Bobby Jenks to remain the White Sox's closer… for now

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Unwilling to mess with a bullpen arrangement that has worked very well for the White Sox this season, manager Ozzie Guillen said Friday that Bobby Jenks remains his closer.
Questions were again raised about Jenks’ status after he blew a three-run lead in the ninth Thursday against the Tigers, raising his ERA to 5.13. He’s still a fine 23-for-26 in save chances this season, but he has had three ugly outings since the All-Star break, two of which resulted in losses.
The thing is that even though Jenks isn’t the White Sox’s best or even second-best reliever, reserving him for the ninth inning has worked out quite well for the team this year. Guillen has done a terrific job of playing matchups with Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz earlier on and has gotten great results out of the duo.
It’s just very hard to believe that the White Sox would have a better record with either Putz or Thornton working regularly in the ninth and Jenks drifting in between middle relief and setup work. Putz is currently limiting right-handed hitters to a .131 average. Thornton has held lefties to a .158 average. Both have such exceptional ERAs at the moment in no small part because Guillen can use them to the best of their abilities.
The White Sox are 48-6 when leading after five innings this seasons. Only three AL teams have better winning percentages in that category:
Oakland – .935
Detroit – .921
Minnesota – .920
Chicago – .889
Tampa Bay – .882
Boston – .865
Cleveland – .861
They’re also fifth in the AL when leading after six innings:
Oakland – .977
Minnesota – .962
Tampa Bay – .930
Detroit – .925
Chicago – .911
Boston – .889
Los Angeles – .885
No, Jenks probably isn’t worth his current $5.6 million salary, and it’s doubtful that he’ll be back with the White Sox next year. But, for now, the White Sox are quite likely better off with him pitching the ninth than they would be with any other arrangement.

Shohei Ohtani is having a brutal spring training

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Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.

Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.

With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.

As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.

As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.

I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.