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Get-Away Days Unkind to Jenks

by Mike DePilla
Sunday, August 8, 2010
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Baaad Bobby Jenks took the hill in the 9th inning with a lead Thursday afternoon and, for the third time in three weeks, the Sox lead was history by the time that inning was over.

Poor pitch selection, even worse pitch execution and low fastball velocity are all partly to blame for Jenks' meltdown, and his alarming day/night splits are well-covered by Jim at Sox Machine. There's no doubt Jenks is missing something, be it physical or mental, when he takes the hill with the sun still in the sky.

For reference:

Day: 16.2 IP, 9 S, 2 BS, 9.18 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, .329 BAA
Night: 23.2 IP, 14 S, 1 BS, 2.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP .218 BAA

However, there is one more factor that seems to play in to his struggles which I haven't seen covered: get-away days. When Jenks pitches in the last game of a series, be it day or night, he, for lack of a better word, sucks.

Maybe he takes it for granted, maybe he feels more pressure to get his teammates out of town, or maybe he's mentally thinking about the plane ride to the next city, but Jenks hasn't brought his A game in get-away games all season.

All three of his official blown saves have come in the last game of a series, and his epic meltdown in Minnesota, which ridiculously does not technically count as a blown save, was also the last game of the series.

Take a look:

Blown save #1: May 9 vs. Toronto. (Last day of a homestand.)
Blown save #2: July 21 at Seattle. (Last day of a roadtrip.)
Blown save #2a: July 18 at Minnesota (Last game of a 4-game series.)
Blown save #3: Thursday at Detroit. (Last game of 4-game series.)

Does Bobby just mentally check out of these games when he knows his bags are packed and the team charter is waiting? This would be a good spot for a photo of Jenks on the mound with a thought bubble over his head of a suitcase and an airplane.
There we go.

Even in non-save situations, Jenks has struggled in get-away games. His two worst non-blown save outings came as the last game of a series. Check it out:

April 29 at Texas: 1 IP, 2 ER, 3 H
May 26 at Cleveland: 1 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 3 BB

The thing is, of those six bad outings, all but one were day games. (The lone exception was the Seattle game.) So is this just a case of day games happening to fall on get-away days, or get-away days happening to fall on day games? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I looked over his season game log and found Jenks has only six appearances in day games this season that were not get-away days:

April 24 vs. Seattle: 1 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K, win
May 1 at Yankees: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K, save
May 22 vs. Florida: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K, save
June 6 vs Cleveland*: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K, save
June 10 vs. Detroit*: 1 IP, 0 H, K, save
June 11 at Cubs: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 1 K
June 12 at Cubs: 1 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, save
June 24 vs. Atlanta*: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 K, save

(* denotes the last game in a home series, but the homestand continued the next day)

Seven and two-thirds innings is not nearly a large enough sample size to draw any big conclusions, but Jenks is a perfect six-for-six in save situations in these day games, with a 3.52 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. That certainly seems better than his work in day games that end road series or homestands.

For the record, I came up with the following line for Jenks in all get-away days (day and night; again, not counting games in the middle of a homestand):

14 appearances, 0-3, 10.1 IP, 13.94 ERA, 5 S, 3 BS, 2.52 WHIP

That line is awful and its slightly worse than his overall day game split, but again the sample size is very small so you can't draw too many serious conclusions. It is clear however that Jenks has been anything but effective overall in these get-away days.

So what can we say about all this? For right now, some small sample size data suggests that the bulk of Jenks' struggles have come in get-away day games under the sun. But since most day games fall on the last game of a series anyway, we can't assuredly tease out which factors more. We do know that Jenks' day struggles are not new this year; his career splits show he has been much more effective in night games over the course of six years now.

It does seem that Jenks has difficulty concentrating on get-away days, as his 14 appearances in those situations have produced a downright dismal line that even out-dismal-izes his general day game split.

I will say this: If it is the last day of a homestand or a roadtrip and the Sox have a small lead to protect in the 9th inning, I'll feel a whole lot more relieved if we see JJ Putz jogging in from the bullpen. Jenks can handle the first game or two of a series, but it might be Putz Time on get-away day.

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