Red Sox: A revisit to the core of the 2004 bullpen
By Rick McNair
A Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series in 2004 had a bullpen that delivered when needed most – especially Keith Foulke.
There are certain things in life you tend to attempt to diminish since they may be emotionally painful or bring back memories of physical pain. As a Red Sox fan the older you are, the more of these memories you have buried with the most recent being game seven of the ALCS against the New York Yankees in 2003. That game alone could provide a lifetime of baseball angst.
In the offseason, the Red Sox reloaded as they attempted to close the gap between themselves and the Yankees. In 2003 the Red Sox won 95 games, but New York shattered the 100 barriers with 101 wins. Both Pokey Reese and Mark Bellhorn were brought in to give infield help, but the two blue plate signings revolved around pitching – Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke.
The Boston staff of 2003 was 4th in the American League in fWAR at 21.5. The Yankees (yawn) were first with an fWAR of 28.6. Just possible that Schilling would add that missing piece of another top of the line starter. The bullpen in 2003 had 36 saves and 21 blown saves so the addition of Foulke was a stabilization of that key pitching component.
The Red Sox staff in 2004 improved their collective fWAR to 20.6 which put them in second place. The starters finished first with an 18.2 fWAR. The bullpen register 36 saves, but only 13 blown saves so there was an incremental improvement. The team finished in second place but improved by three wins.
One thing consistently surfaced as a positive and that was Foulke, Mike Timlin, and Alan Embree out of the bullpen. The three became increasingly important and that was especially evident in the playoffs. That was the core of the bullpen.