Red Sox: 2017 bullpen has more depth than we’ve ever seen

Feb 20, 2016; Lee County, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) and relief pitcher Robbie Ross Jr. (28) walk to work out at Jet Blue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2016; Lee County, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) and relief pitcher Robbie Ross Jr. (28) walk to work out at Jet Blue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

As it stands now, the Boston Red Sox bullpen has more depth than we’ve ever seen, with several guys that throw hard, strikeout batters, and have a good ERA.

It’s been well-established that Dave Dombrowski has had his issues building a bullpen for his teams in the past. This year however, he has constructed quite the ‘pen for the Boston Red Sox.

I took a look at the bullpens from the championship teams, and compared them to this year’s bullpen. For the comparison I used the back end of the bullpen from each team: the closer and two of the setup men.

The “Speed” column represents the average velocity of their fastball. I also used K/9 to show how frequently each pitcher gets a strikeout and threw in ERA as another measuring tool.

Keith Foulke2004888.62.17
Mike Timlin2004926.64.13
Alan Embree2004926.44.13
Jonathan Papelbon20079413.01.85
Hideki Okajima2007888.22.22
Mike Timlin2007905.03.42
Koji Uehara20139012.21.09
Junichi Tazawa2013949.53.16
Craig Breslow2013905.01.81
Craig Kimbrel20179814.13.40
Tyler Thornburg20179412.12.15
Joe Kelly20179810.71.02
Other potential setup guys
Carson Smith179311.82.31
Robbie Ross17949.13.25
Matt Barnes17989.64.05

*Note: Joe Kelly’s stats are from his time as a reliever. His starts from last year have been excluded. Also, Carson Smith’s stats are from 2015 since he only pitched in a few games last year.

As you can see, this year’s bullpen is rare. The past teams had a guy that threw hard OR a guy that struck out a lot of batters. The only one who really did both was Jonathan Papelbon. This year’s bullpen has six guys that can throw hard and strike people out at the end of games.

More from Red Sox News

Having a bullpen that throws hard is not vital to a team’s success. Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow from the 2013 team had trouble touching 90, and they were both dominant. However, it’ll be fun to watch pitcher after pitcher come in and throw heat. 

The strikeouts are important though. Having a K/9 of 9.0 means that the pitcher is striking out one batter, on average, every inning they pitch.

Having the ability to strikeout at least a batter per inning is good because that means each pitcher that comes in has the ability to limit the damage and get out of a jam. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out, a strikeout completely changes the inning.

The plethora of good relievers is also important because it shortens the game. Look at what the Royals did in 2015. Their three-headed monster of Herrera-Davis-Holland made it so that their starting pitchers had to keep it close for only 6 innings. The way the bullpen is set up this year, the Red Sox can follow a similar format where they shorten the game.

Craig Kimbrel will definitely remain the closer. Last year he struck out batters at an incredible 14.1 K/9 clip. The trade for Tyler Thornburg likely means that he’ll be the setup man for Kimbrel. He had the best year of his career last year with a 12.1 K/9 and a 2.15 ERA. That leaves Joe Kelly, Carson Smith (once he return from his injury around June), Robbie Ross, and Matt Barnes, all of whom strikeout at least a batter an inning.

The Red Sox will have the ability to use their pitchers depending on the matchups. Some hitters have more success off of certain pitchers. The Red Sox have several different reliable pitchers, so they can look at the numbers and put in the right pitcher to get a big strikeout.

Next: Is Devers the next Bogaerts?

This year’s bullpen is loaded with talent. It will be exciting to watch them pitch every day.