Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-

New Look Red Sox Bullpen to Deliver Same Old Results

While the Red Sox starting rotation isn’t any closer to being finalized, one thing we do know is who is going to occupy the bullpen.  Aside from a minor move and/or tweak during Spring Training, the main culprits appear to be set and the bullpen band certainly has a few new faces.

We’ve come to appreciate a bullpen that arguably had one of the best one-two punches in the major leagues.  That combo is gone, but we now have an intriguing new set-up man and closer who could prove to do some pretty big things in Boston. With that, let’s take a look at some of the projections for the bullpen members. 

‘The Closer’

Other than Bobby Valentine, no other Red Sox player will be under the microscope more than Andrew Bailey this year.  All he has to do is try and make Red Sox fans forget about Jonathan Papelbon.  And he just might be able to do so.

Bailey has averaged 25 saves during his first three seasons as big league closer.  RotoChamp, courtesy of fangraphs.com  has the new ninth inning specialist saving a career high 35 games in 2012.  This is great news for Sox fans.  His ERA is projected to be higher than his career average but still coming in at a good 2.85.  His strikeout ratio is good, 8.85K/9 and his walk ratio is ok, 2.55BB/9.  His WHIP is right in line with where it needs to be as a closer, 1.03.  Excellent….

If Bailey can produce these types of numbers Red Sox fans will be saying what song did Papel-who come out to?

 

‘The Set-Up Man’

Mark Melancon will have a new role with his new team.  During his time in Houston, Melancon was the closer.  Now he’s being asked to become the eighth inning specialist and get the game to Bailey.  This move was a brilliant one by Cherington in my opinion.  Should Bailey struggle then Melancon will be waiting in the wings to provide some closer relief.

His numbers, like Bailey’s, are projected to be good.  A record of 3-3 with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP to go along with 8.10K/9 and 3.30BB/9.  Bill James has Melancon saving sixteen ball games as well.  As I said, a nice one-two combo if forming here.  On night’s when Bailey needs a break, Valentine has a nice option to turn the ball over to a proven reliever in Melancon.  Last year in Houston he saved 20 ball games while sporting a 2.78 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.

 

‘Middle Relief’

The rest of the bullpen band will also look considerably different than last season with Bard and Aceves having the opportunities to make it as a starter.  I believe Bard will stick and while I wish the best for Alfredo, I do prefer to have him in the ‘pen where he excelled last season.

Bill James has Aceves making just two starts so we’ll use his numbers over RotoChamp’s for that reason alone.  An 8-5 record, 3.43 ERA, 1.24 WHIP 6.48K/9 and 3.28BB/9.  Similar numbers to last season with only the ERA being higher.  If Aceves can again provide some brilliant middle relief for the seventh inning, snag a few spot starts and be one of the best arms out of the bullpen, then this could be a fantastic trio to watch this season.  Can the Sox catch lightning in a bottle two year’s in a row with Aceves?

 

‘Long Relief’

The remaining bullpen arms don’t have projections for them for this upcoming year, so let’s look at last year’s numbers and what we can expect from them moving forward.

Gone are Dan Wheeler and Kyle Weiland, leaving Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Franklin Morales, Bobby Jenks, Felix Doubront, Tommy Hottovy, Junichi Tazawa, Scott Atchison, Michael Bowden and rehabbing Rich Hill to fight it out for the final spots.

Bobby Jenks could be the biggest surprise on the team in 2012.  After a frustrating 2011 campaign, Jenks will need to prove to the Sox and the rest of baseball that he can still deliver the goods at the elite level.  If he can, Jenks could become a valuable asset as a long relief or middle relief option.  Hopefully he’s ready for Opening Day after recovering from his most recent surgery.  Here’s to hoping we see a new and improved Bobby Jenks in 2012.  After all, he is getting paid $6 million this year, let’s see him earn it.

Franklin Morales likely has a job as the left-handed specialist again and will hopefully see an addition to that role so he doesn’t have to take the brunt of the duties.  While he did do a nice job when he came to Boston last season, another option would be a safer feeling.

Andrew Millerwill most likely pick up some spot starts as he did last year, providing he can show he’s major league ready this year.  Last year many felt he was rushed to the show due to Boston’s rotation being decimated with injury. A long relief role would be the perfect spot for Miller to learn the game a little more and develop his pitches.

The rest will be in a dog fight to see who gets to fly to the next city or who will be stuck riding the bus in AAA.  Throw in the likes of Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, Jesse Carlson and Carlos Silva all vying for a spot on the 25 man roster and suddenly Spring Training will have much more competition to it than what we’ve seen in the past.

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Tags: Aaron Cook Alfredo Aceves Andrew Bailey Andrew Miller Bobby Jenks Boston Red Sox Carlos Silva Dan Wheeler Daniel Bard Felix Doubront Franklin Morales Houston Astros Jonathan Papelbon Junichi Tazawa Kyle Weiland Mark Melancon Michael Bowden Scott Atchison Tommy Hottovy Vicente Padilla

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