Middle Innings: Grading the Red Sox bullpen over the first half of the season


It has been a frustrating first half of the season for Red Sox fans. With the team still below .500 and trailing in the AL East and Wild Card races, the next couple of weeks will have a major impact on the state of the franchise through the end of the 2014 season and beyond. The BoSox Injection staff looks back at the first half of the season: from the young guys taking their first hacks, to the veterans who may have overextended their welcome.

The Boston Red Sox bullpen has not pitched up to its previous lofty standards. In the first week of June, the bullpen had the lowest ERA in the American League and fourth lowest in the Majors. As of the All-Star break, the bullpen’s ERA has fallen to tenth overall and fifth in the American League. This is a review of how each pitcher, who has been with the team most of the season, has fared so far.

Overall Grade: B

Burke Badenhop (0-2, 2.01, 5 holds, 1 save, 27/39 inherited runners stranded)) has been very good so far this year, save for three appearances in July in which he gave up 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning. He had a scoreless frame before the break, and the team is hoping he can pull himself out of this brief funk.

Craig Breslow (2-2, 5.18, 2 holds, 8/9 IRS) has performed greatly below expectations. As with many in the bullpen, the 16-9 beating inflicted on the Red Sox by the Cubs on July 2nd hurt his ERA. He has not gotten on track all season and rarely pitches in high leverage situations.

Junichi Tazawa (1-1, 2.61, 9 holds, 16/23 IRS) has struggled of late with inherited runners, allowing 7 of the last 14 (5 of his last 6) to score, after stranding nine straight to start the year. Miller may be ahead of him on the depth chart, but he’s still trusted by Farrell in high leverage situations.

Chris Capuano (1-1, 4.55, 4 holds, 16/24 IRS) did not pitch well in June, or often, appearing in only five games in the month, allowing ten runs in four innings. The Red Sox released him on July 1st. He signed with the Colorado Rockies, who will try to switch him back into a starter.

Koji Uehara (1-1, 1.65, 11 saves, 6/8 IRS) has shown some chinks in the armor, blowing two wins for Jon Lester since the middle of June with a 4.50 ERA in his last 12 innings.

Edward Mujica (2-4. 5.45, 2 saves, 7/11 IRS) has been a disappointment, though better of late. His ERA is the lowest it has been all season. Mujica has given up only four runs in his last 13.2 innings (2.63 ERA). He has been trending upward while most of the other guys have been trending downward.

Andrew Miller (2-4, 2.23, 9 holds, 23/25 IRS) has been outstanding all season. He has allowed inherited runners to score just once this season with a 58/12 K/BB split on the year. That’s over 14 K per nine innings, everybody. He may have surpassed Tazawa as an eighth inning option, with one run allowed in his last 10.2 innings (0.84 ERA). He could close on most teams.

It would have been a surprise if they’d kept up the level of production they maintained through the end of May. From the beginning of June through July 18th, the bullpen has thrown 99 innings and been hit for a 4.54 ERA in that span (50 ER in 99 IP), a nearly two run jump from earlier in the season. There is something to be said for regressing to the mean, which might explain their fall in the last six weeks. A more consistent bullpen would be a boon for a team struggling to become relevant again in a rapidly dwindling season.