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Can These Guys Pitch Any Worse?

On July 1st, thanks in large part to impeccable team health, the White Sox had a major league leading ERA of 3.38. Since then, the Sox two highest leverage relievers have hit the DL, Jose Contreras joined them after apparently hiding his injury, while Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez and the various minor league reinforcements have all struggled (see: table below).

Since July 1st IP H R ER HR BB K HBP BK WP ERA
Bullpen 81.2 95 54 51 9 33 68 7 0 6 5.62
Starters 166.2 211 115 102 26 49 130 4 0 6 5.51
Total 248.1 306 169 153 35 82 198 11 0 12 5.54

The Sox have managed to tread water at 14-14 over that span thanks to an offense that, aside from Paul Konerko, seems to be producing well. But as Ozzie said at the time of the Griffey trade, if the Sox pitching doesn't pick back up, they don't stand a chance in the Central.

I'm still not sold on Contreras, who struggled in the first inning of perhaps his only rehab start today--You'll notice the third baseman in the box score is not Joe Crede, who was scratched for the second straight day with back issues--and I don't think we saw much, if anything, from Clayton Richard to warrant keeping him on the roster. So I thouht I'd take a look at a couple of possible reinforcements who may be able to provide some relief work or 5th starter duties down the stretch.

Jack Egbert - AAA (since 6/1) 3-5 12 12 1 1 0 0 70.1 63 34 26 8 16 70 3.33 1.12
Jon Link - AA 5-1 0 0 0 0 29 ? 44.2 31 8 8 0 16 45 1.64 1.05

As spring training kicked off, I was excited by the possibilities of the Sox 6th starter candidates, namely Lance Broadway and Jack Egbert. Broadway has failed to capitalize on his strong September performance during his call-up, while Egbert nursed a sore elbow in spring training which may have slowed his transition to AAA. Since the calendar turned to June, however, we've seen a presumably fully healthy Egbert post the type of numbers that should translate to success at the show.

Entering the season, Egbert was most well known for being able to keep the ball in the park, but his homerun suppression skills have returned to mere mortal status. A closer look at his splits however show that he's given up 11 of his 12 homers at Charlotte's dinky stadium that goes 345 in the alleys. So he still seems to be able to keep the ball inside non-little league dimension parks.

On the negative side of the ledger for Egbert is his control and his streakiness. I know most of you are looking at that BB/9 line above and thinking "what does he mean control is a problem?" Egbert has a tendency to hit a lot of batters. He loses pitches here and there, which might also play into his streakiness. Egbert's R/9 since June 1 is nearly 4.5, which is out of place given his K and BB numbers. But He seems to give up hits in bunches, perhaps momentarily losing his release point or just showing a lack of concentration, and his minor league splits show some Gavin Floyd-like numbers with men on base. Still, if Contreras struggles in his return, I wouldn't hesitate to hand the ball to Egbert.

I'd be lying if I said I knew a lot about Jon Link. Heck, I hardly know anything about him. All I can say with absolute conviction is that we severely underrated him when he was acquired last year near the deadline. Kenny Williams seemed to be collecting A-ball relievers at the time, which may have caused us to overlook his numbers in the extremely hitter-friendly California League. I can't say with any certainty that should get the call, but he should definitely be in the discussion.

It's worth noting that in each of his last 5 outings, since July 12th, Link has thrown more than one inning. Perhaps the Sox were looking at stretching him out for more of a long-relief role, or perhaps I'm reading too much into something that just not there.

[Note by The Cheat, 08/03/08 8:54 PM CDT ]: The jinx is in full effect. Link gave up 3 runs on 4 hits as he blew what would have been yet another 2-inning save. I fully expect Egbert to get shelled in his next start now as well.