The Boston Red Sox recently signed Shunuske Watanabe, formerly of the Chiba Lotte Marines, to a minor league contract where he will work as a reliever. While this signing might seem relatively insignificant, if it works out, it could have a huge impact on Boston’s bullpen.
To put it very bluntly, Watanabe might have one of the funkiest deliveries you may ever see on a pitching mound. I’m talking James Brown, Godfather of Soul funky. He is a submarine pitcher, but he delivers about as low as anyone. I have always found submarine pitchers fascinating. Dan Quisenberry, Kent Tekulve and Chad Bradford are three that come to mind that are famous for that unorthodox motion. Watanabe appears to throw lower than any of them, sometimes almost scraping his knuckles on the ground when he pitches.
Having him become a reliever in the Boston organization will be a great idea if it works out. Opposing batters could have fits trying to size up the ball coming from that low of a release point, and by the time they might be able to figure it out, Watanabe would be out of there. Those batters would then have to adjust to the blazing fastballs of Junichi Tazawa or a deadly slider from Andrew Miller, and then ending with the pinpoint control of Koji Uehara. A pitcher with a different delivery can be a deadly weapon in the bullpen as a reliever, simply because batters don’t see enough of them to do any sort of damage.
Since the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston must be realizing that their running game won’t be as effective in 2014 as it was this year. They seem to be building the strongest bullpen that they can and shortening games as much as possible. If Watanabe can make the team and be successful, that will help out that much more. There is a famous play called Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk. That could certainly apply to Watanabe.