Following up: Liam Hendriks has his limits

Following the White Sox’s season-sealing 11-inning loss to the Cleveland Guardians, I wrote about how Liam Hendriks’ descent into standard closer usage was so intractable that the pattern couldn’t even be broken in a last-stand situation. The only question was whether it was more a product of injury defense, or a byproduct of an organization that had stopped striving.

James Fegan spent an entire article answering that question, with Hendriks affirming the former scenario. Now my question is whether the latter would be more preferable.

To be clear, pain is just part of life for a major league pitcher. Hendriks commented earlier this season that it’s tough to remember the last time in his career he pitched without some measure of pain. Still, this season has been “a little more constant,” where he notices it at home when he’s not pitching. But the line for him is when it affects the flight of the ball on his pitches and compromises his performance. That, Hendriks says, was the driving force for deciding to go on the injured list for three weeks in June to rest a flexor strain, and why going back out for a second inning after cooling down in the dugout is not a viable option right now.

“It’s not quite capable of being able to sit down and go back out right now,” Hendriks said. “It’s unfortunate, because that’s what I pride myself on. I know that was one of the biggest selling points when I came here was the fact that I could go multiple (innings), I could give it as much as I could, go multiple (innings) and be available the next day. It’s unfortunately not kind of where we’re at right now. This year has been a tough, tough year physically for me.”

Perhaps a normal offseason and spring training allows Hendriks to reset expectations, but he’ll be 34 next season, and it’s hard to imagine him returning to more extreme usage patterns. That leaves more high-leverage innings to cover, and the hope is that somebody like Reynaldo López has proven he’s good for his share, because the setup men that Rick Hahn added last season had their own usage concerns. Kendall Graveman struggled on back-to-back days, and Joe Kelly was prohibited from them for a good chunk of the season in which was actually available.


The White Sox bullpen could’ve been worse and more expensive, because Craig Kimbrel was almost unmovable. At the end of spring training, the Dodgers decided to take him on instead of carrying AJ Pollock, and as the Dodgers prepare to move on from Kimbrel, I think everybody can call it a lose-lose deal.

The Dodgers have been able to tolerate Kimbrel in ninth innings for most of the season, but that’s because their lead in the NL West has been laughably large. With the postseason approaching and Kimbrel being especially vulnerable to lefties, Dave Roberts decided that he’d rather go with a closer-by-committee approach, rather than feel hemmed in by a closer other teams can plan against.

The Dodgers bullpen is deep, but it doesn’t have a proven backup, so Roberts is courting easy second-guessing over the coming weeks. He sounds at peace with it.

“It’s kind of the whole mindset of just because you’ve always done something one way, doesn’t make it right,” Roberts said, when asked about not having a set closer heading into October. “It might not be traditional, but I’m not too concerned about that.”

Oddly enough, if I were forced to declare a winner of the trade, I’d probably give it to the Dodgers, simply because they’ll be done with it at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Pollock’s mediocrity has grown more expensive by the week. The original $10 million player option he carried for 2023 will increase to $13 million with two more starts, because it’s grown by $1 million at 400 and 450 plate appearances, and will once more at 500 PA (he’s at 494). Perhaps Pollock can still help the White Sox as half of a corner-outfield platoon, but that’s a lot to pay for the lesser half of one.

Of all the mistakes Hahn has made, exercising Kimbrel has a case for being the worst, simply because he had option of walking away after the initial flop. He instead chose to throw good money after bad, and should Pollock’s decline continues into 2023, Hahn’s money will continue going in that direction. Nick Madrigal’s injury issues showed the Sox traded him at the correct time, even if not for the ideal return, so Hahn could’ve limited the damage to a mere two-month misread. Instead, it now a chance at poisoning a third season.

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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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vince

I’m checked out now but wanted to thank Jim and Josh for making a bad season slightly more bearable with the excellent work on this site.

As Cirensica

I am still watching the games mostly because I just love baseball, and thinking that it might be over in a few weeks is a dreadful exercise. Unlike many Americans, I do not have a 2nd sport to follow. I am not a big basketball fan, and I dislike American football (I do not think it is a sport). I do have the world cup coming in less than 2 months, so I guess that’s something. I do like soccer.

Amar

Any baseball I watch now before the postseason are Yankees games.

Greg Nix

If you love baseball, watch a different team.

As Cirensica

I do. I watch other teams games. I love baseball.

ForsterFTOG

Imagine being so bad that an outfielder who won’t sniff .700 OPS gets 500 ab.

As Cirensica

That’s White Sox depth for you. I know this sounds like a broken record, but this season has to be it for Hahn. He must be fired. This is by far, the worst season for Hahn with the added “bonus” that it is also the most expensive (actually hurting Reinsdorf’s pockets).

The roster construction
The health management
The trade deadline
The constant of throwing money to the relief staff, and yet it is merely average
The complacency attitude
Those early extensions starting to bite him in the arse
Running bad coaches

I don’t know, I am probably missing a dozen more items. Hahn needs to go.

Last edited 2 months ago by As Cirensica
To Err is Herrmann

I would add his tone-deaf condescension toward fans and inability to listen to or take criticism and his lame defenses of bad decisions as other reasons why he is bad at his job. But I would think anyone who ran up a $190M tab on Jerry with such poor results would have to earn Jerry’s ire, but maybe Jerry doesn’t have ire. I have to wonder if Jerry has any baseball sense. Or if the White Sox matter to him as anything other than just a good investment.

Greg Nix

I legitimately wonder how aware he is of what’s happening on a day-to-day or even week-to-week basis. The dude is an 89 year old hermit. There’s really no telling.

Greg Nix

Those Pollock incentives are YET ANOTHER reason it was extremely stupid to let one-handed Robert soak up a roster spot for six weeks. I truly hate this front office.

Last edited 2 months ago by Greg Nix
metasox

Looks like the Sox could buyout Pollock for 5 mil, is that right?

As Cirensica

You are correct. However, 5M buyout is A LOT of buyout. They won’t do that. It is the equivalent of signing an 8M outfielder on the free agency.

Jeff

As I understand it, Pollock has a player option that started at $10m and increases at various PA thresholds and is likely to end up at $13m. The Sox have a team option at $15m that presumably they will not exercise and, instead, offer to pay the $5m buyout. So Pollock will have the choice of taking the $5m buyout from the White Sox and seeking a deal with another team or exercising his player option to play for the White Sox in 2023 for $13m. From an economic standpoint, Pollock should exercise his player option unless he can expect to get more than $8m from another team, which seems unlikely. Of course, Pollock may prefer to play elsewhere in 2023 for less money or the Sox may be willing to pay him more than $5m to play elsewhere.

metasox

Certainly possible Pollock will want to move on, maybe go to a team more likely to win something. This was an uncharacteristic year in terms of performance but a relatively good one in terms of health. Some organization might consider him for a bounce back, though likely not for big bucks

Last edited 2 months ago by metasox
Greg Nix

Even rich guys don’t turn down several million dollars very often.

As Cirensica

The father of Drake did. Maybe AJ will do too. What are the chances the White Sox had two players forgoing millions to not play? Slim.

jorgefabregas

I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk that he wouldn’t get close to $8M from another team. He underperformed his statcast x stats a bit. The projection systems still seem him as an average to above-average hitter this year.

If he does come back, I think they should sign a corner outfielder and use Pollock as the 4th OF behind FA outfielder, Robert, and Colas (I assume Colas will be up in the first half of the season).

To Err is Herrmann

Hahn could do another Kimbrel, that is, pick up Pollock at $15M then wait to trade him since so many teams will be in the mix for a trade.

itaita

Further proof that just about everything that could go wrong for the Sox did this season is AJ Pollock being the 2nd most durable guy behind Abreu. Im pretty sure when that trade happened and you said the Sox would get over 130 games and 500AB’s out of him you would’ve assumed that was over 2 seasons.

And Liam’s comments add another layer of proof to Abreu’s “We’re not as young as we think we are” comment earlier this year.

Last edited 2 months ago by itaita
chipporter

Ain’t that the truth! Pollack comes in with a china doll reputation and winds up being durable enough to block prospects from getting a look and at the same time increasing his buyout leverage. It really couldn’t have turned out worse.

steelydan52

I’m here to cheer everyone up on a very dreary Midwestern day. We’re less than 5 months away from spring training and the start of another run at a World Series!

BuehrleMan

Fewer.

steelydan52

That’s why I said less than!

GrinnellSteve

Please, dear god, don’t allow a “Hire Don Mattingly” drumbeat to start up.

steelydan52

Jerry has no ties to Mattingly so I doubt it. First we have to see what happens to Hahn and La Russa though I’m confident Tony won’t be back as manager.

StockroomSnail

My bet is Willie Harris

jorgefabregas

He is the manager of the White Sox in my “road to the show” run on MLB The Show. So far the team’s best performance was missing out on winning the division by one game, but the roster stinks, so hard to blame AI Willie Harris.

denman

I seem to be in the minority here, but, I remain impressed by the core talent that Hahn has put together and I’m okay with giving him one season more to pull it all together now that any illusions about holes in this roster have been thoroughly dispelled. I’m eager to here what Hahn has to say during his post-season press conference.

Joliet Orange Sox

If you are impressed, you are in a very small minority. I do think the core talent is better than many here believe but I’m not impressed. The case for bringing Hahn back can be made based on the likelihood that TLR gets promoted to the front office. With TLR, Kenny, and Jerry all there, it’s hard to imagine any great candidates wanting the GM job.

I think this off-season the Sox will face many choices between two options when almost the entire fan base would like to pick a third option that the Sox have ruled out. The fate of TLR is one example (either back as manager or in the front office are the two possible options and TLR out of the picture completely is not a real option). Another example is the GM (Hahn returning or a new GM who is willing to work with Kenny and TLR having input are the possible options and a new GM or VP with full-power is not a real option).

upnorthsox

So you are saying there are no holes in the roster? Now I’m sure you need to keep a window open when gluing.

denman

I worded that poorly: I’m saying that Hahn can no longer deny the holes in the roster or the lack of depth behind the core.

Jeff

I don’t disagree that Hahn has put together some talent, but I still think he has to go. Not because he’s been a bad GM, but because, the Sox now need some restructuring. and I don’t think Hahn, as the incumbent, is the best guy to do this. He is vested in this team because he built it. He is more likely than a replacement to take the view that 2022 was an aberration and that with minor changes — new “finishing pieces” — this team can be a champion. This view is especially likely, because the White Sox have modest payroll flexibility and standing pat may be fiscally tempting We need a GM who can view this team from a fresh standpoint and who is not wedded to the players his predecessor brought in. Otherwise, we can look forward to an off season where the big moves are the re-signings of Abreu and Cueto

Papa Giorgio

This comment seems unnecessary

ParisSox

I don’t think this is so crazy. But if Hahn stays I’m not sure he’s capable of fixing what’s wrong.

Wayne

Injuries, ineffectiveness, distraction. His post-season press conference will be all BS.

Not to say I am not trying to see the positives. Squint, see the best parts of the talented players, and this team could be dominant like we hoped/were promised. Rick Hahn was the “hot GM Candidate” years ago. He chose to stay with an organization in Chicago (job security). I think he was clearly 3rd in line in the voice for the team building. And then the last 2 years, he was 4th.