Garrett Hook became one of the Chicago White Sox’s deadliest bullpen weapons last season. Hook burst onto the scene in his 2020 rookie season without even playing a Minor League game.
The White Sox drafted him 11th overall in the 2020 draft, but when injuries riddled the bullpen, Rick Hahn decided to break the emergency glass and roll the dice with Hook. He did not disappoint. The flamethrower finished second in MLB with 45 throws over 100 mph. In six innings pitched, he hasn’t allowed a run.
Fans expected more of the same in 2021. He got off to a fast start. Hook allowed just one run in the first two months of the season and didn’t allow his first home run until June. However, he appeared to have had a tough time in June, posting a 6.10 ERA in 10.2 innings of work. It was the worst month of the season for him, but he managed to turn things around in August.
Tony La Russa began to trust him more late in the year, having him appear in 11 games in August and September, which was his highest usage rate of the season. In August, he pitched 14 innings and held his opponents to a .180 batting average.
Garrett Hook has been exceptional in Major League Baseball so far.
The 22-year-old southpaw finished the season with a 2.82 ERA, 65 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP. He also finished in the 94th percentile of all MLB pitchers in barrel percentage and the 92nd percentile in expected slugging percentage. Both are considered well above Major League average.
Hook relies heavily on his four-seam fastball, throwing it 64.3% of the time. Interestingly enough, after throwing 52.9% of his pitches over 100 mph in 2020, his average fastball speed dropped to 96 mph in 2021. After leaving Game 3 of the American League Wild Card Series with a left elbow tightness, his speed has not been the same.
His high kick and deceptive release seemed to be enough to make up for the 3.4% drop in four-seam speed. His fastball speed still ranks in the 92nd percentile of all MLB pitchers.
When Hook got in trouble, it was because of order issues. Opponents only hit .206 on him. But in 2021, he gave away 27 free passes and hit two batters. The key to his success will be to better control his cursor and gain more confidence in his change.
A change is a pitcher’s best friend, especially when he’s pitching as hard as Hook. However, Hook only threw it 7.9% of the time. Of the 72 times he pitched it, he recorded six strikeouts and had a 38.2 smell percentage.
His cursor was his deadliest weapon. It is a large sweeping slider that has 37 inches of drop. At 33.1%, it was his most successful putting away throw of 2021 and netted him 41 strikeouts. The only downside was that his slider got hit hard 32.3% of the time, which is a little too high for a storage lot.
Hook is still a young pitcher who will only get better. With no time to develop in the minor leagues, he had to learn on the fly in the majors while on a team in the midst of a pennant race. It’s not an easy task and Hook handled it well.
He still plans to be a starter on the road, but next season he’ll likely be used as a versatile reliever to close the gap in the eighth and ninth innings.