Over the last three seasons, perhaps no Red Sox player has emerged as much as Junichi Tazawa. An afterthought entering the 2012 season, Tazawa was shuttled up and down between Boston and Pawtucket throughout the year and posted excellent results in Boston. Tazawa converted that performance into a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2013 and cemented himself as an excellent setup man in the back of the Red Sox’ bullpen. Throughout those three years though, Tazawa has had one unusual weakness and in the Red Sox’ most recent series, that held true: Tazawa simply cannot face the Toronto Blue Jays.
It is getting to the point where it’s barely even small sample size anymore. Tazawa has faced the Blue Jays 16 times for 15.1 innings in his career, both the third most against any team, and in that sample, he has struggled to a 7.63 ERA and has allowed a staggering 7 home runs and 23 hits.
Tazawa faced the Blue Jays once in the most recent series in Toronto and those struggles continued. In his sole appearance, Tazawa went only a third of an inning while allowing four hits and two earned runs on a home run by Juan Francisco.
I won’t even begin to theorize why Tazawa struggles so much against the Blue Jays: a team that has been roughly average for the last twenty or so years. However, as a relief pitcher– a breed subjected to small sample sizes and generally abnormal statistical circumstances– Red Sox management will just have to adjust. Though it sounds strange to say, it is just unwise at this point to pitch Tazawa against the Blue Jays regardless of the circumstances. Hopefully either John Farrell adjusts or Tazawa rights the ship, but one of them will have to happen soon. Who knows? Maybe given the inconsistencies of relief pitchers, Tazawa is just about to break out and have a three year sustained run of dominance against the Jays. You never know.