Jimmy Cordero is a go-to guy without a go-to pitch

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 29: Chicago White Sox pitcher Jimmy Cordero (50) throws to the plate during the MLB game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals on August 29, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Managing a bullpen is a little like a field sobriety test, in that you’ll have a big head start in passing if you’re comfortable processing sequences in reverse order.

Rick Renteria had a pretty natural arrangement entering the season when trying to protect leads. He could recite it in his sleep. Alex Colomé was in line for the ninth innings, Aaron Bummer the eighth, Evan Marshall the seventh, and then a field led by Jimmy Cordero in the sixth. Bummer and Marshall might be flip-flopped depending on the handedness of the lineup, or hell, Bummer might handle both setup innings himself, but by and large, the White Sox had built a framework that eliminated most second-guessing.

But with Bummer injured and out of action for the foreseeable future, and during a stretch of five consecutive starts that didn’t get into the sixth inning, Renteria is struggling to find the right sequence. He keeps filling in all pre-Marshall blanks with Cordero’s name even though the returns have diminished. Cordero has pitched in five of the White Sox’s last six games, and he’s allowed runs in three of them. It doesn’t help that Renteria allowed him to start a second inning work in two of those appearances.

It’s easy to understand why Renteria has a fair amount of trust in Cordero. He’s one of the bullpen’s best strike-throwers, he keeps the ball in the park, and he’s stranded a ridiculous 34 of 35 inherited runners during his White Sox career. He generally avoids digging his own grave, and he helps pull teammates out of ones they’ve dug for themselves.

Cordero is a nice, large arm to have in a bullpen, but it’s becoming increasingly one-dimensional, which makes him less of a threat in tough situations like Tuesday night, when Renteria stuck with Cordero to open the seventh against Nelson Cruz.

When asked after the game what he liked about Cordero against Cruz, Renteria said, “Just getting him on the right-handed side. Cordero’s slider was pretty good. I think he ended up getting a changeup or something that he ended up inside-outing a little bit, a 90 mile-an-hour changeup.”

The battery’s thought process might’ve failed more than Renteria’s. Cordero got ahead of Cruz with a couple of sliders, but he didn’t return to that pitch over the final three. Instead, he tried a sinker (borderline call that went Cruz’s way), a fastball (fouled off) , and finally a changeup that lingered too high in the zone. Cruz shot it to right field to put the game-winning run in motion.

The disconnect lies in the changeup. It was Cordero’s putaway pitch in 2019, but it’s not doing anything for him in 2020. His Statcast page shows all negative developments with his offspeed offerings…

YearPitchesAVG/XBA/SLGWhiff%EV
201994.000/.098/.00050.078.1
202037.357/.286/.71427.385.7

… and it’s not necessarily because of location, although that’s a part of it. He’s not spotting it well, sure, but last year’s maps show that precision didn’t need to be such a priority.

This year, despite a similar movement, velocity and location profile, those whiffs just aren’t there to be found. Perhaps the biggest difference lies not in that pitch, but his sinker, which has lost a tick of velocity. It’s still a good sinker on its own merits, but perhaps a narrowing of velocity between his primary pitch explains why the changeup isn’t as much of a weapon.

As a result, everything’s going in the wrong direction. The ground ball rate is no longer great, just good. He still suppresses exit velocity as well as anybody in the league, but now he’s more prone to where batted balls fall. And as we’ve seen over the last week or so, that makes for a very frustrating experience for everybody involved when it’s not going right.

There’s value in not abandoning him, especially when situations call for a grounder. I just don’t think anybody is benefiting from seeing so much of him, and with the trade deadline behind the Sox and only the stretch run ahead, maybe it’s time for Codi Heuer to pick up some of the slack for Cordero-shaped opportunities. He has a similar power sinker, but with the flashes of a true swing-and-miss slider that Renteria really wanted to see on Tuesday.

(Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

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As Cirensica

I think Renteria has a decent bullpen. Cishek has looked sharper lately. Foster and Heuer are good. And Detwiler has been more than good. How / Why, in Renterias mind, the only names he has in high leverage situations are Cordero, Colome, Marshall and Fry is just something I can’t understand. I have seen other managers playing around with their pens. Making adjustments. Last night with Wisler and Romo after May and Clippard didn’t work in a short outing by Hill. Renteria seems to be stuck in the same pitchers in similar situations perhaps thinking that relief pitchers are machines that can replicate what they did yesterday against different teams/players over and over again.

This is one of the reasons I don’t like Renteria. That narrow minded approach might work in a long 162 games season with a good team like current, but it can be catastrophic in a short 5 games playoff.

Oddvark

I’m not sure how accurate your take is. Looking back at the last 7 games in which relief pitchers were used, Cordero was used a lot, but not necessarily in especially high leverage situations — e.g., entering in the 7th of an 8-2 game on 8/26; entering early (in the 5th or top of the 6th) in close games on 8/29, 8/30, and 9/1. His highest leverage spot was on 8/28 when he started the 8th with a slim 5-4 lead, but that was only after Heuer, Foster, and Marshall had already all pitched.

And other than saving Colome for the 9th (or late 8th), there has been a wide variety of bullpen usage patterns, even in close game spots

Foster/Detweiler in a 1-run game on 8/23
Heuer/Foster/Marshall/Cordero/Colome in a 1-run/tie game on 8/28
Cordero/Fry/Burdi n a 1-2 run game on 8/29 (until KC took a big lead)
Cordero/Marshall/Cishek/Colome/Fry/Foster in a 1-2 run/tie game on 8/30
Heuer/Fry/Foster/Colome in a tie game on 8/31
Cordero/Marshall/Detweiler/Cishek in a 1-run/tie game on 9/1

Cordero and Foster were used 4 times
Marshall, Fry, and Colome 3 times
Detweiler 2 times
Heuer and Cishek 2 times
Burdi 1 time

And at least he had a specific reason for leaving Cordero in to face Cruz, not just because it was xx inning.

I’m not saying I think Renteria is a great manager/tactician or that I’ve agreed with all of his bullpen decisions, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that he doesn’t make adjustments to his relief usage based on matchups, experience, recent usage, a pitcher making a mechanical adjustment (e.g. Cishek), etc.

burning-phoneix

Jace Fry isn’t a high leverage guy. Matt Foster has a higher game entering Leverage Index than him. The reason he puts in Marshall and Colome is because they’re pretty good, which is what you probably should do in high leverage situations. Jimmy GUNSdrero has been pretty good for most of the season as well. 6 of his 9 ER this season have been in either the last 3 games or the season opener. There was a big stretch where he was very reliable and that caused Renteria to over rely on him.

Frankly, I’m fine with Ricky’s use of the bullpen, just wish he’d use my boy Big Boss Ross in more high leverage situations as well.

knoxfire30

Cordero and Marshall have statistically done a pretty good job this season and last but they have the feel of journeyman middle relievers starting to be exposed in higher leverage situations. I would go with Heuer and Foster as the primary RH Set up guys from this point in and see what happens. Cishek thinks he found a mechanical thing he can correct but most of us feel his struggles are mainly from Joe Maddon putting him out to pasture the last couple seasons. Burdi probably figures more into a middle relief roll at this point as well. The wildcard seems to be does Carlos Rodon come back healthy and can he contribute something out of the pen if so?

MarketMaker

Renteria is not what you’d call an imaginative manager. Perhaps it’s time for someone else to own some of the strategy/decision-making aspects to the on-field product and he can just be relationship manager or whatever. Might actually be better to separate these roles regardless of manager, but here it seems like a real value creation opportunity.

dwjm3

Isn’t that the role of the bench coach? To give input to the manager on matters of strategy.

MarketMaker

Yep. But I’ve not heard the Sox really talk about boundaries or ownership there, so it’s hard to know what exactly McEwing does or does not weigh in on.

As Cirensica

Maybe McEwing is not very imaginative either.

iowasox1971

The bullpen is being over-used, plain and simple. The starters are not pitching enough innings lately. In Cordero’s defense, he appears to be one of the few guys that management is OK with pitching multiple games in a row. So, that’s why we’re seeing him a lot.

It appears that the Sox are trying to protect the younger arms by giving them more rest, perhaps at the expense of the team’s won-loss record. That’s their decision. We’ve already lost Lambert for the season, and possibly Bummer and Rodon, so management likely is fearful of losing someone else.

A lot of our guys through the years, not just Cordero last night, have failed to get Cruz out.

If we’re going to blame any part of the team for the loss last night, blame the offense. After getting two runs in the first, we had poor at-bats for the rest of the game. When you hold Minnesota’s offense to three runs, you should win.

texag10

The White Sox are 7th in baseball in starter innings so I’m not really going to even bother reading the rest of your comment.

iowasox1971

You must have missed the word “lately.” As in since the no-hitter.

If you want to put your head in the sand and convince yourself that five-inning outings or less from our starters, with the present composition of this non-Bummer bullpen, is OK, then fine.

If you don’t want to accept the fact that others on the roster besides Cordero have had trouble getting Cruz out, then that’s fine.

If you don’t want to blame the offense for last night’s loss, that’s fine, too.

We have a difference of opinion.

burning-phoneix

How many of those innings are from Lucas and Dallas Keuchel? They’re eating the majority of the innings and its skewing the rankings. Cease struggles to get past 4 innings and Lopez and Gio Gonzales have been hitting the IL on and off. Dane Dunning as well is on a strict pitch limit.

asinwreck

With Bummer out, it’s a shame the Sox didn’t draft a lanky lefthander known for bringing a slider and 100mph velocity this year.

iowasox1971

Pitchers are getting hurt all over baseball this season, including in our organization. If you’re implying that the Sox should rush Crochet and burn a year of his service time in a year when they are all but guaranteed to make the expanded playoffs anyhow, then I disagree with you.

Really, if we finish second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth in the seeding for the AL playoffs, what’s the big difference? I don’t see any big gap in the teams we would be likely to face.

joewho112

It wouldn’t burn a year of service time. That threshold was passed before they brought up Madrigal.

asinwreck

What it would do is put him on the 40-man roster early, though I don’t know that the team would miss whichever DFA candidate would get kicked off. And seeing what he’d do with 2-3 low-leverage innings gets him experience while maybe, just maybe, allowing Cordero to pitch in fewer than 75% of the remaining games.

His skillset is uniquely suited to the team’s current need. Whether he’d thrive like fellow southpaw skyscraper Sale in this situation is an open question I’d like to see answered.

Trooper Galactus

It just depends on how hell-bent they are to make him a starting pitcher long-term versus how committed they are to succeeding in the here and now. Given Rodon is on the cusp of returning and could potentially provide something similar from an established pitcher, I don’t think they’ll be rushing to turn to Crochet any time soon.

Oddvark

But if they don’t bring him up this year, it makes it easier for them to delay him further in 2021 to maintain control longer, right?

joewho112

Assuming they want to make him a starter, he is spending most/all of next year in the minors regardless

DrCrawdad

Bad pitch selection, poor BP management & overuse.

shaggy65

I’m also critical of Ricky’s usage of Evan Marshall. The guy has stark reverse splits because his best pitch is his change-up. He should be a high-leverage guy against lefties, but not righties. If the 8th inning is all right-handed batters we should see Foster or Heuer.