5 bold predictions for the 2023 Boston Red Sox
Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen will lead the league in saves
Why it could happen: Jansen led the National League with 41 saves last season with the Atlanta Braves. It's the fourth time in his career that he has notched 40+ saves and his 391 career saves are the eighth-most in MLB history. Jansen is the elite closer that the Red Sox have lacked in recent years.
The Red Sox had one of the worst bullpens in baseball last season, producing a collective 4.59 ERA that rated as the fifth-worst in the majors. Boston logged 39 saves as a team, tied for the 12th-fewest. Red Sox relievers were charged with 33 losses, tied for the eighth-most.
Jansen wasn't the only move the Red Sox made to fortify their bullpen though. Chris Martin, Joely Rodriguez and Richard Bleier provide depth to a core of relievers that was dangerously thin last year. An improved bullpen means fewer blown leads before the Red Sox can hand the ball to their closer in the ninth, meaning the potential for more save opportunities.
Jansen has converted 88.3% of his career save opportunities. If the Red Sox can keep a lead long enough for a save situation, they can trust Jansen to slam the door shut.
Why we can't lock it in: Jansen's league-leading save total last year came while serving as the closer for a 101-win Braves team. I realize that I started this article by saying we're focusing on the positive, but even the most optimistic among us can't rationally predict this year's Red Sox team to top the century mark in wins. Not every win is going to present a save situation so it's going to be tough for Jansen to approach 40+ saves if his team's win total doesn't reach the 80s.
I'm not overly concerned about Jansen's ability when he's on the mound but it's fair to acknowledge that he's a 35-year-old pitcher whose 3.38 ERA last year was the second-worst of his career. He's still a reliable closer but he might be falling out of the elite category.
The greater concern is how Jansen will adjust to the new pitch clock rule. The veteran closer is notoriously the slowest pitcher in the league with runners on base. Jansen will undoubtedly figure it out but there is the potential for a slow start as he adjusts to speeding up his delivery.