The State of the Bullpen: The Eighth and Ninth Innings

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The State of the Red Sox Bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen is somewhat of an enigma.  It’s a hodgepodge of arms that was part of the 2018 World Series championship and last year's disaster. 

Photo courtesy of cbslocal.com
The club doesn’t have a bonafide closer, but based off Brandon Workman’s performance last year, he’ll get the nod in the ninth for now. 

Last year, Workman was nasty for the Red Sox.  Legit, the dude was one of the few bright spots of 2019.  Workman was 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA, and he nailed down 16 saves in 73 appearances. 

In addition to those numbers he struck out 104 opponents, had a 1.03 WHIP in 71 2/3 innings of work. 

Workman’s fastball sits at around 93 mph and he can follow that up with a disgusting curveball.  His fastball/curveball mix ratio last season made opponents look childish in the box, and barring any unforeseen trades or signings, Workman is the man in the ninth for the Sox. 

Matt Barnes might be the most talented arm in the ‘pen.  While I felt like Barnes took a step back in 2019 from his 2018 season, he has the potential to be a really good reliever in the league.  The dude really needs to put it together on a more consistent basis. 

Shop thousands of officially-licensed NHL items at NHLShop.caIn 70 appearances last season, Barnes was 5-4 with four saves.  He struck out 110 batters while finishing the year with a 3.78 ERA. 

You are probably going to say, how’d he take a step back from 2018? 

Barnes began 2019 as one of the most dominant relievers in the American League.  In his first 18 appearances, he had 1.42 ERA and struck out 49% of all batters faced. 
Then the wheels came off.  Control became an issue for Barnes, which has plagued him throughout his big league career.  For someone who struck out 49% of batters he started to rely too heavily on his curveball, and it cost him. 

I’m fact, Barnes was dreadful for the Red Sox when they were out in London to play the Evil Empire - the New York Yankees.  In the Red Sox 12-8 loss to the Bronx Bombers in London, Barnes was responsible for surrendering three of those runs.  That loss capped off the 15 game workload for Barnes where his opponents hit .296 against him and he finished with a 9.69 ERA for the month of June. 
Barnes has a good curveball, but when he starts to rely too much on one pitch he gets exposed by batters.  An example of that is following the 18 appearances where he had a 1.42 ERA, Barnes next 19 appearances his ERA was north of 9. 

It’s possible that he was overworked at the start of the year.  Former manager Alex Cora didn’t trust many of the arms in his bullpen and he would rely mightily on Barnes. 

When the rotation can’t give you consistent innings it will begin to put a strain on the bullpen.  That potentially was a factor not only for Barnes but the others in the Sox bullpen. 

The Red Sox are going to need both Barnes and Workman to be at the top of their game to stabilize this bullpen.  The Red Sox have a lot of arms to throw at the ‘pen this year, unlike last year.  Chaim Bloom has been very active acquiring players to add depth to the upper farm system and potentially the major league level. 

If both Barnes and Workman are pitching to their potential next season, the Red Sox will have a very formidable one-two punch for the eighth and ninth. 

By adding a little more structure to the bullpen, guys like Barnes and Workman can pitch in the eighth and ninth for the Sox.  Allowing others like Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden and Darwinzon Hernandez to man the early part of the relief duties. 

With the dumpster fire of 2019 behind us, and now sign-stealing scandals and no manager for the Sox currently on the docket, Bloom needs to continue to find depth for the bullpen and build around the back of ‘pen featuring Barnes and Workman. 

Bloom hasn’t been fully committal on Workman for the ninth saying “I don’t think we’re far enough along in our discussions to really figure out how things will line up for next year.” 

“He did a hell of a job.  He did a great job.  Certainly proved more than capable of handling that role.  I just don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves in determining how it’s going to line up for 2020” said CBO Bloom.

The Achilles heel of 2019 for the Red Sox bullpen was blown saves last season.  In part due to the fact there was no clear cut closer until Workman was the de facto closer towards the end of the season. 

I’m confident that the team's bullpen will be better this year.  Hopefully, with proper roles defined for 2020, the Red Sox can minimize some of their shortcomings in 2019 by actually giving the ball in the ninth to the same consistent reliever, Brandon Workman.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: The State of the Bullpen: The Eighth and Ninth Innings
The State of the Bullpen: The Eighth and Ninth Innings
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