Up: Joe Kelly
Few relievers got off to a better start than Joe Kelly. He was almost unhittable from April 1 through May 29. Across that span of games, totaling 25.2 innings, he allowed just a single earned run. However, June and July did not treat him nearly as well.
Across the middle months of the summer, Kelly pitched 18.1 innings and allowed 17 earned runs to cross the plate. He never found the rhythm he’d displayed over the season’s first two months, and the bullpen suffered for it. While other relievers rose to the occasion at various times, nobody truly stepped up to fill Kelly’s role. The Red Sox often struggled to get the ball into the hands of Kimbrel; if not for their otherworldly offense, the bullpen might have doomed the season.
Thankfully, in August, the Joe Kelly we all loved in April and May returned. He pitched 12.2 innings last month and surrendered just two earned runs. He also fanned 14 batters, after collecting 15 strikeouts in June and July combined. The Red Sox were expected to target a reliever at the trade deadline. That they did not left many scratching their heads. However, if the Joe Kelly of old is really back, that decision suddenly doesn’t look so bad.