Optimized Bullpen? Yes Please

Optimized Bullpen?  Yes Please

Ozzie wants the lefty....after taking into account his pitch repertoire, the smallness of the ballpark, and his groundball tendencies // Kyle Terada, US PRESSWIRE

For all his characterization as a shiftless rogue, Ozzie Guillen actually has some pretty traditional manager views on baseball.  He values speedy hard-workers over modern mashers, is in love with running "plays" like the hit-and-run and bunting often at the sacrifice of outs, and if he's a sabermetrician, he's not letting on...and Ozzie is the type of guy who lets on.

So as much as it seems like playing under Guillen should be the wild west, he's been just about as likely to shirk old-school baseball concepts as Lou Piniella.  What can you say?  Winning a World Series in your second season can make you stubborn.

Well, now there's a chance to make up for all that

The unusual arrangement of three left-handers hinted at a unique approach to the bullpen, and now the newly in-sync GM and Manager are hinting at even more.  Kenny offered this:

"Sometimes that means in seventh inning if Morneau and Mauer are coming
up, maybe the guy you have tabbed as your 'closer' is better for that
situation versus the ninth, when you have the No. 9-1-2 or 8-9-1
(hitters) coming up," Williams explained. "Right now, we have a
situation where people have earned right to pitch the last inning or
last couple of innings. Fortunately we have some candidates."

Which lends a lot more leverage to Ozzie saying this: "Whether you come in 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, at the time, you're the closer."

"Optimized bullpen" sounds like a complex stathead idea, but really it's just using your best pitchers at the most important times.  The situation that Kenny describes is a fine example of this mentality, and I would only add that it also means placing players in the best opportunities to succeed. 

So while Matt Thornton may be the best Sox reliever this side of Bobby Thigpen, taking advantage of Chris Sale's superior history versus the M&M's and lack of exposure might be the smarter play.  On the flip side, if the Sox still had Bobby Jenks, and were facing three straight right-handers who can't hit high fastballs (say, three clones of Kit from A League of Their Own), well then that would certainly be the time for him.

While throwing your best reliever to the wolves every time might seem a risk to wreck their confidence. it's being cognizant of match-ups that are the key to mitigating that.

I'm probably getting ahead of myself.  Players like roles not just to provide certainty, but also so other teams can quantify how much to bid for them in free agency, and managers usually don't look to make their jobs harder.  Still, the White Sox look to be trying to remove the mystique from the 9th inning--pretty much the biggest hangup in Major League bullpen management.  If they can get over that, a lot more is possible.

J.J. approves of the White Sox prospective lineup, and provides the television schedule for spring training.
Jim Margalus says Sale in the bullpen really makes Will Ohman useless.
 KenWo from South Side Sox offers a Spring Training preview.

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