Red Sox reliever Fernando Abad has seen limited and inconsistent use all season long, but his stats indicate that he could be a weapon in the playoffs.
Though the race for the American League East division title remains one of the two-horse variety, the Boston Red Sox are, nevertheless, now locked into the 2017 postseason. That means it’s time to consider what the playoff roster will look like. The majority of the available spots are locked up, but a few remain up in the air. Those mostly lie in the bullpen.
One player who may get overlooked during the process of setting the roster is someone who has seemingly been forgotten all season long. Yet, Fernando Abad has done nothing but perform in the few opportunities he’s gotten, particularly against lefties. Manager John Farrell‘s refusal to utilize Abad this season has been perplexing, but it could work to Boston’s advantage if Abad finds his way into ALDS action.
Farrell’s reluctance to call upon Abad is likely a residual effect of the 31-year-old’s spotty work last season. After coming over to the Red Sox from the Minnesota Twins mid-season last year, the lefty put up a 1.66 WHIP and a 6.39 ERA in just 12.2 innings. While ERA hardly ever tells the whole story by itself, eight walks and 13 hits allowed in his 18 appearances speak of a pitcher who worked himself into trouble far too often.
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A year later, things look very different for Abad. He’s pitched 42.1 innings, and has issued just 12 walks. His ERA sparkles at 2.98, and his 1.16 WHIP positively glows. Lefties, his bread and butter, are hitting a measley .200 against him this season. For what it’s worth, righties own a .255 average against him, which ain’t too shabby, either.
Beyond his statistics, what makes Abad an intriguing postseason option is the fact that he’s relatively fresh. Spotty use throughout the season aside, Abad tossed only 5.2 innings in August, and has logged only 4.2 so far through September. Over the past 30 days, he’s seen action in just 8.1 innings. For the record, that places him behind guys like Blaine Boyer, Brandon Workman, and Austin Maddox. Maddox has pitched well, but his youth makes him hard to trust when it matters. As for Boyer and Workman, no statistic indicates that either should be more trustworthy than Abad.
The lesson of the past several postseasons has been that a deep, balanced bullpen can make a playoff run. Abad has proven this season that he deserves to be a part of that for the Red Sox. He’s displayed the necessary consistency, and could ably serve as the lefty specialist the Red Sox need.
Robby Scott, another lefty who’s been great most of the season, has tailed off recently. Scott has a 6.47 ERA over the past two months. Perhaps fatigue is getting to him; perhaps hitters are just finally figuring him out. Whatever the cause of Scott’s decline, the same can’t be said of Abad, who has only gotten stronger and owns a 1.86 ERA since August 1.
Abad is rested and ready, and has found his groove this season. He may not make the postseason roster, and Scott may not either. Yet, he has, at the very least, earned serious consideration.