Photo Credit: Gail Burton / AP
What ails the Red Sox Bullpen? They seem to be having some trouble while the starters are rolling.
The first turn through the rotation and the Red Sox starters seem to be firing on all cylinders. When Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez went down with injuries, it was thought that there might be some holes. Those holes were filled, and the Red Sox starters have rolled a nice and tidy 1.03 ERA over 35 innings in the first few games of the season. Their WHIP as a unit is under 1.00. The strikeout to walk ratio is also in good shape at a 4.86 clip as well.
The bullpen, however, is a different story.
In 22 innings, the bullpen has amassed a 4.09 ERA. That puts them about middle of the pack if you look at the entirety of the MLB. They’ve given up 10 runs and haven’t quite found that midseason form quite yet.
It’s not really the hits that are getting this bullpen down in the dumps. Their batting average against them is actually less than the starters. They’ve only given up 16 hits which puts them at 18th in the MLB in that category. You want to be in the bottom part of that category because it means you aren’t letting runners get on base by hits.
No, it’s not the hits given up.
Is it the strikeout totals? Not particularly. They’ve struck out 25 batters and are tied for second in the league in that category with the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees. Their K/9 is a 10.23. This bullpen has swing and miss stuff.
How about the walks?
Oh. There it is.
The Red Sox have walked 13 batters. That makes them 2nd in the MLB and 1st in the AL. Their BB/9 is 5.32 which is 3rd in the AL, only behind the Minnesota Twins and the rebuilding Chicago White Sox.
The problem was highlighted in the first game of the season by Joe Kelly. He came on in the 8th inning of a not-so-tight game and only recorded 1 out. He walked 3 batters, Carson Smith relieved him, walked another batter, and immediately let all of the batters score. It should have been a Red Sox win, but instead it was a loss.
The Red Sox saw this happen again in the Miami Marlins game on 4/3. Matt Barnes came on to close it out, walked 2 batters, and all of a sudden the game is tied and we’re going to extra innings.
For anyone who has ever played baseball video games, MLB The Show actually mentions that when the manager calls to the bullpen, he isn’t looking for the reliever to come in and immediately walk batters. It’s just not what you want.
There are still potential holes in the bullpen. Austin Maddox is likely to regain a role in the bullpen after a DL stint, along with Tyler Thornburg. Additionally, it is possible that Brian Johnson is relegated to the ‘pen after Pomeranz and Rodriguez return. It is an unfinished product, but walks are a killer.
Look, it’s super early. The bullpen could be lights out for the rest of the year, and this whole song could change. At the moment, however, the bullpen needs to throw strikes. They need to trust in their pitches and let the batter get himself out. If they keep it up with the walks, it’s going to sink this version of the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox will return home to face the Tampa Bay Rays in a 3 game set. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 ET on Thursday afternoon.