During the 7th inning of the June 15th game against the Cleveland Indians, Burke Badenhop continued to do something he has done since April 18th. He retired three straight batters — two of the outs coming via fly ball and an Asdrubal Cabrera pop up to shortstop Stephen Drew to end the inning.
Badenhop has not allowed an earned run in 23 consecutive appearances — dating back to the aforementioned April 18th outing against the Baltimore Orioles — sporting an ERA that would impress Koji Uehara at 1.67. The early “release Badenhop” tweets have quickly turned to “Badenhop for the All-Star game.” He’s been reliable, consistent, stellar, but, oddly, unconventional.
Striking batters out at a high rate has never been his style throughout his MLB tenure. His career 6.42 K/9 is mediocre, but nevertheless, has enjoyed prosperity the majority of his career by inducing weak contact. That said, his peripherals (strikeout, walk, home run rate) have always been passable to the eye; that is, until this year.
The right-hander entered Sunday with an underwhelming 4.91 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9, unsustainable 0.25 HR/9, and a 61.8 ground ball percentage which is an aberration from his career 55.2 GB%. His .288 BABIP isn’t that abnormal, signaling he hasn’t necessarily benefited from “luck.” Although the fact he has only surrendered a lone home run in 36 and 2/3 innings may be.
Odd statistical trends aside, Badenhop has been the Red Sox’ best reliever — sans Uehara. His trends aren’t too appealing, but conversely, stats indicating a player has gotten lucky, work in his favor. He’s an odd case, but there’s no reason to think he won’t persist as a tremendous reliever for the Red Sox.