Thank god for Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.
Uehara has been a blessing all season, making hitters look more foolish than Mike Tyson trying to spell “chrysanthemum” at a celebrity spelling bee. The third and maybe even the fourth option at closer when the 2013 season began, Uehara has been a steal, posting a sparkling 1.24 ERA and a historic 79/9 K/BB ratio in 58 innings this season.
Even more than his numbers suggest, Uehara has been able to instill a peace of mind while closing games for the Boston Red Sox – something neither high-priced closing options Joel Hanrahan or Andrew Bailey could accomplish before their injuries.
Tazawa has been nearly as good after working his way up from Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing only 9 BB and retiring 63 hitters on strikes in 59 innings of work and settling in nicely in a high-leverage eighth-inning role.
The problem is, besides Uehara and Tazawa, the rest of the Red Sox bullpen has even the most casual of fans reaching for their inhalers and paper bags in the sixth and seventh innings of ballgames when starting pitching has failed to go deep into games.
What’s even worse, manager John Farrell is using his bullpen in a way that makes less sense than Subway’s “Eat Fresh” slogan (because when I think fresh, I think microwave everything and give it to me).
Everyone is apparently always looking for power left-handers that can get big left-handed bats out late in ball games. That’s great and all, but there’s also right-handed hitters in this league, and although mid-season acquisition Matt Thornton does his job against lefties, I can’t fathom how Thornton has pitched just as many innings against right-handed hitters (who hit .319 against him) as left-handed hitters this year.
That ruins the whole point of having a lefty specialist.
What’s even more of a head-scratcher, if you already have Thornton as a lefty specialist, what’s Craig Breslow‘s job? He’s pitched 11 more innings (28-17) to right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters, but has a much higher ERA against right-handed batters.
Lefty Drake Britton has proven he can’t get lefties (.321 BAA) or righties (.320) out, which make me wonder why he’s up in the first place. Mid-season call-up Brandon Workman has been solid in spot start duty, but his stuff doesn’t really play in the bullpen in this day and age. His fastball a mediocre 88-91 mph. My grandmother throws 88-91.
So my question to Mr. Farrell is … who’s getting right-handed hitters out consistently in the sixth and seventh innings of games?
The short answer? Nobody. And that could be a major problem down the stretch for the 2013 Boston Red Sox.