Poetry in Pros: Jenks is a stand-up closer

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Poetry in Pros: Jenks is a stand-up closer

Thursday, July 29, 2010
9:20 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

When fans think of Bobby Jenks, they think of big.

Its not unfair. Jenks is big in every way. His off-field demeanor may be sweet, but hes physically imposing64 with a goatee somewhere north of ZZ Top and 275 pounds you wouldnt want to enrage. His smoke is legendaryyou see him scale the mound and still remember the baby face who stared down mountain man Jeff Bagwell in Game 1 on the 2005 World Series.

Jenks hit 99 on the gun in that matchup five years ago, and hit it again Wednesday night, reducing Seattle Mariners cleanup hitter Russell Branyan to a pillar of salt with 99 mph wickedness. Short of a game-ending home run, theres little else that jacks up a crowd more than a dominant closer performance.

And Jenks has seen his share of them. Hes second on the Chicago White Soxs all-time saves list with 167thats 60th all-time and 12th among active pitchers. Jenkss 9.3 is also 204th all-time in Win Probability Added, a stat that attempts to measure an individuals contributions to wins, as well as 46th among active pitchers.

All fine and good, right? But while Jenkss name is almost always preceded by Bad, his statistics this season so far are bad, and not in a good way.

Jenks has a 4.82 ERA, on track for his first career mark above 4.00. His ERA is less than 100 (below average) for the first time ever. Jenks has a 9.9 H9, which is more than one hit per nine innings-higher than his previous career worst. His 3.9 BB9 equals his career worst, but his 11.3 K9 is a career best, indicating Jenks is pitching less to contact than ever.

The 2010 season is also shaping up to be Jenkss first with a negative WAR (-0.2), and for an arbitration-eligible player making 7.5 million, thats a formula for non-tendering a contract in the offseason.

To his credit, Jenks remains focused on the task at hand, winning games. He sees closing out games as a point of pride, and admits disappointment over the recent is-he-or-isnt-he closer controversy, but only from the standpoint where he feels hes a proven commodity.

Jenks is a standup guy, almost beyond belief. He had a week from hell during the road trip, badly blowing games on July 18 at the Minnesota Twins and July 21 at the Seattle Mariners, yet in both circumstances was forthright, even welcoming, when it came to discussing his performance.

Wednesday night, Jenks had every excuse to crow a string of I-told-you-sos after an impeccable, vintage performance that touched every stone for his return to dominance, including a blistering fastball, a grip-lock on the zone and a complete lack of intimidation give a save situation vs. Seattles 3-4-5 hitters.

Did he? Not even close. In fact, Jenks took pains to credit every member of the White Sox bullpen after his best performance of the seasonas well as his first 1-2-3, three-strikeout save in four years. And thats not just Sergio Santos, Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz, all of whom are embroiled in some manner of scoreless streak, but the little guys like Tony Pena and Erick Threetseven Randy Williams got some love.

This is Bobby Jenks; a stand-up guy who is beloved by his bullpen mates, as well as the entire team. Not a player who spoke postgame Wednesdaya list including Mark Buehrle, Santos, Putz, Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierrehad anything but admiration and support for Jenks. As manager Ozzie Guillen said, were behind Bobby 100, and thats a statement that applies to every man in the White Sox clubhouse.

Castro Comfortable

Backup catcher Ramon Castro credits hitting coach Greg Walker with his resurgent season, one that could see him stealing starts from slumping A.J. Pierzynski if the incumbent doesnt turn his season around soon.

Castro is stroking at an .870 OPS clip, which dwarfs his career .729. His OPS is 129 despite a below-average career figure of 90. Hes boasting a 0.7 WAR, impressive for a player seeing such modest action, and his seven walks12 Ks is a ratio Castro hasnt produced since his rookie year in 1999.

Its just hard work, Castro said of his resurgent season at age 34. 'Walk' helped me with keeping my head still, keeping my hands a little more open.

Count Castro as yet another White Sox player who applauds Walker for developing batting strategies around a players strength vs. forcing a roster to adapt to his beliefs.

And if theres any doubt in his growth as a hitter, Castro laughed and said, The numbers dont lie. The production doesnt lie.

In his first three at-bats Thursday, Castro had a run-scoring double and two towering, solo home runs.

Gold Gloving

In a surprisingly sedate pregame session, Guillen riffed on Gold Gloves, saying theyre a bit of a sham based only on offensive stats. Rafael Palmeiro winning a Gold Glove in 1999 despite playing only 28 games at first base that season was Exhibit A for Guillen.

Guillen isnt the first to point this out, of course, but he may be the first to use himself as an argument for how silly the selection process is. But the manager also pointed the finger in the mirror, noting that the one season he won a Gold Glove, 1990, he hit really well.

Really well for Guillen counts as a modest, to that point career-best .279with 17 errors. But Guillen also garnered the only MVP votes of his career in that season, so his visibility was at its highest point.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

How Tim Anderson's new glasses could benefit him at the plate

How Tim Anderson's new glasses could benefit him at the plate

Though he only has worn them for one game, Tim Anderson had been preparing to break in his new glasses for several weeks.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday evening that Anderson recently purchased new corrective lenses after he asked for additional testing beyond what teams normally offer. Though he’d recently worn the glasses around the clubhouse and in batting practice, Anderson didn’t break them in until Monday night. The second-year shortstop homered for the first time in nearly a month Monday and finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the club’s loss to the New York Yankees.

If the glasses help Anderson’s vision at the plate, the White Sox are all for it. Anderson entered Tuesday’s game hitting .253/.278/.377 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 285 plate appearances.

“The ball can travel anywhere from Shields' 69 miles per hour curveball to Chapman's 100 miles per hour fastball,” Renteria said. “It's very important to be able to see the baseball. It's obviously a split-second decision. It's very dangerous to be in there and not be able to see the ball. If that helps him, if that's a part of continuing to move forward, I hope that's part of what helps clear him up.”

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Anderson said after Monday’s game he plans to wear the lenses the rest of the season, though he didn’t think the glasses make a huge difference. Still, the fact he homered after going 96 plate appearances in between round-trippers didn’t escape third baseman Todd Frazier, who made a joke suggesting Anderson downplayed the significance. Anderson said he’s spent several days recently adjusting to the glasses in preparation for the game and wears them at bat and in the field.

“I’ve been using them in BP,” Anderson said. “Trying to get used to them.”

Renteria said players get their vision checked every spring. Anderson’s request for additional screening isn’t out of the ordinary, Renteria said.

“Timmy just told us he wanted to get his eyes checked, so he did,” Renteria said. “Obviously, he's wearing the glasses that he wears now. He's trying to get comfortable with them. He'd had them for at least 2 1/2 weeks, 3 weeks. But he's kind of been hesitant to put them on. I know (Todd Steverson) spoke to him. He's going to use them, feel comfortable with them, start using them in the workouts and BP.”

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

That the White Sox lost their fourth consecutive game doesn’t change the big picture plans of the franchise, which probably — but not definitely — will involve making at least one trade before the end of July.

Before the White Sox lost, 6-5, to the New York Yankees Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field, general manager Rick Hahn met with the media and delivered the same message he’s had since trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in December. The White Sox are open for business, and would like to make a number of moves to further bolster their farm system, but won’t make a trade if they don’t receive what they view to be a fair return.

“Would I be surprised (if we didn’t make a trade)? No, because I try not to be surprised by the dynamics of this market,” Hahn said. “Would I be mildly disappointed? Sure. We are here to try to improve this club.

“We feel we have certain first and desirable players that would help other clubs and may fit better on their competitive windows then they do on ours right now. And we intend to be active each day in trying to further accomplish what we set out to do a year ago at this time.

“But do we have to do it? No. That would be using an artificial spot on the calendar to force decision-making. That would be the last thing we need to do. We need to take a long term view of what we are trying to accomplish.”

Hahn didn’t name names, but Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson could be short-term fixes for contending clubs. Jose Quintana, who will start Tuesday against the Yankees, remains the team’s most valuable trade chip despite a 4.69 ERA that sits over run higher than his career average.

Frazier homered Monday and entered the game hitting .262/.351/.524 since Memorial Day. Cabrera similarly has found success after a slow start, slashing a healthy .324/.375/.482 in his previous 34 games before picking up two hits in four at-bats Monday. And Robertson, who’s been linked to the relief-starved Washington Nationals for months, has 41 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings with 11 saves.

“We want to be able to do as much as we can in our power to get this team to where it needs to be,” Hahn said. “Yes, there’s an element of competitiveness involved in that. There’s an element of patience involved in that. But at the end of the day, we have to — we get paid to be prudent in our decision making. We have to make the right decision.”

In the meantime, the White Sox looked the part of a rebuilding team with the worst record in the American League on Monday. Starter David Holmberg struggled, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings — but only two of those runs were earned thanks to errors by Holmberg, Frazier and Matt Davidson.

As the Yankees took advantage of those miscues with three runs in both the fourth and sixth innings, Jordan Montgomery retired nine consecutive White Sox batters and went on to cruise with eight strikeouts over seven innings. The White Sox – as they’ve done quite a bit this year – still showed fight late, battling back in the ninth inning.

Tim Anderson ripped a three-run home run in the ninth inning off Yankees left-hander Chasen Shreve to bring the White Sox within two. Joe Girardi quickly turned to Aroldis Chapman, who allowed a run when Jose Abreu doubled home Melky Cabrera. But the tying run was stranded on second when Avisail Garcia grounded out and Frazier flew out to end the game.