MLB Standings Watch: Boston Red Sox bullpen issues


The struggles of the Boston Red Sox starting rotation have been well documented, but lately it’s the bullpen that has been of greater concern.

Red Sox relievers have already surrendered 35 runs in only 64.2 innings since the All-Star break. That unsightly 4.87 ERA is nearly as troubling as the figure Boston’s last place starting rotation has produced this season. It’s also significantly higher than the 4.68 ERA produced this season by the Texas Rangers’ league worst bullpen.

Tuesday night’s loss to the New York Yankees serves as the latest example, as the bullpen’s woes spoiled the debut of Henry Owens. The promising young lefty took the loss, despite leaving with a 2-1 lead, when Robbie Ross was unable to bail him out of a jam. Ross allowed both inherited runners to score, along with another run that was charged to him, as the Yankees pulled ahead in what would turn out to be a blowout. Red Sox relievers were pounded for 10 runs (9 earned) in their 4 innings of work to close out the night.

You look around the league and you see teams like the Yankees and Royals thriving behind dominant bullpens. Even with a shaky starting rotation those teams are able to compete because they know if they can hold a lead through 6 innings, their lights out bullpen will take care of the rest. Boston doesn’t have that luxury.

The Red Sox will have their work cut out for them when it comes to revamping this bullpen. Historically it has been unwise to invest heavily in expensive long-term deals for middle relievers due to the volatile nature of the position, but it’s time to change that way of thinking given how the game is evolving.

Instead of shelling out $25 million per year for the ace everyone has been clamoring for, perhaps it would be more beneficial to spend that money on a trio of dominant relievers to solidify what could become one of the game’s best bullpens.

AL East Standings
(Division standings as of Wednesday morning)

(American League team building momentum)

Toronto Blue Jays: Last week I put the Jays in the Falling section of this column, where I discussed how upgrading their shortstop position from Jose Reyes to Troy Tulowitzki wasn’t enough to overcome their deficit in the standings. Toronto already had the league’s best offense, but what they really needed was to upgrade their pitching.

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It didn’t take the Jays long to answer the call, as they swooped in soon after to acquire David Price from the Detroit Tigers. There were a lot of big names changing hands at a very active deadline this year, but none bigger than Price, who is 4th in the league with a 2.45 ERA and 149 strikeouts. The former Cy Young winner solves Toronto’s biggest weakness by giving them a top of the rotation starter to anchor their rotation.

Toronto has posted a major league best +112 run differential, which has come mostly on the strength of a juggernaut offense that has averaged 5.2 runs per game. Their pitching has been below average and they had a massive hole at the back of their rotation, where they had been using former Red Sox cast off Felix Doubront.

A week ago it seemed like an uphill battle for this team to make the postseason for the first time since 1993, but their recent surge in the wake of the trade deadline has coincided with the overachieving Twins starting to scuffle. Now Toronto is in control of the second Wild Card spot, and with Price and Tulo on board they could become a very dangerous team once the postseason rolls around.

(American League team that is struggling)

Detroit Tigers: Despite sitting only 4 games out of a Wild Card spot, the Tigers waived the white flag on this season by shipping impending free agents Price and Yoenis Cespedes out of town.

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Detroit did well to restock a barren farm system, acquiring left-handers Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt from Toronto, while adding right-handers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa from the Mets in the Cespedes trade. This seems like the right move if the Tigers don’t expect to contend this season and weren’t planning on re-signing either player, but it didn’t take long after these moves were made for general manager Dave Dombrowski to be relieved of his duties.

The Tigers were built to win now, but instead they carry a losing record and will likely be on the outside looking in when the postseason begins. You know, just like the Red Sox. That type of disappointment is bound to bring about drastic changes, so these deadline deals may just be the start of overhauling a roster littered with expensive long-term deals that appear destined to fall well short of living up to their value.

Playoff Outlook
(Division leaders and teams holding a Wild Card spot in the American League)

AL East: New York Yankees (60-45)
AL Central: Kansas City Royals (63-42)
AL West: Houston Astros (60-48)
Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels (56-50)
Wild Card: Toronto Blue Jays (56-52)