in Chicago.
In 2015, Putnam threw his patented splitter 63 percent of the time, with nearly a quarter of those pitches resulting in whiffs.
This year, the trend has continued, with Putnam using it 59 percent now with more downward movement. Putnam has shown the ability to throw multiple innings, including 2.1 tossed in the series. Over his last 6.1 innings, Putnam has given up just one hit thanks, in large part, to this split.
The White Sox have a deep, experienced assembly of relief arms to complement their dazzling rotation. While Chicago will certainly return to the real world eventually, the energy surrounding the team hasn’t been felt like this since 2005, the year which concluded with a trip to the World Series.