For some reason people feel closers should get some kind of leeway when they are simply not being good pitchers.

Coaches and players want to cite different years in which a closers’ save totals were high, but when your job is to pitch one inning, your years can change with a couple hard hit balls.

In Bobby Jenks’ case it’s been many hard hit balls.

Closers can be created. After all, it’s just pitching one inning for pitchers who, at one time, were pitching nine.

Jenks has blown two games in his last four chances, and after last night’s blown save against the Seattle Mariners, manager Ozzie Guillen seems to have seen enough, saying the team has other options for the closer role.

A closer with an ERA above four is bad, but a closer with an ERA above five is completely worthless. Any pitcher with an ERA above five is worthless, let alone one who will not pitch 100 innings in a season.

Jenks has a 5.09 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in 35.1 innings pitched, striking out 43 and walking 16. He has given up 40 hits, and although he has only blown two saves, he has clearly not been effective.

In his last four outings Jenks has given up six earned runs on two walks and seven hits, while recording eight outs and striking out four.

For some reason, when it comes to Jenks, the more strikeouts he has, the worse he is. He has surpassed his strikeout total from 2008 (38) and trails his strikeout total from 2009 (49) by six in 26.1 and 18 fewer innings, respectively. He also has allowed only 11 fewer hits this season than in all of 2008 and 12 fewer than in all of 2009.

In 2008 he only struck out 38, but he gave up 51 hits and 17 walks in 63.1 innings pitched, finishing with a 2.63 and a 1.10 WHIP. In 2009 Jenks struck out 49 in 53.1 innings, giving up 52 hits and finishing with a 3.71 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.

For the White Sox to lose two games because of one pitcher is unacceptable, especially when they are currently only 2.5 games up on the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers, and especially when there are other options available to finish games.

“Our options are open now,” Guillen said. “I get paid to win games. That’s my job, win games. And I’m going to put the guys there with the best shot. When I [changed Jenks’ role] last time [in May], it worked out again because all of a sudden we come back and I put him in the eighth inning and I like the way he threw the ball and I put him back in the closing spot.

“We’re a better club with Bobby as the closer. In the meanwhile, we got a few options and we’re going to see what the options are. We’ll see if we can regroup him, put him in the situation like we did last time and we see what happens.”

The White Sox have three other viable and better options than Jenks. All-Star Matt Thornton has been the most trustworthy reliever in the White Sox pen over the last few years, sporting a 2.58 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 38.1 innings pitched, striking out 51, walking 13, and giving up 27 hits. 

J.J. Putz, however, is the hottest, sporting 25 consecutive scoreless appearances, a franchise record for the White Sox. From 2006 to 2007 he had 76 saves in two seasons for the Seattle Mariners. Putz has a 1.50 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP in 36 innings pitched, striking out 42 and walking six while giving up 22 hits. 

Perhaps the White Sox closer/setup man of the future Sergio Santos could close games for the southsiders. Santos has a 1.80 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in his first 30 major-league innings, striking out 32, walking 17 and giving up 28 hits.

Regardless, the era of Jenks as the White Sox closer needs to come to an end.

Letting “respect” and “loyalty” decide who should be a team’s closer will cost a team games.

Give Jenks a plaque, but don’t give him the chance to lose ballgames.


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