Red Sox should cut bait with Fernando Abad

Aug 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Fernando Abad (43) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Fernando Abad (43) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox can’t count on Fernando Abad to serve as the left-handed reliever they need in the bullpen.

You could sense what was about to happen as soon as Fernando Abad trotted through the bullpen gate on his way out to the mound. The lead that the Boston Red Sox were clinging to against the Baltimore Orioles was as good as gone.

Manager John Farrell had already pressed his luck by attempting to extend Matt Barnes beyond the two innings he successfully navigated in early relief of injured starter Eduardo Rodriguez. Barnes was left in the game to face a few too many batters, but Farrell compounded the issue by summoning Abad to relieve Barnes with a pair of runners on base and only one out.

What happened next was fairly predictable. The lefty Abad was counted on to face the left-handed Chris Davis, but promptly walked the slugger to load the bases. That was followed by a single to switch-hitter Matt Wieters that brought in two runs to cut the Red Sox lead to 3-2 before Abad mercifully was given the hook.

The box score will only show Abad giving up one run, as the walk to Davis would come back to bite them when he eventually crossed home plate to tie the game. However, that doesn’t factor in the two inherited runners that he allowed to score. Baltimore scored three times in the inning and Abad gets a share of the blame for each of them.

The heroics of Mookie Betts would rescue the Red Sox in the 8th, when his second homer of the game held up as the winning runs. That still doesn’t excuse the damage done by Abad in the previous inning.

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The Red Sox bullpen has had its fair share of issues, but Abad has been by far the worst of the options currently available. Since being acquired from the Minnesota Twins last month, Abad owns an 11.25 ERA and opponents are hitting a robust .368 with a 1.033 OPS against him. He has made seven appearances for the Red Sox and surrendered at least one run in four of them. Only once in those seven appearances has he retired the side in order for a full inning.

What did the Red Sox see in Abad when they decided to trade for him? The shiny 2.65 ERA he produced for the Twins may have fooled them, but his ERA is a lot less desirable now that it’s nearly a run higher.

Abad has held lefties to a .179 average and .538 OPS this season. That’s pretty good, but if they brought him in to be a lefty-specialist then why is Farrell leaving him in against right-handed hitters? While his numbers against left-handed hitters have been great this year, Abad has actually been significantly better against right-handed hitters over the previous three seasons. I’ll put more stock in the much larger sample size that shows he’s not an ideal lefty-specialist.

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So what is he? Not someone the Red Sox can count on, that’s for sure. If they want a lefty-specialist then they should turn to Robbie Ross, who has held lefties to a .161 average and .294 OPS.

Why did Farrell put his trust in Abad with the tying run coming to the plate while Ross sat in the bullpen and watched? Ross would be called upon in the eighth to face only one batter, striking out Davis to end the inning. If only Farrell had gone to that matchup in the seventh. If Ross gets the job done where Abad failed then Davis (the only intimidating lefty bat in Baltimore’s lineup) doesn’t get another turn in the lineup, negating the need for Ross in the eighth.

Farrell is like a child with a new toy, unable to resist playing with it even after it’s found to be broken. The results from his short tenure with the Red Sox indicate that Abad shouldn’t be used unless the game is already out of hand, yet five of the seven games he has been utilized have been decided by three runs or less.

If watching Abad take the mound puts knots in your stomach, it’s probably a good sign that he shouldn’t be brought in to any close game. If he’s relegated to mop-up duty then he holds little value to this team and is essentially wasting a roster spot.

Next: Heathcliff Slocumb redux

Abad has been nothing short of abysmal and it’s time for the Red Sox to admit that they made a bad move when they acquired him by cutting bait before he costs the team a much needed victory down the stretch.