This week, at the midpoint of the Red Sox’ season, we began to examine how the high hopes of the preseason have given way to a much harsher reality. Each day, we’ve focused on a specific area. Today, we’ll conclude our review and next set of projections with the relievers.
Note: Statistical information is at the conclusion of 85 games. Next
March: At 31, Badenhop’s bounced around the bigs. Boston is his fourth team in seven years, but he’s generally had good success. The Sox are undoubtedly hoping he’ll be the same guy who appeared in 66 games for the Rays in 2012 and had a 3.03 ERA in 62 1/3 innings. Historically, he should provide the ‘pen with another righthanded arm capable of getting timely outs, working an inning or two, and finishing games when necessary. He also keeps balls on the ground. Essentially, he could be a younger Mike Timlin. Worth noting, by the way, Badenhop has a career 2.59 ERA in 43 games against AL East opponents.
Midpoint: Badenhop got off to a slow start with a 6.75 ERA (seven earned runs in 9 1/3 innings) through his first seven outings as a member of the Red Sox but he’s been absurdly productive since. Over the veteran’s last 31 games spanning 35 innings – including a career-best 18-inning scoreless streak – he’s allowed just two runs (one earned) for a Koji Uehara-like 0.26 ERA. In all, Badenhop has provided phenomenal middle-to-late-game relief that’s resulted in a 1.62 ERA in 44 1/3 frames and status as one of the top relievers in the American League.
Second-Half: The righty’s ERA is a full run-and-a-half better than his previous 2012 career-high, so it’s easy to suspect Badenhop will come back down to earth. He won’t. It’s a contract year for him and players tend to perform well in that situation. The only question now is whether he’ll be dealt to a contender down the stretch if the Sox start selling off pieces. Next
March: N/A (Opened the season on the disabled list with a mild left shoulder strain.)
Midpoint: Breslow missed only eight games to begin the season before his return to the Red Sox bullpen. Overall, it hasn’t been pretty for the groundball pitcher, but the stats are a bit misleading. On the surface, Breslow has a 2-2 record and 5.40 ERA in 29 appearances spanning 28 1/3 innings. His ERA, 1.906 WHIP, and 0.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio are all career-worsts. Dig a little deeper, though, and the bad outings have been atrocious while the good ones have been great. For instance, Breslow has given up 13 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings over three appearances, resulting in a colossal 43.82 ERA. The rest of the vet’s season has produced a 1.40 ERA, which is more in line with the 1.81 ERA he offered in 2013.
Second-Half: Breslow’s ERA will come down. Probably not to his career 2.82 ERA entering the season, but it will shrink. The journeyman reliever remains one of the most reliable seventh and eighth inning options in the ‘pen for Boston. Next
March: It’s a homecoming for the 35-year-old native of Springfield, Mass. With Ryan Dempster gone, that allowed the Red Sox to sign another flex starter/reliever in Capuano, who was 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA in his second of two seasons for the Dodgers last year. The lefty has primarily been a starter in his career, but has worked sporadically out of the ‘pen since 2010. Expectations should really be no higher than they were for Dempster once he was lifted from the rotation very late last year and into the playoffs, but a veteran presence who can spot-start is valuable to have around for depth.
Midpoint: It didn’t work out for the hometown Capuano with the Red Sox. He was officially released from the roster on July 1 after posting a 4.55 ERA over 28 relief appearances spanning 31 2/3 innings. He also posted a career-worst 1.547 WHIP. The biggest surprise is the lefty’s tale of two seasons in the first-half. Through a dozen outings and 15 innings, Capuano didn’t allow a run and held batters to a .154 average. In his final 16 games and 16 2/3 frames, his ERA ballooned to 8.64 while batters hit .351. Definitely a shame, but the emergence of others made him expendable.
Second-Half: He’s currently a man without a home, but a non-factor for the Sox. He’ll likely catch on somewhere, but probably on a minor league deal. Next
March: It’s been a rough spring for Miller after missing much of 2013 with a foot injury. In seven games spanning 4 1/3 innings, the southpaw has walked six and has a 10.38 ERA. However, in the spirit of looking at the bigger picture, he’s improved in each of his three seasons in Boston, particularly once he became a full-time reliever in 2012. Before getting hurt last year, he compiled a 2.64 ERA in 37 appearances. Miller is something of a specialist and he won’t be relied upon for heavy innings. He’s likely good for an ERA in the high-2’s or low-3’s.
Midpoint: Sure enough, Miller has come as advertised. In 39 games and 32 3/3 innings, the reliever is 2-5 with a 2.48 ERA and career-bests of a 0.949 WHIP, 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 5.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s also already matched a career-high by finishing 11 games. A good output for a 29-year-old on the cusp of free agency.
Second-Half: Miller is riding high. In his last 11 innings and 16 appearances dating back to May 24, the lefty has a 1.64 ERA. He’s obviously been trending in the right direction. Overall, though, the production has been there all year. There’s no reason to think he’ll suddenly implode. Next
March: If there’s one guy who could win the non-existent “2014 Bullpen Magic Award” the year after Koji Uehara, it’s Mujica. No, he won’t put up the numbers Uehara did in 2013, but he projects to be a very valuable addition to the ‘pen in an area that lacked depth. Once Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey went down and Uehara was thrust into the closer’s role – after a brief failed Junichi Tazawa experiment – the club needed a more reliable set-up man throughout much of the year. That can and will be Mujici, who was phenomenal each of the last two years as the closer in St. Louis before breaking down last September. Expect big things.
Midpoint: Apologies. Apparently I meant, “Expect a big ERA.” I was wrong. And then I was wrong again. After an All-Star year, Mujica has been brutal for Boston, showing a 2-3 record, 5.76 ERA in 29 2/3 innings, and a 1.449 WHIP in 31 appearances. Those totals are his worst since pitching for the Indians in 2008 – fittingly his last stop in the American League.
Second-Half: If we’re looking for a positive, Mujica has a 3.21 ERA in 15 games and 14 innings since May 24. Even still, he appears to be a guy simply not meant to pitch in the AL. Making matters worse, he’s signed through 2015. Would you trust him to replace Koji Uehara as closer next season? Yikes. Next
March: If you’ve been paying attention, you know not to trust Tazawa against the lowly Blue Jays. Those guys aside, he’s often efficient. The 27-year-old righty had a 3.16 ERA in the regular season in 2013, before compiling a 1.23 ERA in 13 postseason games. The biggest concern here is durability. Over the course of the entire season, Tazawa appeared in 84 games, far more than the 37 appearances he made in 2012. Can he hold up for a similar workload again in 2014? Will he need to? It’s something manager John Farrell will have to keep an eye on.
Midpoint: Tazawa’s workload is down, but by very little. Through 35 innings and 39 appearances, the righty has responded well with a 2.57 ERA and 1.143 WHIP. He’s only allowed runs in seven of his outings and remains an incredibly dependable setup man for closer Koji Uehara.
Second-Half: If the Red Sox fall out of contention – you know, if they haven’t already – Farrell and the Red Sox should limit Tazawa’s usage in the second-half. No sense in abusing the reliever in a meaningless season when he’s under Boston’s control until 2017. As for what he’ll do, more of the same. He’s proven to be very consistent. Next
March: Hard to talk about workload and not discuss Uehara who, for a single season, was one of the best closers in MLB history in 2013. The modest free agent pickup and fourth closer in the line went from secure setup man to an automatic ninth inning spectacle. In 73 appearances, Uehara finished with a 1.09 ERA in 74 1/3 innings while striking out a ridiculous 12.2 batters per nine innings. In the postseason, he pitched in 13 games for 13 2/3 innings and allowed one run. In total, that’s 86 outings for a guy who is 11 years Junichi Tazawa’s elder. Can he do it again? Common-sense would say, “Of course not!” Still, here he is with six scoreless, hitless innings this spring. He may not be human. Fortunately, if it’s even slightly human, Edward Mujica is next in line.
Midpoint: Let’s just go ahead and ignore the Mujica part. Uehara has hit a bit of a bump in the road of late, but he’s still been fantastic. Overall, he’s posted a 1.40 ERA with 18 saves in 19 chances over 38 games and 38 2/3 innings. The closer’s ERA was a modest 0.83 through 31 contests before a far less Koj-like 5.14 ERA in his last seven appearances elevated his totals. Still, there’s no one you’d rather see on the mound in the ninth inning with the game on the line.
Second-Half: Uehara will be fine. The track record is there, so there’s no need to worry about his recent struggles, even if he is 39. But, in the off-chance he does breakdown either physically or in terms of performance, he’s a free agent at season’s end anyhow. If the Red Sox don’t start winning some games at a rapid pace, they’d be foolish not to consider trading the fan-favorite to a contender eyeing a rental in the ‘pen. He’s one of the few players who could actually net a decent prospect return. Back to the beginning
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