Putz-ing on the fritz

It seems too convenient to pin a turning point on one at-bat, but it could be said that Ichiro Suzuki broke something else besides J.J. Putz's scoreless appearances streak on July 29.

It seems too convenient to pin a turning point on one at-bat, but it could be said that Ichiro Suzuki broke something else besides J.J. Putz’s scoreless appearances streak on July 29.
Putz had a runner on first and a 1-2 count on Ichiro, but couldn’t find the putaway pitch as Ichiro fouled off five straight offerings, including Putz’s best splitter on pitch No. 7. Putz worked back up, and Suzuki ripped one to the gap for the first of two runs Putz would allow.
Since then, it’s been a rough ride. He’s allowed eight runs over his last 6 1/3 innings (at least one, maybe three, courtesy of Andruw Jones), and blew two consecutive saves to an unimpressive Detroit offense.
He had a similar problem with Austin Jackson on Sunday, and that plate appearance was where Putz went wrong. As was the case with Ichiro, he got ahead 1-2, and he couldn’t put him away.
But unlike Ichiro, Jackson didn’t see Putz’s best splitter. In fact, he didn’t see any splitter. Check this out:

Jackson entered the game with 122 strikeouts in 106 games. FanGraphs says he can hit the harder breaking stuff, but struggles with the tumbling, diving stuff.
But it wasn’t just against Jackson, because he only went to his splitter once over 23 pitches. It’s been an odd series of events, one that makes me wonder if one J.J. got inside another J.J.’s head:

While the numbers show Putz has used that pitch more, neither he nor Cooper said it was part of a concerted strategy.
In fact, when told he was throwing more splitters, Putz’s reaction was a surprised “I have?”

There are a couple other pitchers in recent memory who lost their split-finger pitch and ended up getting beat often on their fastballs — Scott Linebrink and Jose Contreras. But before we start predicting doomsday, I’d chalk it up to a couple of different factors.
For one, he was appearing in his third consecutive game for the first time all year. And not only that, but he was facing the same team for the third straight game. Perhaps after getting beat on his splitter the night before, he tried to give the Tigers a different look, and it didn’t work.
But more importantly, the law of averages has wanted to have a word with him for quite some time. He’s been flirting with his All-Star form of 2007, but chances are he wasn’t going to keep juggling all of these chainsaws:

  • 6.25 strikeouts per walk.
  • 11.3 percent line-drive rate.
  • Opponents swing at 38.4 percent of pitches out of the strike zone.
  • 83.3 percent strand rate.

That points to an awfully good run, one that is begging to be softened somewhat by an inconsistent couple of weeks. Putz has just happened to stack them back-to-back.
I’ve likened his situation to Tom Gordon’s in 2003. The Sox picked him up after Tommy John Surgery, Gordon got back on track and pitched his way to a big contract. Their seasons have taken similar paths, too.
Gordon started much worse, but he had a stretch of 19 strong outings before careening into the guardrail for three games in early August. He shook it off and pitched very well down the stretch, and I think Putz can, too. The pennant race is forcing Ozzie Guillen to go to his best arms more often, and Putz fits that description. Maybe too well, right now.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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cushinglee

Fan-killing moments in back-to-back games.

knoxfire30

A shaky bullpen is an absolute disaster for any team during a stretch run, with this teams so so offense and a 5th starter that all of a sudden is acting like it, the last thing we need is to start blowing games late, but that seems to be the new in thing. Its gonna be a long september if someone else doesnt step up. On the bright side the people who year in year out talk shit about Jenks see how valuable he actually is.

soxfan1

I was a big Jenks fan between ’05-’08 but the dude has lost it. He has a 4.97 ERA for the year, which is beyond horrible for a relief pitcher. His ERA is actually worse than Scotty Linebrink and, so far, nobody has asked for him to be the closer. I know ERA is not the only stat to look at but Jenks is done. I was at the games the last two days and they were very discouraging but I think the Sox should stay with Putz in the closer role.

chisoxt

My theory about bullpens is that the players’ ages become critical as the season goes on, as well as how much they are used. The back end of our bullpen has been used alot because of all of the close games that we have been in. Meanwhile, our better guys like Jenks, Thorton and Putz are getting up there, if not in age, certainly in innings used (in their careers). I am not suggesting that we have an entire sqaud of relief guys as young as Santos, but the wear and tear that I am seeing in our current pen troubles me.

Buehrlesque

Sox record in the “new” SoxMachine era: 0-2. REDESIGN FAIL.
Are you ready to admit you made a mistake here, Jim???

ricksch

Depressing weekend as this incredible, topsy-turvy season takes an agonizing turn. It’s not that they’re 3 back. There’s plenty left to play. It’s that the team is 15-15 since the break and looking every bit like a .500 team. Playing .500 ball won’t get ‘er done.
It’s shocking how gutless Putz turned out to be. If this is the law of averages catching up with him, he’s picked a helluva time to spit the bit. Those two losses make 2 of 3 against the Twins this week essential. The Sox beat themselves against the Twins and don’t need the added pressure. Let’s hope Putz hasn’t driven a stake through the heart of the entire team.
Pena needs to be DFA’d. He’s proven to be just about worthless, aside from being an innings-eater when Freddy gets bombed early. He’s got decent stuff — just no clue how to pitch. Pena’s out of chances in my book. Coop can’t fix this birdbrain.
Speaking of Freddy, he’s running on fumes. Only if he gets an ump very generous with the corners does he seem to have a chance. A four-man rotation must be considered if Garcia doesn’t have a QS very soon.
Sox need to get on the waiver wire fast and bring in some new blood. Getting tattooed by Thome and Damon in successive series remind anyone of our pre-season conversations? At any rate, haven’t we had enough failures from Kotsay and Jones at this point?
There are still a lot of guys doing their job well. Paulie is having a monster season. The four-man rotation looks like it could measure up to just about any four in the league. Of course, if the bullpen keeps this up, no amount of DFA-ing and waiver wire pick-ups can make a difference. We’re left to pray for the anything but reliable Jenks to come back quick and be on his game.
Thankfully they don’t play today. I think we all need a day off.

chisoxt

The Pena experiment should end at year’s end for sure. I have never seen a pitcher so inconsistent from outing to outing, batter to batter and at times even within a given plate appearance as was the case last week when he got pants (by Cuddyer or Kubel, I forot whom) on an 0-2 count.

blah

I don’t suppose you’ve heard of the term sample size?
Pena is ok. He’s been asked to do things he’s never done before. I’m not gonna give him a pass for his performance, but IMO he deserves some slack. This is why they should have kept DJ from last year.
I was never on the Freddy bandwagon, I enjoyed the results but was realistic about that his good fortune would end.
I’m done talking about Kotsay and Jones though.

ricksch

I agree that all DJ did was everything the team asked of him. Then he wanted $800K and they gave him the boot. Now they pay Pena $1.2 to s–t his pants on a regular basis.
The only “sample size” that matters at this point is 15-15 since the break. The trend is not our friend. A change is needed to shake things up, though I shudder at the thought of Manny.

lorenzobandini

>>Playing .500 ball won’t get ‘er done. <<
Pssst. Let me tell you a secret. The Sox are a .500 team.
They lost their ace. When you lose your ace, these things happen.
When you do scrap-heap and eBay reclamation like the Sox do… and you play teams that buy the best at retail prices…. you will get pleasantly surprising but ultimately disappointing seasons.
The Sox are not better than the teams above them and better than the team below them.

marshlands

Ricksch, I think you might need to learn how LAW OF AVERAGES works…
On the flipside, I saw Hawpe got placed on waivers. Hasn’t been that great this year, but there’s a lefty bat with good power who’s you know, a little better than You-Know-Whotsay. Knowing The Sauce, though, they’d probably end up putting Hawpe in the outfield, which is not good for a guy with a fielding reputation as bad or worse as Dunn/Quentin.