This is probably the least sexy of the bullpen wrap-ups, chronicles of two journeymen left-hand relievers who saw their last best chances of a meaningful major-league career dashed on the rocks in 2010; one because of heartbreaking injury, the other due to innate terribleness.
Stat line: 25 IP, 5.40 ERA, 2.32 WHIP, 37 H, 2 HR, 22 K (7.92 K/9 IP), 21 BB (7.56 BB/9 IP), 5.24 FIP, -0.1 WAR
What did we expect?: After a somewhat decent '09 stint with the Sox, and a spotless spring training (you know, where you pitch against minor-leaguers a lot), it seems like the wind sang the name of Randy, and the heavens shined down on the 2nd lefty spot in the bullpen.
But I was cynical:
"I thought we got rid of this guy....oh well. Proof that
lefties pitch forever, last year was Randy's first year in the bigs
since '05. And his debut was in '04. He's 34 years old.
He's tearing it up in the Spring. He's thrown 11.1 scoreless innings
with a .62 WHIP. Yeah, whatever, I'm sure he can take the Charlotte
Knights all the way to the top."
For whatever reason, I questioned the pedigree of a guy who couldn't crack the league until his late-late 20's, then vanished for 4 years at the age when most relievers are earning the contracts they center their retirement around. If I had seen the sequence on "The Club" where Ozzie and Kenny pick Williams as the guy to pull the "You didn't make the team...OH WAIT YOU DID!" prank on, I would've been even more cynical.
When choosing the subject of that prank, you gotta think of someone who would believe in earnest that they didn't make the team, and someone too humble or beaten-down to get angry when they realized you screwed with his emotions for giggles. Williams satisfied both criteria.
The result: Let's get this one bit out of the way; Randy Williams can strike people out. He K'd hitters a shade less than one an inning, and mowed down lefties and righties in equal measure. So yes, good job on that.
Other than good strikeout numbers, Randy was pretty much the worse pitcher in the league. I guess when you're just a moderately used reliever, you can't ruin games as effectively as a rotation starter, or Mark Teahen, but going on baseballreference.com every now and then and seeing that Williams had the highest WHIP of anyone with over 10 IP at stretches certainly had the worst effect on my morale.
Randy has had a career of control problems, and came to the Sox and had more severe control problems. Go figure on that one. He wasn't tagged for a lot of home runs, but it's pretty hard to give up 37 hits in 25 innings entirely due to bad luck. Opponents slugged .533 against him. What's that old adage about getting behind in the count, and the hitter murdering you as a later result?
Curiously, early in the season Randy earned himself the role of the guy who comes in when the starter has worked himself into an incredible jam and needs to be yanked immediately. This resulted in Randy being at the epicenter of a lot of games being broken open, but in his defense, this role should not have generated anywhere near as much work as it did in the first two months of the 2010 season.
Love him or leave him?: Depending on how they decide to use Sale, the White Sox may have need for another lefty, and it's not like they have a ton of options or money to spend on this spot. But this is one of those situations where trying absolutely anything else is the right way to go.
Stat line: 12.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 9 H, 0 HR, 6 K (4.32 K/9 IP), 3 BB (2.19 BB/9 IP), 2.84 FIP, 0.2 WAR
What did we expect?: Threets was picked up on a minor league contract in Janurary after spending all of '09 in the minors in the wake of two underwhelming cups of coffee big-league stints in '07 and '08. I guess if you're left-handed and can stand upright, you should always be ready for a call-up, but Erick could definitely have been typified as "off the radar". 28-year old baseball vagabonds aren't often featured on prospect websites.
When he was first called up, Threets sported a sparkling ERA under 1.00 that raised two immediate questions in my head "Why the hell is this guy sitting in Triple-A this long with a sub-1.00 ERA when we have Scott Linebrink on the roster?" and "What must the red flags be for this guy if he stayed in the minors for this long despite not giving up any runs?"
The result: Tragically, Threets' next great shot at the big time ended just as it was really beginning. He was handed garbage innings to start, and obviously did well enough (no runs), including a play against the Royals where he was knocked down by a line drive, fielded it and flipped it to first. A turf toe injury placed him on the DL on August 3rd, and when he returned three weeks later, he found himself injected into a pen reeling with injuries and full of opportunities for work. But fate struck Threets dead in his left elbow; he tore his ulnar collateral ligament 2 days after coming off the DL again against the Yankees.
12 innings isn't much to draw from, but in that time Erick did everything you want a pitcher to do; throw strikes and get people out. The general concern over Threets, and probably the reason he was left in Triple-A for so long is that he isn't overwhelming. He strikes out batters very rarely, and doesn't display great stuff. But still, he did a great job of keeping the ball down (55.6% groundball rate) and had very dependable control. After Scott Linebrink, Randy Williams, Bobby Jenks, and Tony Pena, does the pen really need another 'good movement/no control' guy?
Love him or leave him?: Unfortunately for Erick, this decision has pretty much already been made for the White Sox. He will have to undergo Tommy John surgery, and is projected to miss the entire 2011 season. After which he'll be 30 years old with 24.2 career major league innings pitched under his belt, and probably willing to take the first minor league contract tossed his way.
The whole affair around Threets' injury has been nothing but heartbreaking; from it coming at perhaps the most momentous and opportunity-filled moment of his career, to Ozzie's account of Threets' resigned immediate awareness of the extent of his injury, to Erick's bleak comments on the rest of his career.
"This is going to be the last major setback I think," said Threets, who
could be out as long as 12-18 months. "I'm going to work real hard to
make this is the last one and if that doesn't work then I'm going to
find another occupation. But I know for a fact I can get outs and I know
for a fact I can be effective when we have leads. The timing of this is
unfortunate. I feel a little embarrassed, actually."
This is one of those moments my father would describe as where "you just want to go out there and give him a hug."