Bobby Jenks Will Probably Be Just Fine

We all watched in terror as the Rays shamed the South Side coffin-nailer last night, and like most people you probably (justifiably) asked: is it just me, or is this happening a lot these days? Not the losing per se, but the increasingly stressful ninth innings with Bobby Jenks on the mound.

July 18 against Balitmore.

July 10 at Minnesota. Then again July 11.

May 24 against Pittsburgh. May 17 at Toronto.

And of course we want to say nothing’s wrong, that closers blow saves every now and then and that a run or two in a closer’s outing is just grossly magnified because, again, it’s just one inning. But is it?

Jenks’ second-shakiest stretch to date was roughly August 31, 2008 through September 30, 2008, in which the closer coughed up 14 hits (including two home runs), nine earned runs and five walks in 13.1 innings, a series of outings preceded by a scoreless August 1 through August 30 and followed up by an April and early May 2009 where Jenks held the opposition not just scoreless, but also almost fully hitless.

Having witnessed a track record like that, those of us following the big man since his triple-digit arrival that fateful July afternoon have come to expect certain things, namely that Bobby Jenks is:
1. Large
2. In charge
3. A little crazy
4. Unshakeable
5. Unhittable
6. Unbeatable

Jenks pitches, game over. He’s not supposed to lead us back down the road of Billy Koch-esque bases loaded jams with no one warming up, and he’s certainly not supposed to give the league the mythical Book On Him the way our favorite frisbee-tosser did. And we believe these things because, to date, No. 45 has yet to give us reason not to.

Key phrase there being “yet to.” His last five efforts, believe it or not, constitute Jenks’ worst run since joining the team in 2005. Ten hits and four walks in 5.1 innings looks bad; six earned runs look even worse, until you couple it with the zero home runs he’s surrended. Bobby isn’t just losing – Bobby’s getting beaten.

None of this is to say Jenks is finished, or should be run out of town or demoted or anything of the sort, not because we know he will get back to normal but because we don’t know that he won’t. The extended struggles he’s been putting off for the past five seasons have landed him in uncharted territory, from which he might just emerge an even stronger combination of control pitcher and flamethrower as he’s been aspiring to for so long. Losses aside, this could turn out to be a good thing.

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