Red Sox Talk: Farrell Dreams of 2013
Last year, John Farrell brazenly declared that the 2016 Red Sox team reminded him of the 2013 Red Sox that he had managed to a World Series win. He made this highly uneducated statement during Spring Training. Despite his serious inaccuracy at the time, it now appears that Farrell was onto something. Redeeming his statement, the 2017 Red Sox are extremely comparable to the 2013 team that we all hold so dearly in our hearts.
Okay, so the offense isn’t quite there, however promising this recent uptick in production may be. But what about the pitching staff? There lies the one common element between the two Sox teams: the indomitable strength of their bullpens.
Pitching wins World Series. Every baseball fan has heard this ever-deteriorating cliche. Your father told you this time after time. But hey Pops, the Cubbies won it last year! Times have changed. Pitching alone cannot vouchsafe your titles, but bullpens certainly win or lose games.
Let us reminisce. The 2013 Red Sox bullpen exemplified the subtle sandman that a talented pen can be. This dirty-water crew was lead by the beloved Koji Uehara, who was pitching at the pinnacle of his career. Koji was accompanied by the oft-forgotten, but critically formidable: Craig Breslow. He was an effective lefty specialist, with a goofy near-submarine delivery that many a hitter fell prey to. Augmented by the ever-so sturdy Junichi Tazawa, this ragtag bunch made for a frustrating last 3 innings for opponents.
When you ruminate on the numbers and the roles of the 2013 bullpen, you can clearly see the resemblance that the 2017 bullpen bears.
Requiem for Arms
Our lights-out closer back then was Koji Uehara. In 2013 he had an astounding 1.09 ERA in 74 ⅓ innings pitched with 101 K’s. (Barring the 10 MPH fastball disparity) Koji was our Craig Kimbrel in 2013. Junichi Tazawa humbly served as Koji’s sidekick, just as Matt Barnes serves as the setup man in 2017. Tazawa posted a 3.16 ERA coupled with a WHIP of 1.200, in the 2013 regular season. In the postseason, he was an even more dominating arm. He had a 1.29 ERA with a 0.985 WHIP. The only 2013 pitcher who goes without a 2017 doppelganger would be the lefty specialist: Craig Breslow.
Who really pays homage to Craig Breslow? He was a hard-nosed pitcher, who always found himself in an unglamorous role. Breslow was kind of like a less talented Dennis Eckersley. But, his 2013 contribution should not go unremembered. Almost inaudibly, Breslow had himself a year. With a 1.81 ERA and a 1.123 WHIP in the regular season, he was the dependable lefty in that 2013 bullpen. Pitching in 10 games in the postseason, he gave the Sox some quality innings. During that World Series winning run, he had an ERA of 2.45. Numbers speak resoundingly for themselves. These easily overlooked and seemingly ancillary lefties in the pen can be very valuable.
A Striking Resemblance
As the Red Sox late-inning bunch is constituted today, they’re great. From the 7th inning on, the 2017 bullpen has only given up 1.04 runs to opponents. That’s 2nd best in the majors. Imagine how a solid lefty could amplify the potency of this pen!
With the addition of a shutdown southpaw, we would arguably have one of the greatest bullpens we’ve ever assembled. The Sox could acquire a left-handed pitcher through the tedious labyrinth of the waiver-wire. They could alternatively promote within.
Dispatching Eduardo Rodriguez to the pen wouldn’t be a bad idea, Drew Pomeranz is also a more controvertible option. Regardless of future moves, the Boston fan-base should be greatly encouraged by the performance of the 2017 bullpen thus far. These guys are looking ready for a more serious October run than the one they made in 2016.