The Boston Red Sox bullpen received a significant upgrade with the late season performance of David Price. Price now has the opportunity for redemption for past playoff failures.
The postseason changes everything with pitching as witnessed in the Wild Card games. A quick hook that would make Sparky Anderson proud. Sparky was known as “Captain Hook” in the 1970’s when he managed Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine.” The fact is when your rotation is a bit tender you go to your strength and that was Anderson’s bullpen.
Looking at Fangraphs the top bullpens in the American League for 2017 were the Indians, Yankees, Red Sox and Astros. In September the figures were quite similar, but the Rays took over the third slot dropping Boston to fifth. That makes for interesting reading, but the dynamics change considerably in the ultimate crunch time – the playoffs.
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The starters will be watched for any signs of erosion and replaced quickly. The depth of the bullpens will be altered with the arrival of one or more starters who were excused from rotation duty. Starters who have a throwing session between starts may suddenly see that session being hauled to the mound in a crucial situation. Just think Madison Bumgarner in 2014 being called into Game Seven of the World Series to toss five shutout innings on two day’s rest.
The Red Sox through circumstance have now received a significant upgrade in their bullpen with David Price. Price’s late-season return from nagging arm injuries alters manager John Farrell’s decision making since Price can (hopefully) provide quality multiple innings. Knowing his inning limitations certainly, stifles any pacing as a pitcher would normally do realizing six or seven innings are expected and Price can use his fastball with abandon.
I expect the key to each series will be the bullpens. The Red Sox will also have the addition of another starter relegated to spot duty. Eduardo Rodriguez is considered the lefty most likely to join Price in the bullpen and that can alter the need for either Robby Scott or Fernando Abad. E-Rod – as with Price – will allow an early departure of a roughed up starter, with the idea they can keep things under control as the offense attempts to get them back in the game.
The last starter on the playoff rosters is Doug Fister. Fister provides some noteworthy games during the regular season and – unfortunately – a few that were forgettable. Fister, as with Price and Rodriguez, does have the ability to pitch multiple innings. But the key remains Price.
The Red Sox traditional bullpen pitchers will be fluid as the Red Sox progress in the playoffs. If the team moves into the next round and the World Series you will see the development by Farrell of his bullpen depth chart, but the Red Sox do have that one game changer in Price. Price is – for me – the one pitcher with the potential to put the Boston bullpen on top.
Price’s Boston legacy could be made in 2017 with his bullpen work. Price has much to prove and we have already been witness to his reaction when his playoff debacles are mentioned. This is payback time for Price and his golden opportunity to place in the pitching rear view mirror past failures. If Price pitches with the same intensity and fervor as September the Red Sox may have the deciding arm in the bullpen.