On Saturday August 23, Brandon Workman had an outing he will remember for the rest of his career. It was smooth sailing, relatively speaking, for the first three innings — until disaster struck in the fourth. In the fourth inning of that game, Workman surrendered seven runs making it the biggest blunder of his big league career. As a result, he was optioned to AAA Pawtucket in favor of reliever Heath Hembree. Now, it is up for debate on whether or not Workman will be starting next season. Odds are though, he is destined for the bullpen.
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To put it nicely, Brandon Workman is not pitching well as a starter this year. In 12 starts for the Boston Red Sox he is 1-7 with a 5.13 ERA while allowing nine homeruns over the course of 66.2 innings pitched. In contrast as a reliever, Workman has pitched much better. In a small sample size of four games totaling 6.1 innings, he has allowed only two earned runs making for a 2.84 ERA.
This alone is not the reason why he would be best suited for relief. One of the few other reasons is his numbers in the playoffs last year. Making the playoff roster over Drake Britton by the hairs on his chin, Workman proved valuable in relief tossing seven scoreless outings totaling 8.2 innings. Although this may not sound like much, he proved his worth in high leverage situations. Three of those outings came in the ALCS and another three came in the World Series. Not many rookies thrive in such high leverage situations.
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Stamina also comes as an issue as well. Before and after 30 pitches, Brandon Workman is a completely different pitcher. Before he is a star and after — he is garbage. When throwing 30 pitches or less, hitters are hitting just .223 off Workman but from pitches 31-60, that number balloons up to .292 which is not good. Keep in mind there are only 27 MLB players hitting .292 or above who qualify for the batting title, but there are 144 men hitting hitting .223 above who qualify out of 152 total. This means Workman can make Mike Trout look like Bob Uecker when his pitch count is low, but he can do the polar opposite when it is high. Now that may be a bit of an exaggeration but it gets the point across and numbers never lie.
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Right now, the bullpen seems like the best bet for Brandon Workman in 2015. Although Boston has five legitimate Major League starters without him, it is tough to imagine they go into the season without adding a starter or two. By doing so, they could make Workman a full-time reliever giving him a role he can truly thrive in. He would not be the multi-inning guy he is right now, but instead a 7th inning guy who goes out there and gives the team one good inning when called upon. An example of this on the current Red Sox team would be Burke Badenhop. Expect Workman to serve a role similar to Burke Badenhop during the 2015 season.