During the 2013 off-season Boston made many big moves, but also made some smaller moves that flew under the radar. One of those moves was acquiring Burke Badenhop from the Milwaukee Brewers. In exchange for Badenhop, Boston sent Luis Ortega, a 20-year-old from the Gulf Coast League Red Sox to the Brewers. So far for Boston, it looks like they hit the jackpot on that deal.
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Badenhop, 31, was a reliable reliever for the Brewers in 2013, but nothing special. In 63 games totaling 62 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.47 ERA with 12 walks to 42 strikeouts. Although this was solid, Boston did not expect much from the reliever this season. So far this season, Badenhop has been lights out since April 19th. Before April 19th, Badenhop had an ERA of 6.75 through his first 7 games pitching. Since then, Badenhop has not allowed a single earned run. He also has not allowed a single unearned run since May 14th. On the season Badenhop is boasting a 1.82 ERA in 28 games totaling 34 2/3 innings along with ten walks to 16 strikeouts. Despite not striking out a ton of batters, Badenhop finds ways to get batters out.
Every great pitcher has their pitch. Nolan Ryan had his fastball, Tim Wakefield had his knuckleball, and for Burke Badenhop, that pitch is his sinker. Of the 499 pitches Badenhop has thrown this year, roughly 79% of those have been sinkers. Badenhop uses his sinker which averages 88 mph to force weak contact. When hitters put Badenhop’s sinker in play, roughly 2/3 of the time it is a ground ball, most of which are an easy out for the fielders. Even when Badenhop does give up hits, he has another friend: the double play. So far this season, Badenhop has forced 9 double plays. This is more than any other pitcher in baseball. The sinker is crucial to Burke Badenhop’s success and will continue to help keep him dominant.
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Overall, Burke Badenhop is on a team where many pitchers have not met expectations such as Craig Breslow, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, Edward Mujica, and Clay Buchholz. Unlike those men, Badenhop is far exceeding expectations and outperforming those men on a daily basis by far. If Badenhop keeps up what he has been doing, do not be surprised to see his name thrown around in All-Star consideration. With Badenhop and Koji Uehara, Boston may just have two of the most dominant pitchers in the game right now. Unfortunately for Boston, it takes a lot more than a great bullpen to win games. A great bullpen helps win games, but cannot win on its own.