Jenks a candidate for DHL award
Vote now to honor Chicago's lights-out closer as MLB's best
CHICAGO -- Bobby Jenks came to the Major Leagues as a hard-throwing reliever with a 100 mph fastball, drawing consistent gasps from crowds across baseball. He seemingly could throw a baseball through the wall, or at least would try to do so when he took the mound.
In just 2 1/2 short years with the White Sox, though, Jenks has become a pure pitcher, a true student of the craft, actually one of the best closers in the entire game. Given up on by the Angels as a Minor League starter not living up to his vast potential after the 2004 season, Jenks became the first rookie to close out the deciding game of the World Series, having done so for the South Siders after joining the team midway through the 2005 campaign.
That piece of history was followed by 41 saves during the 2006 season, Jenks' first full run as a closer, making him baseball's third pitcher to record 40 saves in either his first or second season. And, of course, the current campaign has brought about his much-ballyhooed, record-tying 41 straight batters retired, ending with a Joey Gathright leadoff single in the ninth inning of a home contest on Aug. 20.
Jenks' present run of excellence also has earned the burly right-hander a nomination for the prestigious 2007 DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award.
The DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award winner is selected by a special Major League Baseball yellow-ribbon panel that includes Mike Bauman, national columnist for MLB.com; Rich "Goose" Gossage, the nine-time All-Star pitcher; Darryl Hamilton, former Major League outfielder and a member of the MLB on-field operations staff; Jerome Holtzman, the official MLB historian and a member of the writer's wing of the Hall of Fame; and Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations, Major League Baseball.
At the conclusion of the season, fans have the opportunity to determine which relief pitcher had the best overall season and deserves the third annual DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award. A list of finalists will be selected based on statistical qualifiers and fans will be able to vote for the winner online at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball. The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award" will be presented during the Major League Baseball postseason.
J.J. Putz (Mariners), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Joe Nathan (Twins), Jason Isringhausen (Cardinals), Francisco Cordero (Brewers), Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Takashi Saito (Dodgers) and Trevor Hoffman round out the list of honorees for this award.
On even the best of squads, featuring a thoroughly solid late-inning relief crew, Jenks' 2007 performance still would stand out. The 26-year-old has 39 saves in 45 opportunities and has yielded just 43 hits over 63 innings. Jenks has 56 strikeouts and 13 walks, with two home runs allowed in 64 appearances.
A total of 80 saves amassed over the past two years leaves Jenks trailing only Hoffman (86) and Rodriguez (84), with the right-hander growing into a truly elite closer. He has shown off a greater understanding of how to attack the weaknesses of opposing hitters, even studying their at-bats before he gets into a specific game.
"I'm focused when I go out there," said Jenks, who also has a 2.86 ERA. "I know who is coming up. I'm looking at scouting reports and trying to figure out what I need to do.
"When I get in the game, I've already gone over in my head what I've done to them in the past."
Unfortunately for Jenks, he has been the lone consistent force from start to finish for a truly shaky White Sox bullpen with an 18-24 record and 5.31 ERA this season. Yet, in taking a line from manager Ozzie Guillen's vernacular, Jenks has never thrown his bullpen mates "under the bus."
Instead, Jenks has become a true leader for the maligned relievers and on the pitching staff as a whole. He has offered words of encouragement to young additions such as Ehren Wasserman, a sidearm-throwing right-hander who has produced a 2.45 ERA in 30 games, and supported the struggling veterans.
Leading by example has been Jenks' greatest trait. Another stellar season has left Jenks as virtually the only untouchable amongst the entire bullpen and one of the very few untouchables on the entire roster.
"You have Jenks anchoring at the end, so that's the easiest question to answer," said White Sox reliever Mike Myers of his teammate. "Everyone else can filter down from there and fill the gap after the starter."
"He is the best closer, to me, with all due respect to all the guys who have more saves than him," added Guillen. "This kid pitches once a week and still saves games. It's easy when you have those opportunities at least five times a week. But he's going about his job better than anybody."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.