The universe is alligned against Matt Thornton recording a save

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I still believe...that there is insufficient evidence on which to base a decision to stop believing // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

This, of course, is not true.

It's a shame it isn't, because then the fix to be made in the wake of the White Sox hyper-aggravating 9-7 come-from-way-ahead loss to the previously winless Rays is obvious: yank Thornton out of the 9th and replace him with Santos or Sale or Crain or whoever on the roster hasn't murdered a unicorn or failed to hold their breath passing a graveyard or what have you.

Unfortunately, Thornton's disheartening 0-2 opening on save opportunities for the season can't--and even more certainly won't--be dealt with in a way anywhere nearly as satisfying as that.

Of the two botched 9th innings recorded by Thornton in past few days,
the amount that can be blamed on him is negligible.  In Kansas City on
Wednesday, Thornton induced weak contact from Kila Ka'aihue reaching for
a pitch off the outside corner, and was rewarded with a game-tying
double.  It stunk, but the Sox won, so people get over those sort of
things. 

On Friday night facing Rays with a 3-run lead, after allowing a leadoff
single, Thornton induced a groundout from Sam Fuld that the second-best
defensive shortstop in baseball short-armed for an error.  For the next
batter, Thornton got a lazy fly ball out of Johnny Damon, only to have
the second-best defensive shortstop in baseball miscommunicate with the
third-best defensive left fielder in baseball, resulting in said
elite-fielding left fielder letting the ball bounce in and out of his
glove.  Even after all this, Thornton recovered to break Justin Upton's
bat with a hard fastball, and witnessed it drop over the infield for an
RBI single.

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Unfortunately, there's just no controlling the face you make in these type of situations // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

This is not to say Thornton's been great, because Good Lord he has
certainly not.  His control hasn't been up to his usual standard, his
fastball maxing out at 95.6 mph
isn't up to his usual standard, has struck out on 2 batters in 3.1
innings, and he gave a go-ahead 3-run HR to Rays 1st basemen Dan
Johnson, who was perhaps the only player having a worst start to the
season than Rays RF Matt Joyce.

But while he certainly hasn't been at his best, and any pitcher is
submitting themselves to more balls in play is taking a risk, if
Thornton had enjoyed any luck at all in the past few days, the
difference in his performance wouldn't raise the eyebrows of anyone who
wasn't intensely looking.  If Matt's shaken, he's not showing
(though his statement about mixing in off-speed pitches definitely
threw me), and besides having the ability that Thornton's already shown,
and actually wanting the ball in 9th, I don't know what other qualities
you look for in a closer.

Crappy team defense, with its prior precedent
as a problem and not being steeped at all in baseball pseudo-science,
would seem like something some harder conclusions could be reached on,
but given the personnel involved, the temptation to write this off as a
highly infuriating blip is too overwhelming.  If the Rays rallied
because they stole 7 bases off A.J. Pierzynski in one inning, that'd be
something, but chances are Alexei's going to iron out the throw to 1st
sooner rather than later.

It's a shame this had to distract from more light-hearted storylines
like Jesse Crain's heroic 2-inning rescue job in the 7th and 8th that
might have prompted some discussion of the value of relievers, or
whether Mark Teahen's 3-4, HR, 3-RBI performance in this, the 7th game
of the year--mirroring The Mark Teahen Game
that occurred in the 7th contest of 2010--represented the possibility
that he was the greatest 7th-game-of-the-season hitter of all time. 

Even wondering why Danks has sputtered to pieces after the 6th inning in
back-to-back starts, or wondering what masking agent Manny Ramirez
tested positive for this time might have been a more fun way to go.

But no.  When the call for "Don't freakout about the closer yet" post goes out, no Sox blogger leaves it unanswered.

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  • Nope. It's not working. I'm freaked out about the "closer." That gopher-ball to Johnson just gives me the willies. You know, the Linebrink-willies.

  • In reply to MatthewWeflen:

    Yeah, that was a pretty awful pitch. I would go so far as to say that if Thornton just threw 94 mph heaters for the rest of his life he's probably done as an hyper-effective pitcher. He hit 98 on Wednesday, so I think it's my duty to try to preach caution, even if I'm worried myself.

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