Red Sox: Bullpen help need not apply

Photo Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky

I am proposing the very last thing most would do with the Red Sox bullpen – nothing. Do you feel lucky? With this team I do. Players have consistently stepped up.

Do you feel lucky?

Never underestimate the value of pitching since you never have enough.  This is playing out this season with the Red Sox rotation and the scrum that is happening in the fifth spot in the rotation. Just when Steven Wright starts to contribute at a high level down he goes. David Price had an early issue that put pressure on the rotation.  One hamstring or tender elbow and the season will slowly drain away.

This, however, is all about the bullpen. The Red Sox statistically have the third best ‘pen in the American League with a 4.3 fWAR – just behind the Yankees and the Astros. The deeper statistics – traditional and metrics – show a remarkable consistency. Third in ERA (3.23), third in FIP (3.36), third in GB% (45.8), and third in LOB% (78.1). The negative is a 3.38 BB/9 that places the Boston ‘pen in the statistical middle.

The Red Sox have a reliance on Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, and Craig Kimbrel. They represent the shock troops to finish off a game. All four also provide the bulk of that nasty BB/9 with Kimbrel at a 3.58 BB/9 and climbing up to Barnes at a 4.31 BB/9. But Barnes, in particular, is having a phenomenal season with a 2.10 FIP and a 12.9 K/9.

Bullpens usually dissipated with depth – the deeper you go the more questionable the talent level. Hector Velazquez is 6-0, but his 10.5 H/9 is scary since Velazquez pitches to contact.  That said Velazquez does excellent duty in long relief roles and the occasional spot start. The rest of the ‘pen has their good moments and bad moments as do most bullpens.

There is always the possibility of a suddenly hidden gem surfacing such as veteran Ryan Braiser or Brandon Workman finding his talent after extended injuries.  Maybe Tyler Thornburg will find the pitching magic that made him one of the best? And Bobby Poyner has a future.

I will go against the grain and my own philosophy and stay the course.  Simply do not trade. No Addison Reed this year. Of course, for a very low price, Zach Britton could tempt me, but I’ll pass expecting the price would be too high. Go with what you have.

What I propose is a risky move that has a yellow tape danger marker surrounding it. Relying on Justin Haley, Marcus Walden, Jalen Beeks, and Robby Scott to fill out the bottom of the bullpen is most certainly attempting to tightrope Niagara Falls in a blizzard, but I say accept the risk.  Trust in the previously mentioned to provide the necessary pitching spackle. You brought them to camp and now that confidence needs to be extended.


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About Rick McNair

Born in Boston and have lived in the area all my life but not as a Red Sox fan. My first game was actually at Braves Field where I saw a very young Eddie Matthews hit a home run. The Braves left and I quickly switched loyalties. I enjoy discussing the Red Sox past and the connection of that past to the present. I will often bring in remembrances of that into posts. As a retired teacher I have the time to occasional travel to foreign baseball soil and love meeting up with other fans of RSN on the road. I am also a fan of the NY Football Giants (via NJ) - a dwindling breed in Massachusetts.
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