The alarms have sounded for the Boston Red Sox bullpen. Cast aside your angst as the playoff bullpen will be lean and mean.
The problem for the Red Sox this season is the ongoing drama that circulates around the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of the bullpen. I will most certainly contribute to the waste of internet ink with my own opinion – it is now meaningless until a playoff roster is determined.
One can wander the statistical wasteland with traditional and metric statistics, but, for me, this bullpen is collectively good, but not great. That, of course, is based on the season performance which has seen stretches where Heathcliff Slocumb would look good and other stretches where the bullpen was as stingy as any in baseball.
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One significant change will be which starter or starters are cut from the herd and sent packing to join their mates in the shelter of the bullpen. One change has already been implemented and that Is Nathan Eovaldi heading to the ‘pen. Eovaldi throws hard and Eovaldi has the one tiny statistical gem that catches my attention like shiny keys – a 2.3 BB/9 for Boston and a 1.7 BB/9 for the season.
The one item of discouragement with our bullpen collective is walks. Brandon Workman was in full display the other evening against the Yankees by walking the first two batters with the end result being a fond wave goodbye to the lead and a game. Workman has a 3.7 BB/9 which is actually good compared to some others.
Do you feel comfortable with Joe Kelly? I certainly do not since “Fighting Joe” has a remarkable propensity for walks (4.2 BB/9) and a sudden desire to pitch a wee bit too far inside with five hit batters. Kelly can be downright intimidating when he has his “stuff” going, but the question is just what Kelly will surface?
Kelly and Workman are but two examples of replaceable parts with Eovaldi going to the bullpen simply because Eovaldi is a tad more reliable. The same mixed pitching personality can also apply to Tyler Thornburg who has managed to give up six home runs in just 24 innings pitched. Workman has allowed six, also, and I am sure with the lineups that Houston, Cleveland, New York, and the A’s toss out this will have potential batting practice results. And don’t leave out Heath Hembree in the walk parade (4.3 BB/9) and a 1.3 HR/9.
The Red Sox could potentially have either Rick Porcello or Eduardo Rodriguez in the bullpen. That would certainly be an upgrade over Workman, Kelly, and Hembree. In the wild world of the playoffs manager’s patience is certainly not what it appears in the regular season and dipping into the starter reserve we saw last season with David Price, Chris Sale, and Justin Verlander. You simply go with your best and put pitch counts into the fireplace for warmth.
The speculation is now unfolding regarding who will make the cut? My assumption is Brian Johnson and Drew Pomeranz have about as much a chance as Heather Locklear asking me for a date. Hector Velazquez – dependable in the regular season may become a victim of starters moving to the bullpen.
And Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel – at least to me – are locks for round one. Maybe the surprising Bobby Poyner? But the reality is the regular season bullpen numbers need a different view since some of the more faulty contributors will be on the sidelines replaced by one or more from the rotation or simply cast aside as the pitching is pared down.
The Red Sox undoubtedly will use their own internal metrics and scouting to make the selection process as sound as possible when facing either New York or Oakland. What is certain is the configuration and expectations will change from what we have seen in the 162 game schedule. The bullpen and rotation will be fundamentally interchangeable with our best eight or nine against their best.