Chicago White Sox: Breaking Down South Siders 2014 Closing Options

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

It would appear as though Robin Ventura will enter 2014 without a definitive answer to this question: Who will the White Sox look to to close games once the season begins? When they traded Addison Reed, they certainly left position up in the air.

The depth chart on the official website of the Chicago White Sox says that it will be Nate Jones, as does their off-season page at MLB Depth Charts, so that’s what we went with in our White Sox preview. But ESPN’s Closer Depth Chart is suggesting a four-way battle between Jones, Ronald Belisario, Matt Lindstrom, and Daniel Webb.

That, combined with the fact that Jones has never been a closer on the Major League level and struggled in 2013, makes digging a little deeper worth doing. Let’s do that, and we’ll start with the man who appears to be the front-runner.

 

  • Nate Jones

– What I Like

It unfortunately didn’t show up in his ERA, but Nate Jones improved an awful lot from Year 1 to Year 2 with the White Sox. 

Nate Jones: 2012-2013

Season
IP
K
K/9
H
H/9
BB
BB/9
ERA
WHIP
201271.2658.2678.4324.02.391.381
2013788910.3698.0263.04.151.218

ERA is always a little tricky with relievers. They don’t throw as many innings as starters, so it doesn’t take too many rough outings to inflate things. They also frequently take over innings with men on base, so the hits they allow that produce runs frequently don’t hurt their ERA’s. You certainly won’t see a starter with a WHIP of 1.381 with a sub 2.40 ERA very often, so he certainly got a little lucky in 2012. But while a 1.218 WHIP isn’t stellar, it’s too good to have an ERA over 4.00.

Jones has the stuff to be a dominant pitcher. Per Fangraphs, he averages better than 96 MPH on his four-seam fastball, and just under 98 on the two-seam heater. With that kind of stuff, if he continues to throw strikes and stabilize his walk rate, he absolutely has the tools to be a dominant closer.

 

– What Worries Me

A few things

  1. Nate Jones has never recorded a save in the majors, and only closed 13 games in the minors. You always have to wonder if pitchers will be up to the 9th inning task when it’s given to them.
  2. Focusing a little more on the statistics, Jones wasn’t exactly a dominant MiLB guy. 

    Nate Jones: MiLB Numbers

    Seasons
    IP
    K
    K/9
    H
    H/9
    BB
    BB/9
    ERA
    WHIP
    2007-20113973708.44009.11733.94.281.443

Not exactly a dominant line, is it? Jones has certainly improved in regards to striking hitters out, but he’s not exactly Craig Kimbrel. Unless he continues to show dramatic improvement, plenty of runners will at least reach base against Jones. 

 

– How he’d do as the Closer

Jones wasn’t a dominant pitcher, but he did show steady improvement throughout his MiLB career, so much so that he went from AA in 2011 to the majors in 2012.

I certainly won’t tell you that we’re looking at one of the game’s best closers and his WHIP will be a little high next to the elite guys, but you can’t help but be encouraged by the way he’s consistently improved.

 

  • Ronald Belisario

– What I Like

Ronald Belisario has four Major League seasons under his belt. In two of them, he’s been well above average, if not better. 

Ronald Belisario: 2009, 2012

Season
IP
K
K/9
H
H/9
BB
BB/9
ERA
WHIP
200970.2648.2526.6293.72.041.146
201271698.7476.0293.72.541.070

If you bring those kind of numbers to the table in the ninth inning, you’re looking at a potentially dominant closer. Also, while he’s got only four major league saves, Belisario brings a lot more experience, including pitching on two playoff teams (2009 and 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers). You always like to have a guy in the ninth inning who’s shown he can handle pressure, and Belisario will certainly not be blown away by the situation.

 

– What Worries Me

The lack of Major League saves don’t concern me. But if you remember, I said that two of his four major league seasons have been stellar. The other two? Not so much. 

Ronald Belisario: 2010, 2013

Season
IP
K
K/9
H
H/9
BB
BB/9
ERA
WHIP
201055.1386.2528.5193.15.041.283
201368496.5729.5283.73.971.471

Two stellar seasons for Ronald Belisario, and two that were significantly less than stellar. You just don’t know what you get with him, and that’s not something that you ever want to see out of a closer, especially when his most recent season was a bad one.

 

– How he’d do as the Closer

We just don’t know. That’s the problem. The other problem with Belisario is that he’s not a particularly dominant guy when it comes to strikeouts. Even in his best years, Belisario was below one per inning and in his down years, he was well below that mark. We’ll go over the projections below, but I just wouldn’t but Belisario on my fantasy roster, even if he gets the closer job.

There’s just too much unpredictability and even though he’s been good in the past, the payoffs aren’t really worth the risks with a high BB/9 and relatively pedestrian K/9, at least by closer standards.

 

  • Matt Lindstrom

– What I Like

The main that Matt Lindstrom has going for him against these other guys is actual Major League closing experience, as he saved 38 games between 2009 and 2010 for the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros, respectively.

Lindstrom has also posted a 2.95 ERA over the last three seasons, playing for the White Sox, along with the Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles, and Arizona Diamondbacks. All of those teams play in hitter’s yards.  The 1.311 WHIP is certainly not what you want to see, but you like seeing strong run prevention from a guy playing his home games in hitter-friendly stadiums.

 

– What Worries Me

There’s a reason Matt Lindstrom stopped being a closer — he wasn’t very good at it. 

Matt Lindstrom: 2009-2010

Season
IP
K
K/9
H
H/9
BB
BB/9
ERA
WHIP
200947.1397.45410.3244.65.891.648
201053.1437.36811.5203.44.391.650
Total100.2827.312210.9443.95.101.649

Lindstrom has closed a grand total of two games since 2010 and as we went over, has an ERA under 3.00. Lindstrom just doesn’t have a typical closer’s game. He doesn’t strike hitter’s out at a great rate and issues too many walks. He’s also shown a proficiency as a set-up guy, so there’s enough history to draw from to keep him in that position.

 

– How he’d do as the Closer

Lindstrom’s fantasy value would be based exclusively on how many saves he’d get, as he’s below average in pretty much every other department. Lindstrom has a bad history as a closer and is older than any of the candidates. I don’t think he’d do that well and fortunately, I don’t think it’s going to come down to that.

 

  • Daniel Webb

– What I Like

Looking at what Daniel Webb did in 2013, it’s not hard to see his potential.

Daniel Webb: 2013

Season
IP
K
K/9
H
H/9
BB
BB/9
ERA
WHIP
Minors62.27811.2456.5273.91.871.149
Majors11.1107.997.143.23.181.147
Total748810.7546.6313.82.071.149

It’s relatively fair to say that if one of these guys will be a truly elite closer in 2014, it will be Webb. According to Fangraphs, Webb has a four-seam fastball that averages just under 96 mph and a cutter that clocks in just under 99. There’s another closer that just retired who was known for having a pretty good cutter.

But Webb has a lot more than just a cutter, throwing a slider, change, and curve as well. Webb is the youngest of this group and if he pitches well in Spring Training, I could very well see the White Sox turning to him as the guy, looking to the future — especially if Jones struggles.

 

– What Worries Me

As good as Daniel Webb was in 2013, his track record for success isn’t exactly long. His MiLB ERA is 4.49, while the WHIP is 1.487, and his K/9 was 7.7.

It’s certainly possible that he turned a corner in 2013, as he turned 24 in August. But when you look at his career, you see one dominant season and a few other average to below average ones.

 

– How he’d do as the Closer

All of the tools are there for Jones to be an absolutely dominant guy. The only problem is that throughout his career in the minors, it always seems to have taken Webb a little bit of time to adjust. When he gets into the majors for a full year, he’ll have to throw more than 11.1 innings, and I can’t help but think that there will be a few more bumps in the road.

I like Webb’s potential, but I like him a lot more as the future guy.

 

Chicago White Sox: Projections for Possible Closers

Player
IP
BB
K
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
Nate Jones7323773283.211.19
Ronald Belisario6828632253.571.25
Matt Lindstrom5718475203.631.30
Daniel Webb6023633263.451.28

I don’t necessarily know that you’ll get elite production from any of these guys, but I’d definitely like to see them stick with Jones, or go with Webb. Belisario is too inconsistent and Lindstrom’s history as a closer is just too rocky.

With the possible exception of Webb at his absolute best, all of these guys will likely be in the bottom half of a very deep group of closers, but Jones and Webb have the most potential to be effective for you beyond just the saves.

 

Topics: AL Central, Chicago White Sox, Daniel Webb, Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones, Ronald Belisario

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