The Boston Red Sox bullpen has a soft underbelly that was displayed in 2016 and now is magnified – walks.
There is a recipe and it is not found on any cooking show since it applies to how to create a disaster in baseball – pitching department. The main ingredient is one called walks or a base on balls or free pass. This particular recipe is being mastered by the Red Sox bullpen that seems to equate tossing a strike with getting an STD.
When you pitch behind you place yourself in a position of vulnerability. Batters are acutely aware of just what just what offerings pitchers have available. There are reams of information that clearly shows certain tendencies. Likewise, Mr. Hitter is also aware of when one or more pitches is not functioning up to standards and thus can narrow down to just what to expect.
The information is available to show how a favorable count impacts the batter as a positive. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball – argue elsewhere if you disagree, but even Kershaw for his career is vulnerable once you get a favorable count. Go 2-0 and a batter hits .321 and 2-1 it is .323. Reverse those and you have virtually no chance as 0-2 is .107 and 1-2 slightly more favorable at .121.
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That is what happens with the best pitcher in the game. With the current collection the Red Sox has amassed it certainly can make fans head for the Prozac when a sudden rash of walks suddenly and mysteriously surface.
In 2016 the Red Sox relief crew had a 14th position in the American League for BB/9 tied up at 3.69. Craig Kimbrel led all American League relievers (qualified) with a 5.09 BB/9. Joe Kelly managed a staggering 5.4 BB/9 in 40 innings. Fernando Abad registered 3.7 BB/9 with the Twins and 5.7 BB/9 with Boston in 2016. Matt Barnes a less than impressive 4.2 BB/9 in 66.2 innings. Heath Hembree just a 3.0 BB/9.
In the what were they thinking department comes the wave goodbye to Koji Uehara. Koji did remarkably well in Boston and left town with a career 1.5 BB/9. Even Junichi Tazawa registered 2.0 BB/9 with Boston. Seems that the sure way to get dumped in Boston is throwing strikes. Naturally, Tyler Thornburg and his career 3.7 BB/9 was a selling point. That, however, we may never know, since the Red Sox have finding damaged goods in the pitching department an art form.
What seems to surface with the Red Sox group is an inexplicable ability to suddenly just lose it. Walks start to collect like fruit flies to rotting pears and invariably the result is an “L” in the loss column or a brown out caused by excessive use of defibrillators as a shaky win is recorded.
Pitchers are far from perfect otherwise every game would be a never-ending no-hitter, but the fact is the Boston bullpen as currently constructed leaves little room for pitching malfeasance. Against the Tigers that became readily apparent as Hembree brought the gas can to the mound and Kelly provided the matches. A possible dramatic win became a staggering defeat.
The Tigers game will be symptomatic of the entire season for the Red Sox. Baseball circa 2017 depends upon a bullpen that can safely secure a win – occasional meltdowns are expected, but expect each call to the ‘pen to be nerve-racking.