Major League Baseball teams live or die by the bullpen. In today’s game, especially with so many restrictions on starting pitchers, they need guys out there who can give them three or four innings on any given night. For the 2015 Boston Red Sox, their bullpen has been anything but reliable. As a fan or a coach, you never know what you’re going to get when one of their relievers enters the game — no matter the situation in which they enter. When a reliever enters a game, you want the batter to fear what is about to come, you want them to tremble as the pitcher runs or walks to the mound. You don’t want them to think they even have a chance. But for batters facing the Boston Red Sox bullpen, they do not fear what is about to come. They are not second guessing themselves as they enter the box, and know they have a great shot to make something happen.
I’m not sure how often this happens in Major League Baseball, but I do not expect to see any current members of the Boston Red Sox bullpen on the team in 2016. It is a group they need to move on from, a group that will only hold them back going forward. Possibly the only question is what do they wish to do with closer Koji Uehara? He has done nothing in his time with the Sox but succeed, and he helped to bring a world championship to Boston. It might be a split decision among ownership and management if they wish to keep him in his last year of a $9 million deal. Moving on from an iconic Boston closer is not easy. But it’s something the Red Sox are familiar with, as they parted with their eccentric closer Jonathon Papelbon after the 2011 season, an unpopular move among fans. Perhaps a homecoming is in store? Maybe.
With Uehara on the disabled list and Junichi Tazawa a shell of his old self, the Red Sox have had no reliable reliever all year. Harsh, but true. No lead has been safe when someone out of that pen enters the game. Craig Breslow and Tommy Layne have been anything but consistent as lefty options, which probably makes the Sox miss the services of the oh-so-loved Hideki Okajima during his time in Boston. But wait, what about Robbie Ross? He hasn’t been a complete train wreck, but I don’t believe he is a lock to return in 2016. Let’s look at the numbers for the 2015 Boston Red Sox bullpen. Although not the worst in the league according to the stats, it is still not pretty by any means.
[table caption=”Major League Bullpen Statistics”]
I believe that the Yankees, without a doubt, have the most dominant bullpen in baseball; a bullpen that will get them into the playoffs. Dellin Betances strikes out every better he faces, along with Adam Warren who has solidified himself as a late-inning stud as well. Chasen Shreve would probably be the best left-handed option for most clubs in MLB as he supports a very clean ERA of 1.99 on the season. But this club also just happens to have Andrew Miller closing games. I bet the Red Sox wish they had a guy like Andrew Miller around. Just know, Red Sox fans, even though the Sox are not dead last in every category over the chart, they are extremely below average in every way. The workload has been way too much all season for this staff. With starting pitchers only going five innings on a good night, I believe the wear and tear affected them early and they’ve never recovered. Talent is talent, and they simply just don’t have it at this point in time.
So, by default, I believe the Red Sox should try to clone the Yankees’ formula for their bullpen success and try to add the dominant services of lefty flame thrower Aroldis Chapman. If they can achieve that, I believe they have themselves a very important first piece of the puzzle.