The Boston Red Sox will be facing the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series. Tampa Bay has quality players and can match up well against the Red Sox in some ways, but one edge that Boston does have against Tampa is the bullpen.
This time off that Boston has had is definitely beneficial to a group like their bullpen because they were relied on pretty heavily down the stretch. The main person that could benefit from the time off would definitely be Junichi Tazawa. He has been Boston’s main setup man and for the most part, he pitched well with a 5-4 record with a 3.16 ERA.
Take out the outings against the Toronto Blue Jays, and it would have been much lower. He has a great arm and when he is on, and he can get that big strikeout in the later innings. He has looked flat recently, probably because this is the most innings he has pitched in the majors, so the rest should do him good.
It appears as though the other setup men would be Craig Breslow, Franklin Morales, Ryan Dempster and Brandon Workman. These are some real live arms, especially Morales, who is a lefty with electrifying stuff. Breslow has been very quietly one of the best at setting up in MLB. Workman has a lot of strikeout potential and Dempster has closed before, which is always beneficial in the postseason.
Another interesting pitcher in the bullpen for Boston is Felix Doubront. He is stretched out and could provide long innings of relief.
Of course, you can’t mention the bullpen and not talk about the closer Koji Uehara. He has just been absolutely dominant since he stepped into that role. He ended the season with a 1.12 ERA and had 99 strikeouts and nine walks. He has put up Dennis Eckersley and Mariano Rivera-type numbers. If he pitches at all like he did during the second part of the season, it would be great for Boston to have that dominance at the end of games.
Tampa Bay does not have that sort of dominating, consistent closer — at least not this year. Fernando Rodney has dominating stuff, but was inconsistent and didn’t pitch well against Boston during the regular season. He also blew eight saves. The next best reliever that Tampa Bay has is Joel Peralta, but he has been pitching a lot recently. Tampa’s relievers had 109 innings in September, second most in the majors.
They may be tired and don’t have much time to rest, having played a tiebreaker game and the Wild Card game all in a matter of a few days. Assuming a couple of the arms beyond Breslow can get hot and Uehara continues to pitch like he has since becoming the closer, Boston has the better bullpen between the two teams in the ALDS.