The Boston Red Sox bullpen still holds some questions. Joe Kelly isn’t one of them though, and he should be seen in high-pressure situations in 2018.
Who were the Boston Red Sox best bullpen arms last season? Obviously Craig Kimbrel was the best, but what about after him? Austin Maddox had a 0.52 earned run average, while Carson Smith‘s was just 1.35. Joe Kelly was next up with a 2.79 ERA with Brandon Workman and Fernando Abad not too far behind.
Even though ERA is important, it’s not the only factor. For example, Maddox and Smith combined for just 24 innings on the year, while Kelly threw 58. The larger sample size is much more impressive.
Meanwhile, Kelly regained his strikeout ability later in the season, finishing with 52 on the year. 24 of those came over his last 20 2/3 innings.
Now, if you look at the numbers, Kelly struggled mightily in the second half of the season. Most of his troubles came immediately after returning from injury though, so that could be chalked up to a readjustment period.
Even with the “rough patch” in the second half of the season, Kelly’s numbers were fantastic. His 2.79 ERA was accompanied by a 1.19 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP). Finally, opponents hit just .202 against him with only three home runs over those 58 innings.
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On most occasions, the highest-pressure situations will be given to Kimbrel. He’s not always going to be available for use though. Then the question becomes which non-Kimbrel pitchers to use in tough spots.
The only answer is Joe Kelly. I’m extremely high on a few arms in Boston’s bullpen. I think Maddox can be the real deal, and Smith is a proven stud.
Maddox has just 17 1/3 Major League innings under his belt though. Meanwhile Smith has been the victim of injuries since joining the Red Sox. In two years he has only thrown 9 1/3 regular season innings.
It’s going to be tough (at least early on) to put much trust in those two late in games.
Then there’s Tyler Thornburg. Although he’s another great arm, he threw a total of zero pitches last season.
To review – Joe Kelly is the only Red Sox reliever not named Craig Kimbrel who has given Boston actual innings over the last two seasons, and done so extremely effectively.
He has a murderous repertoire of pitches that includes a fastball that averaged 99-MPH. The former starter is also looking more comfortably as a reliever every time he steps on the mound.
His track record is starting to speak for itself. When the Red Sox find themselves in need of some big outs, Joe Kelly should be on speed dial.