What to expect from White Sox setup man Aaron Bummer in 2022 – NBC Chicago

What to expect from Aaron Bummer in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Rick Hahn will be among the first to tell you that there is a tremendous amount of volatility in the relief pitches from year to year.

Hahn, however, is the same guy who gave Aaron Bummer a long-term contract ahead of the 2020 season, with the Chicago White Sox thinking they had a reliever on their hands that would be pretty darn consistent from year to year. other.

Bummer and the White Sox bullpen had high expectations in 2021, the southpaw among those talking about the unit as potentially one of baseball’s best.

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“I don’t expect to lose a game if we lead after the fifth inning,” he said in spring training. “I really think the talent in our bullpen is so good, where we should be able to go out there and keep the lead for our starters regardless of the score.

“At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily care whether we end up in the No. 1-ranked bullpen or the No. 4 or No. 7-ranked bullpen. I want to be 90-0 with a lead after six innings.”

But there was a quick reality check in exactly the kind of volatility Hahn has referred to in the past, with much of the relief corps’ biggest arms stumbling, to some degree, in the first half of the season. ‘last year. Even closest All-Star Liam Hendriks, who at the end of the season was as dominant as ever, winning his second straight American League Prospect of the Year award, had his own early troubles.

Bummer was not immune and was arguably the team’s poster child for the difference between those high pre-season hopefuls and what happened in the first half, knowing the kind of bad luck and ill-timed troubles that had fans scratching their heads, wondering where the Bummer they knew was. – an ERA of 2.13 in 2019 and an ERA of 0.96 in 2020 – was gone.

With time spent working with pitching coach Ethan Katz, the southpaw solved most of those issues, and while consistency also remained an issue in the second half, he was the dominant setup force at which everyone had grown accustomed to in September, with a 0.75 ERA in 14 appearances in the final month of the regular season. His turnaround late in the season gave the White Sox a dynamite setup man to turn to, though acquisition deadlineman Craig Kimbrel struggled in what was a new role. for him.

The good news is that Bummer has shown he’s still fully capable of being the guy the White Sox thought he would be when they gave him the contract extension that will keep him on the South side for the 2026 season.

What’s not so great, however, is that the ups and downs Bummer went through in 2021 make it pretty hard to project what’s to come in 2022.

Capacity is not in question. He is still a remarkably talented left-handed reliever whose lead has been described as one of the best pitches in baseball.

“I’ve caught a lot of baseballs with guys throwing really hard,” Katz said in Spring, “and that was a long shot, one of his sinkers that he threw at me was the pitch hardest I’ve ever had to try to catch in my life. If he hadn’t been in the side he would have squared me and hit me. I was just trying to knock him down It was the most impressive thing I have ever seen in my life.

“That’s one of the five best pitches in the game,” Evan Marshall said of Spring, “Aaron Bummer’s lead.”

That means a lot of ground balls and a lot of strikeouts. But as we’ve seen in 2021, ground balls don’t always go where they’re supposed to. What kind of luck is coming in 2022? Well, if it was known, we’d all be in Las Vegas.

Bummer will be one of Tony La Russa’s most requested configuration options, which we can already understand. The White Sox lost end-inning arms Ryan Tepera and Marshall, they moved Michael Kopech into the rotation and they are openly talking about trading Kimbrel, despite choosing his option.

Kendall Graveman is on board, presumably, to fill the role that Kimbrel was meant to play, but we can essentially foresee Bummer and Graveman as a two-headed setup monster ahead of Hendriks. That will mean high-leverage spots for Bummer, with the prominence of his outings leading to some of the fans getting frustrated with him as his luck changed in 2021.

“It happens,” Bummer said at one point last summer, an accurate if not pleasant summary of some of the things he’s been through in the past year. Luck is as volatile as the relief pitch, but the White Sox believe Bummer is someone who can outrun that volatility. He certainly has the talent to do it. It’s time to find out if the Bummer-Graveman-Hendriks gang can live up to the hype that the White Sox bullpen, as a whole, still couldn’t live up to in 2021.

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