About 5 minutes into writing the first of the player wrap-ups and I had my first crisis: what the hell order do I put it in? Completely random would be fun, but it would help a lot to break down position groups all at once, especially if we're going to analyze who should stay with the team. I eventually decided to progress from which position group was closest to my seating section in the stadium (the bullpen, left to right field, 3rd to 1st, starters, catchers, donezo).
Baseball reference has 40 players as seeing time for the White Sox this season, a large number of which did little of consequence, and a large number of those guys are in the bullpen? Who the hell wants to read a season review of Jeff Marquez?
Someone who got suckered in by Matt Thornton...that's who. For the initial outings, otherwise too irrelevant to publish players like Marquez are going to find themselves couched with bigger names. Enough exposition already, here we go
Heh, actually, you're gonna wanna click the jump too...
Stat Line: W-L becomes super irrelevant for relievers, 60.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 41 H, 3 HR (.45/9 IP), 81 K (12.02 K/9 IP), 8 saves, 2.2 WAR (That's right, both FanGraphs and BaseballReference have Thornton at 2.2 wins above replacement. For once they agree. Matt Thornton, 2.2 WAR, book it).
What did we expect: This is that wonderful part where I get to make fun of myself and the goofy, profanity-laced White Sox season preview of my blogger site that I wrote so, so long ago.
Hmm...looks like I addressed the entire bullpen in terms of whether or not they should be the one replace Bobby Jenks...that was an interesting thing to do.
"Thornton shouldn't move to
closer not because he would struggle, but because he's simply too
invaluable in his current role. There's no hyper-dominant lefty with a
97mph heater and a mean streak ready to step into his role, so he
should stay put."
In my defense, we hadn't drafted Chris Sale yet when I wrote this in March.
The results: By no reasonable measure was Matt Thornton not just as awesome and indomitable as he was the past two seasons. But if you want to pick it all apart, his strikeout rate spiked to a fantastic 12+ per 9 innings, good enough for 6th in the league for anyone who pitched more than 40 innings, and his 2.2 WAR was tied for 4th amongst relievers (do you realize the Cubs have 2 of the top four WAR relievers?!?!) He's still got boatloads of heat, excellent control (his walks had to go up to get to 3 per 9 innings), and a pretty good slider that I secretly spend too much time wondering how it could be better integrated into his game. Though the strategy of "keep throwing the unhittable fastball" is hard to critique.
Bbbbbuuuutttt....all of his batted ball statistics took a slight turn toward the Linebrink. Career low ground-ball rate, White Sox-career-high fly ball rate, career-high line-drive rate. Obviously this rates are fine because Thornton was awesome with them, it's really the next season that's key to see if this is an outlier or the beginning of a trend. He gave up the the most emblematic HR of the year, but also gave up only three all season. It's safe to assume all is well until blatantly shown otherwise
More than just maintaining his dominance as a lefty set-up man, Thornton was incredibly versatile; working multiple innings on demand, and showing the ability to close if needed during the middle of the year when Bobby Jenks hurt, and at the end of the season when Jenks was hurt/exiled in hell. Thank God he's not up for a raise soon.
Love him or leave 'em?: Are you nuts?!?! He's as skilled as any player on the team. With Bobby Jenks almost certainly leaving, and with the emergence of Chris Sale and maybe, possibly, you never know J.J. Putz, Thornton's role on the team hasn't been decided. But whatever it is, it'll be the part of the bullpen the White Sox are best at.
The Sox have a 2011 option for Thornton at $3 million which has all but officially been picked up, and is an absolutely preposterous steal. If he weren't such a nice guy, he'd raise holy hell for a new deal now, because it'd probably be easier to secure a 2-3 year commitment and a raise now, before he turns 35.
Stat Line: Jeff was in one game, he pitched the 9th inning against the Royals when the Sox were up 8-0. He got groundouts from Willie Bloomquist (bad hitter) and Scott Podsednik (certainly not a great hitter), and got Jason Kendall (bad hitter) to foul out. In between that he allowed Mitch Maier (bad hitter) to get a single, and gave up to a very long home run to Yuniesky Betancourt (decent power, but bad hitter).
What did we expect: I didn't know who the hell Jeff Marquez was! He doesn't even have a prospect profile on futuresox.com! What am I supposed to do? Apparently he was the enticing prospect in the Nick Swisher trade, and was a late-late-late 1st round pick for the Yankees. But he was also 25 coming into this season (now 26), and had put up an absolutely terrible season in Triple-A. So I guess the answer to "what did we expect" would inevitably be, "not a whole hell of a lot."
The results: Not the crappiest single-inning sample there could have been, but he also didn't do anything remotely impressive like strike someone out, or retire a hitter who is actually good.
Love him or leave 'em?: It's not like the bullpen is super-stacked for next season, but you'd think we could do a little better than 26-year old rookie with not even a sliver of big-league success and piddling Triple-A strikeout numbers. You'd think.