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What Does the White Sox Hot Streak Say About Ozzie Guillen's Bullpen Usage?

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The White Sox have been on a historic hot streak for the past two and a half weeks.  Beginning with a June 9th 15-3 drubbing of the Tigers, they have won 15 of 17 games.  The offense has been better - averaging 5.1 runs per game - but by no means has it been overwhelming.  The key has been the pitching, which has allowed just 42 runs, or 2.5 per game, over that span.  The starters have averaged 7 innings per game and have failed to go seven or more innings just four times.  This has resulted in infrequent usage of relievers and provides an excellent opportunity to take a look at how Ozzie views the pecking order in his bullpen.

There are complicated statistics that measure reliever usage, such as the various leverage index stats. However, because of the combination during this hot streak of the starters pitching deep into ballgames, thus limiting the innings available to relievers, while simultaneously the offense not providing enough runs to have frequent blowouts, the simple method of counting appearances is rather accurate and also easily understood.  So let's take a look at who Ozzie is using the most during this stretch.

Bobby Jenks: It should come as no surprise that, despite being placed on the Bereavement List and missing the past two games, Jenks, as the man with the closer title, has the most appearances with nine.  While he experienced some hiccups earlier in the season, which resulted in calls for his demotion or even outright release, he told White Sox fans to "chill out" over a few poor games - and he appears to have been right.

J.J. Putz: The primary right-handed set-up man checks in next with eight appearances.  He's well on his way to signing a multi-year contract as someone's closer next offseason.  Both his walk (1.3 per 9 IP) and strikeout (10.7 per 9 IP) rates are back at the mind-boggling levels they were when he was a lights-out with Seattle.

Matt Thornton: The primary left-handed set-up man is next with six appearances, including one appearance as fill-in closer.  A string of three poor outings just prior to the start of our sample size may have weighed on Ozzie's mind early on but he's been predictably excellent over this stretch.

Sergio Santos:  The rookie is next with five appearances.  In June, he hasn't been nearly as good as he was for the first couple months - which isn't exactly unexpected.  He was setting an unsustainable pace, teams now have better scouting reports on him and hitters have seen him before.  Should be interesting to see how he reacts.

Tony Pena:  The man who has been compelled to serve as the long man also compiled five appearances, all in low leverage situations.

Scott Linebrink:  The second-highest paid reliever has been rightly reduced to the lowest number of appearances with just three.  In two of those outings, he needed to be rescued by Jenks.

Randy Williams:  The hands-down worst reliever has also appeared just three times.  Considering his performance against the Cubs on Sunday and the existence of Erick Threets on the active roster, that may be it for Williams.

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It's hard to argue with the usage.  The figurehead closer (who has been quite good) leads the list and then usage essentially goes from best to worst pitcher.  With Putz, Thornton and now Jenks pitching well, Ozzie can essentially make it a six inning game.  Which is a pretty good thing when your starters are giving you seven innings.