The current status of All-Star voting has focused on one team who is continuing the success they had in last year’s playoffs. Seven Kansas City Royals are leading their respective positions in the All-Star voting. No Red Sox position player is remotely close to being voted in so the Red Sox representative will be selected by All-Star manager Ned Yost, who is manager of the Royals. While Yost has one of the most fearsome bullpens in baseball, the Red Sox Junichi Tazawa should be at the top of his list of relievers, outside of Yost’s own team, to be selected for the Midsummer Classic played in Cincinnati this year on July 14.
Red Sox fans should remember how important Tazawa was to their championship run in 2013. Retiring All-World (though limited by injury at the time) Miguel Cabrera in key situations in games three and five of the AL Championship Series showed his premium value to the Red Sox bullpen. He has only gotten better since then. In 71 games in 2014, Tazawa posted a 2.86 ERA in 71 games as the primary set-up man for closer Koji Uehara.
In 2015, at age 29, when most players are reaching their prime, Tazawa is no exception to that general rule. Tazawa’s 1.40 ERA in 28 games (out of 60 games played for the team) leads the staff that has a 4.24 ERA overall (through games of June 9), ranking 24th in the majors. Taz’s .857 WHIP is a career best as well. Without Tazawa’s contribution, the Red Sox might be even worse off than their 27-33 record and last place position where they currently find themselves. Due to his effectiveness and importance in late game situations (also known as high leverage, where the game is on the line), Tazawa is on pace for 75 appearances this season, after logging 71 in each of the last two seasons.
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Though he has expressed interest in becoming a starter due to his ability to throw a variety of pitches, the Red Sox need him more in his current role. If there is a right handed batter who must be retired, Tazawa is holding them to a .130 batting average this season in 54 at-bats with no extra base hits.
Sometimes it takes sustained excellence to get a selection to the All-Star team when you are not a closer. Now in his fifth full season in the major leagues, Tazawa has shown that if Ned Yost selects him to the All-Star team, the American League squad will not need many runs to come out victorious in Cincinnati.