The White Sox Super Bullpen and 2021’s Innings LOAD

The Rick Hahn as GM White Sox have had a plethora of off-season championships. The latest of which is actually coming at a time when we need it most. As Eloy Jimenez’s injury has been the icing on the cake of an off-season in which a solid minority of White Sox fans were underwhelmed by the team’s depth, the White Sox are turning to that little cage in front of the left field seats as the crown jewel of this team. The White Sox bullpen is being brandished as the BEST IN BASEBALL!!

Rick Hahn pictured with MySoxSummer celebrating one of his many off-season championships

Whether you believe that sort of hype about the White Sox bullpen or not, is immaterial to the following analysis. Personally, I don’t get too jazzed up about these sorts of things. But, it feels like a nice compliment, so we shouldn’t feel bad about someone saying. Look, I love Codi Heuer (well documented), I love Evan Marshall although he’s not nearly as #108thicc as I think he could be and we all enjoy Liam Hendriks early schtick as the White Sox closer. It’s not the players, it’s just that pre-season proclamations like this tend to rarely come true. I think the White Sox bullpen is very talented, let’s leave it at that.

Load Management

I’ve been digging in on Kevin Goldstein’s new podcast, Chin Music. On the latest episode, he noted (paraphrasing) that he spoke with a big league front office executive who told him that they are absolutely terrified thinking about getting their pitching staff through the season. Goldstein went on (paraphrasing) to discuss that we might see MLB starting pitchers receive “load management” (common in the NBA, which is just scheduled rest). He suggested that you might see your favorite pitcher just get 2 weeks off in the middle of the season to rest up, coming off of the COVID season.

Load Management in process

The Super Bullpen

This got me thinking, what could the White Sox innings pitched distribution look like in 2021. Remember, the White Sox have the SUPER BULLPEN!! They took what was already a pretty good unit, added Hendriks via free agency, added Crochet full-time and included Kopech for at least the start of the season. SUPER BULLPEN!! SUPER BULLPEN + LOAD MANAGEMENT. Let’s dig in.

Over the time period of 2017-2019, I scanned the top 5 bullpens in the AL via Fangraphs fWar. I threw those in a chart which I am not pasting in here (tl;dr) and plucked the median amount of innings tossed for these “GOOD” bullpens. Now, the reason I took the median instead of the average is because the Tampa Rays be out there wildin’ with 772 IP out of the pen in 2019 and 824 IP in 2018. Nobody else does that, nor will the White Sox try to replicate that imo. The median number for these bullpens over this time is 580 IP (innings pitched). Now in general the average number of innings pitched for an MLB rotation in a 162 game season is around 1,450. That leaves 870 IP for the White Sox starters.

We have our variables, 870 IP for the LOAD MANAGEMENT SP’s and 580 IP for the SUPER BULLPEN…..LFG.

A few notes on the above analysis. I estimated Michael Kopech’s innings (split between bullpen and starting) in this blog HERE. I did choose to haircut everyone’s innings out of the starting pitchers, except for Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease because at those levels it would seem that they’ll either knock down that amount of innings without a “break” OR they’ll plug along for more before they do end up getting a break. With the bullpen, I basically used their Fangraphs depth chart projection. 60 IP is usually a solid estimate for an average bullpen arm. I assumed 70 for Hendriks just because he’s supposed to be a work horse and why not let that star shine bright before it burns out.

Surprising to me was just how many innings will need to be covered by people outside of the regular group. Let’s look at the SUPER BULLPEN first! See the grey box, 130 of the 580 IP, or 22.4% would need to be covered by folks that aren’t part of your main group. That seems like a huge amount. I went back and checked and the 2019 Yankees who had the best bullpen in the AL that year by fWar had 14 different people throw at least 10 innings and that was with Luis Cessa being a total rubber arm and throwing 81 innings. DEPTH AGAIN!?!?!?!?!

Picture from the Chicago Tribune

The starting rotation seems like a bit of a surer bet to not have too many palookas making substantial contributions, assuming health and relative effectiveness take hold. Still with Tony La Russa, a never ending tinkerer, at the helm, I suspect there will be a need for someone who stunk in spring training or who’s never worn the White Sox jersey before to saunter out to the hill more often then we expected. Let’s see if Chris Getz earned that promotion.

Got an idea for the innings breakdown….hit me up on twitter or drop a comment.

-BeefLoaf

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