It will be a season-long trend, but the Red Sox bullpen roles will be shifting soon.
The Red Sox bullpen was a hot topic throughout the offseason for a variety of reasons. Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel were not retained by the defending World Series champions, and much was made about the obvious weakness that existed in the late innings. However the need was not addressed, but rather met with the expectation that they’d produce from within.
Ryan Brasier was the darling reliever of the 2018 season. He was barely given an opportunity to make the club, but ultimately ended up as a key reliever in the Red Sox journey to a World Series title. Brasier posted a 1.60 ERA over 33.2 innings last season, earning himself an opportunity to perform in high leverage spots in 2019. Statistically speaking, a .200 BABIP against Brasier suggested that there would be somewhat of a statistical regression from last season to this one; however lately he’s proven to be a liability.
While given the opportunity to close out games early on (earning 6 saves), Brasier has struggled to the tune of an 11.25 ERA in May. His roster spot with the Red Sox does not appear to be in jeopardy, given Tyler Thornburg‘s still on the club, but it’s clear that he needs a chance to get settled in low leverage spots.
Here’s a look at his numbers in different opportunities:
Meanwhile, Marcus Walden has proven to be the darling of the 2019 season. He earned a spot on the Opening Day roster last season, but ultimately ended up in Pawtucket. In 2019, Walden has capitalized on his opportunity and has earned high leverage situations for his valiant effort thus far. The Red Sox reliever has posted a 1.46 ERA / 0.69 WHIP / 10.95 K/9 while emerging as a key piece of Alex Cora‘s bullpen.
Walden’s emergence can be focused on the development of his slider. His put-away pitch has garnered a .176 BAA and a 47.1% strikeout rate, while giving hitters fits in the early stages of this season. Additionally, one (!) batter has found the barrel against Walden this season, a 1.8% which would rank in the top three percent in all of baseball.
While Brasier was the darling last season, it’s quite evident that Marcus Walden has the opportunity to fill that role this season. Don’t be surprised to see the Red Sox deploy Walden in big spots, similar to last night against the Colorado Rockies.