Steve Cishek never resembled Steve Cishek with White Sox

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 06: Chicago White Sox pitcher Steve Cishek (31) reacts as Kansas City Royals outfielder Edward Olivafes(14) runs the bases in the background after hitting a two-run home run during a Major League Baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals, on September 06, 2020, at Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

Imagine buying a gluten-free cereal and opening the box to find a huge bag of shredded wheat.

That’s kinda what the White Sox got with Steve Cishek, a specialized pitcher who delivered the exact opposite of his specialties.

When the White Sox signed Cishek, they thought they were getting a grounder-inducing, righty-killing sidewinder. What they got was a flyballer who was more effective against lefties, when he was effective at all.

RHB OPS,5831.013
LHP OPS.733.615

Cishek showed signs of distress toward the end of his Cubs career because Joe Maddon ran him into the ground in 2019. He had a hip injury ithat August, and when he came back in September, he lacked velocity and walked more batters than he struck out. But even then, neither righties nor lefties hit him well, and he had a ground-ball rate of 58 percent. He looked like a lesser version of himself, but himself regardless.

With the White Sox, he looked like somebody else, including a different arm slot. The sinker wasn’t impressive, and the slider had a tendency to spin. It worked against lefties because he could throw backdoor or backfoot to them, but against righties, they were front-door spinners and waste pitches for spitting.

He tried to make adjustments to his release point during the season, and he had a brief run of respectability, throwing eight scoreless outings out of 10 with peripherals to match. Reliability proved elusive when September rolled around, with the walks ticking back up. In the end, his numbers — 5.40 ERA, 13 walks and HBPs over 20 innings — reflected his struggles. If you think the ERA is a little low, it’s because he allowed nine of 12 inherited runners to score.

Perhaps Cishek could be written off as a unique reliever who might not be cut out for the era of the three-batter minimum, or perhaps he’s just a casualty of the peculiar schedule, but this is the second consecutive season in which the White Sox’s primary free-agent relief acquisition contributed nothing to the cause. The White Sox have combined to pay Cishek and the also-DFA’d Kelvin Herrera $23 million for sub-replacement-level pitching. And with both pitchers, it’s less that they had bad years, and more that they failed to even match their descriptions.

Rick Hahn’s free agent scorecard looks a little bit better with Dallas Keuchel exceeding expectations and Yasmani Grandal meeting them, but the Sox also had to pay up for their services. When it comes to the second- and third-tier additions, be it Cishek, Edwin Encarnación or Gio González, mere adequacy is still proving a little too elusive for comfort, especially if the Sox are done splurging.

* * * * * * * * *

Additional note: On the subject of right-handed relievers, Evan Marshall is back.

(Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Coop did not fix him.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

I hate the frequency of the ‘______ never resembled ______ with White Sox’ articles that have to get written

mere adequacy is still proving a little too elusive for comfort, especially if the Sox are done splurging
Is decidedly ominous


Wait, so is Ruiz good enough to send out to close the game against one of the league’s hottest hitters or not good enough to be on an extended 28-man roster? I’m so confused.


It’s mind-boggling that the Sox’s big ticket free agent relievers shit the bed but whatever the manage to pluck out of the waiver wire/indy ball/late round draft pick discount bin turn out decent to good (Marshall, Cordero, Bummer, Detwiler)