Evaluating the 2019 season of Boston Red Sox reliever/closer Brandon Workman and assigning a grade based on how his production lived up to expectations.
The breakdown area in the bullpen was obvious and that was at closer with the departure of Craig Kimbrel. Many tried and many failed until an actual pitching product of the farm system surfaced the last two months and took the job. How good was the 31-year-old right-hander Brandon Workman? The Reliever of the Month in the American League for September.
Numbers can lie or numbers can tell the truth and Workman delivered some special numbers for 2019 starting with a 10-1 record. Workman posted a 1.88 ERA and 2.46 FIP, saved 16 games, 13.1 K/9, and is credited with a 2.1 fWAR. This followed a 2018 season when Workman went 6-1 and 3.27 ERA.
The negative on Workman is invariably the negative that is an albatross for too many pitchers and that is walks. Workman had a 5.7 BB/9 for 2019, but the previous season it was a 3.5 BB/9. Another plus to offset walks is a minuscule 3.6 H/9 for the curveball specialist.
Curveball is the optimum word when discussing Workman who does not have an overpowering fastball (93.2v). But that curve! Workman – to use an old baseball phase – can “pull the string” since his knee buckler comes in 80.8v. Digging deeper Workman has another tidbit of note in his 73 innings pitched – just one home run. An amazing statistic considering the wiffle ball home stats for 2019.
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I listed Workman with a slash since his season started primarily in various setup roles with increasing exposure to – using a quaint baseball term – earning higher leverage situations. Eventually, manager Alex Cora surrendered Workman to closer as attrition caused others to fall into the baseball ditch. Workman – who had 15 holds – became resident closer and his September award showed he may have locked down the position. Six blown saves took Workman down a notch.
The Red Sox have pronounced financial limitations for 2020 and possibly beyond and Workman can certainly squeeze into their budget for 2020. In 2019 Workman pocketed $1.15 Million and will receive a well-earned bounce for 2020 – his last year of arbitration.
Workman is the projected closer since no one else has succeeded in the role or is projected to challenge Workman as the closer. Even with arbitration, the money will be a comfortable savings for Boston and for Workman a follow-up season that builds positively on 2019 will place Workman in an envious position entering free agency.
The key quite naturally is just how Workman does to follow-up? Workman’s success will be integral to the bullpen as the closer role will be a set-piece and Cora and his staff can concentrate on the remaining arms and defining their roles.