Red Sox Bullpen: Analyzing four internal closer candidates

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DETROIT, MI – JULY 7: Heath Hembree #37 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the ninth inning at Comerica Park on July 7, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Sox defeated the Tigers 6-3. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

After winning the job towards the middle of the season, Brandon Workman established himself as the Red Sox closer. Will he keep the job headed into 2020?

It was well-known entering the 2019 MLB season that the Red Sox bullpen was not their strong-suit. For the first few months of the season, everything seemed to go south and hurt the already fragile bullpen.

Alex Cora tried to get the most out of the bullpen by not assigning roles. This lack of structure backfired as Ryan Brasier forgot how to pitch once the calendar turned to May, and Matt Barnes was gassed as he faced the heart of the order night-in and night-out. The bullpen failure was definitely a part of the Red Sox early-season failures.

To make matters worse, the starting rotation wasn’t effective which led to stressful innings being tacked to the workload. The starters also didn’t go very deep into the games leading to over-usage and burning out Boston’s relievers. The bullpen was a colossal failure at the beginning of June – Brasier was soon to be sent to Triple-A and Barnes’ ERA inflated to above 4.00 by the end of a walk-off loss to the White Sox on June 26.

The bullpen eventually stabilized and was a little better. From the ashes of the remains of the Red Sox bullpen, Brandon Workman rose. Apart from walks, he had one of the best relief seasons you can hope for as he ended the season as the defined closer with 10 wins, an ERA below 2.00, and a 13.1 SO/9.

Barnes pulled himself together by the end of the season as his workload was diminished. Having a similar pitching style to his buddy, Workman, he posted similar numbers by the time the 2019 season was over. He had a 5.3 BB/9, 15.4 SO/9, and a 3.78 ERA. While that wasn’t close to as good as Workman, if you take out June,  it’s clear the right-hander had it figured out for the majority of the season.

Towards the end of the season, new pitchers emerged as legitimate arms in the Red Sox bullpen. Two lefties, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor were dominant to close out the season. While it is unlikely, both contain the pitching arsenal to gain consideration for the 2020 closer role. Hernandez has an electric fastball, but lacks control. Taylor also throws pretty hard, mid-90’s, but doesn’t have the dominant stuff of his counterpart. However, Taylor had better numbers with a 159 ERA+ compared to 109 for Hernandez.

With there being four internal candidates that will garner discussion as to who should be the 2020 closer, let’s analyze each case to figure out who will be the most likely 2020 closer option.

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