Closer Debate: Is Zach Putnam or Jake Petricka Better Suite For The White Sox Job Long-Term?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It’s possible that the 2015 Chicago White Sox closer is not on the current roster, but they have two candidates who have been seeing time this season and one of them could easily emerge with a strong finish, or maybe take themselves out of contention.

Let’s take a look at each of the candidates to try and reach a conclusion on who is better suited for the job in 2015:

 

Zach Putnam
He’s earned a handful of saves and could ultimately prove to have the best makeup to close. He owns a 7.57 K/9, 3.29 BB/9 and 53.1% groundball rate.

He strikeout number isn’t what you’d envision from a closer, but he owns a 13.7% SwStr% on the season as well as a 36.0% O-Swing%. Over 180.2 innings at Triple-A, where he worked exclusively as a reliever, he posted an 8.7 K/9. In other words, he has the makeup of a pitcher who should strikeout significantly more batters. In fact, he did see it jump to an 8.20 mark in the second half.

His control has been consistent, with a 2.8 BB/9 in the minors and a 3.2 mark at Triple-A. When you pair that with his strikeout potential and ability to generate groundballs, the overall upside is there it be a lights out closer.

 

Jake Petricka
He has shown a better ability to generate groundballs, with a 63.5% mark, but his strikeouts have been lower (6.88 K/9) and his control has been questionable throughout his career.

His SwStr% of 7.6% definitely doesn’t represent much upside in the strikeout department. We can’t take much away from his minor league numbers, since he did spend a lot of time as a starter, but he did post an 8.1 K/9. At least it’s something to show maybe he can improve, but it’s hard to get too excited.

His control is another issue. While he’s posted a 2.82 BB/9 in the second half, he was at 4.53 in the first half and has a minor league career mark of 4.1 (4.9 and 4.1 and Double and Triple-A). It’s certainly hard to get overly excited about what he’s done in the second half, since it appears to be the aberration (and is buoyed by a 2.57 September mark).

Of course his implosion earlier in the week, albeit in a non-save situation, doesn’t do him any favors.

 

Conclusion
It’s likely that these final few days aren’t going to make much of a difference and Petricka clearly has gotten more of a shot (14 saves vs. 6 for Putnam). However, the underlying numbers seem to indicate that Putnam should be the far better option. He’s definitely a pitcher we will keep a close eye on as 2015 gets closer, and one who could ultimately emerge as a draft day sleeper.

Don’t be surprised if he is the closer on Opening Day 2015, though it would be nice if he got a chance to show it over these final few days.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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