Photo Credit: USATSI / CBS Sports
A huge point of emphasis has turned into a strength for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox bullpen has been a major topic throughout the course of the season. It has been scrutinized by thousands of fans and analysts as a point of weakness in a quest to win a World Series title. However, despite the question marks, it has performed admirably to this point.
Before the postseason began, Alex Cora continued to emphasize the trust that he had in the current unit.
“You look around the league in September, there were some great bullpens that became bad,” he said Wednesday before the Red Sox learned they will be facing the rival New York Yankees in the AL Division Series. “They were hit around. They were giving up leads.”
“It’s the nature of 162 games,” Cora explained. “We’re going to the same guys, and it seemed like some of them hit the wall.” – ESPN
The unwavering trust has paid dividends in both the ALDS & ALCS. The Red Sox bullpen has posted a 3.95 ERA over 27.1 innings of work thus far. Perhaps a more important facet is that Cora has managed to find a way to get Craig Kimbrel the ball with a lead on multiple occasions. In fact, the bullpen has a 100% success rate in getting to Kimbrel with a lead – a major point of emphasis.
The mediocre ERA number factors in everyone, but lowers to 2.59 if you remove a struggling Kimbrel from the equation. “Cardiac Craig” has certainly struggled to close games, but has been successful thus far. The number lowers again if you remove Brandon Workman‘s implosion in Game One of the ALCS – leaving a 1.13 ERA.
Obviously, you can’t remove performances to give the appearance of a better average; however that shows the effectiveness of the middle inning relievers. Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and Joe Kelly have been as good as expected in October. Each had a bit of postseason jitters, but the trio has combined to allow zero earned runs throughout their playoff work.
Additionally, Cora’s creativity to use Chris Sale and Rick Porcello out of the bullpen has further allowed for a strike-throwing bridge to reach their closer. They’ve combined to yield zero earned runs out of the bullpen, as well.
For a unit that “needed improvement,” they’ve performed admirably and earned the trust of their creative manager.