Red Sox: What’s Wrong With Junichi Tazawa?

May 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa (36) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Boston won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Junichi Tazawa (36) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Boston won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Red Sox Reliever Junichi Tazawa‘s struggles can no longer be ignored. In addition to his ascending ERA, inherited runners appear to be scoring at will.

Upon opening my laptop on Wednesday night, my preliminary objective was to propose a financially sensible, statistically sound means through which the Boston Red Sox might obtain a number two starting pitcher by entering into a mutual interchange with a certain baseball trading partner. However, as proceedings transpired at Fenway Park, I felt obligated to advance on to an alternative matter that, in my opinion, requires immediate address.

This matter has been exasperating me for quite some time; however, it reached a ferocious boiling point on Wednesday night, as the Red Sox commenced the eighth inning with an apparently insuperable 6-2 advantage over the Baltimore Orioles. My philosophies thoroughly convinced me that this game was over, for at no point did I ever attain the impression that said game was in jeopardy and I was enthusiastic to appreciate a smooth stress-free triumph.

More from BoSox Injection

Provided with a four-run advantage, as Steven Wright departed stage left with one out in the top of the eighth inning, bequeathing a runner on first base, even the spectacle of Junichi Tazawa could not intrude upon the sense of serenity that had enveloped me. I slipped into an even superior state of relaxation as Tazawa swiftly recorded the inning’s second out. In retrospect, I should have recognized the perilous situation into which the Sox were entering; after all, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

It was not long before the clock struck midnight, and Tazawa exposed his all-too-familiar distinctiveness of a run yielder. A booming double, followed by a single, and the lead that had taken hours to construct, required mere seconds to slice in half. Eventually, Tazawa induced a fly out to conclude the inning; however, it was too late. Clearly, the Red Sox emerged triumphant in said contest, hence the verbiage, “too late” does not refer to the outcome of the game. Instead, it refers to my perception of serenity and enjoyment that was to be consequential of a worry-free victory, a tranquility that has become increasingly elusive whenever Tazawa is inserted into a game in which the outcome remains in doubt.

Tazawa’s statistics for the season in totality actually appear rather impressive. However, one need not be a Sabermetrician to comprehend just how abysmally he has performed over the last three weeks.

More from Red Sox News

Tazawa pitched brilliantly for the Red Sox from Opening Day through May 27; his performance from May 28 until the present, for any reliever entrusted with securing a lead, has been nothing short of appalling.

First, I will merely expose his numbers from the two periods, substantiating my claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Second, I will relive some of these meltdowns as they are likely, although incorrectly, not rendered as disastrous when they occur in the seventh inning as opposed to the ninth inning.

Tazawa’s statistics, at least those produced from the commencement of the season until May 27, were worthy of serious All-Star Game consideration. During that period, he amassed 19.2 IP, while allowing 3 ER, 11 H, 5 BB and 25 SO. He was sporting a sparkling 1.37 ERA, plus, an often more telling metric, a 1.98 FIP. Perhaps even more impressive, were his peripheral metrics: a 0.82 WHIP, a .162 BAA, a .224 OBA, a .221 SLG, a 32.9% Strikeout Rate and a 6.6% Walk Rate. In addition, on five separate occasions he entered a contest with a grand total of seven inherited runners. On four out of the 5 occasions, no inherited runners were permitted to cross home plate, and of the seven who potentially could have, only one did, an excellent percentage.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Beginning on May 28, and subsisting through the present, Tazawa, has made seven appearances. During this period, he has accumulated 6 IP, while allowing 6 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 SO, generating a 9.00 ERA and a FIP of 6.43. His peripheral metrics consist of the following values: a 1.50 WHIP, a .280 BAA, a .360 OBA, a .600 SLG, a 24.0% Strikeout Rate, and an 8.0% Walk Rate. In addition, since he took a turn for the disastrous, on three separate occasions he entered a contest with a grand total of five inherited runners. On all 3 occasions, he allowed inherited runners to score, and quite shockingly, all five of the potential inherited runners were allowed to score.

Tazawa’s ERA began its consumption of Helium on Saturday May 28 in Toronto, a contest in which he was certainly not the only reliever to have a pitiable performance; however, the other culprits appear to have righted their ships. The Jays eventually won this contest in walk-off fashion in extra-innings by a score of 10-9. Nonetheless, Tazawa entered the contest in the bottom of the eighth inning with nobody out, runners occupying first and second base, and in possession of an 8-4 lead. Only seven pitches into Tazawa’s outing, the lead had vaporized from 8-4 to 8-7, as he had surrendered a single, followed by a double, and lastly, a wild pitch. He ended his 0.1 inning stint with a strikeout, but the damage was irreparably done.

This shall be the last excruciating reminiscence that I will elicit from the readers. On Thursday June 2 in Baltimore, the O’s were walloping the Red Sox 4-0 heading into the top of the sixth inning. The Sox proceeded to score five runs in that half-inning to claim a 5-4 advantage. Unfortunately, Porcello relinquished the lead in the bottom half of the sixth inning, as Mark Trumbo belted a solo shot, squaring the contest at five. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, while the score remained tied at five, Tazawa was called on with runners occupying first, and second base. The description of the following events is based on a general consensus, as no human could accurately recount said events in real time; there was a flash of light, a poof of smoke, and the speed with which Baltimore separated themselves from the Red Sox threatened the viability of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Next: Red Sox Sign Casey Janssen to Minor League Deal

11 pitches after Tazawa entered a game that was deadlocked at 5, he had recorded two outs, allowed two home runs, a three-run blast from Machado, and a solo shot from Alvarez, and in a nanosecond Baltimore had acquired a 9-5 lead, one that would propel them to a 12-7 victory.

Hopefully, Tazawa will regain the form that he demonstrated earlier in the season; however, if he is unable to do so, the Red Sox will be left with an enormous void to fill.