Red Sox closers: Will the current strategy work long term?

Despite the bullpen being a bright spot for the Red Sox, fans are still calling for an impact arm. Red Sox closers have been effective, but Craig Kimbrel is not walking through that door. Perhaps a look at the numbers will ease concerns over the relief effort.

A change in the way the Red Sox handle the later innings

Instead of playing along with the standard MLB approach (having one man handle the Red Sox closersninth inning), the Red Sox brass have gone by committee this year. While Ryan Brasier has largely handled the closing duties, other relievers such as Matt Barnes have occasionally entered the final frame. Alex Cora has used Barnes in high leverage spots based on when the meat of the lineup is due up.

Barnes and Brasier have both found relative success in their roles

In 13 appearances, Barnes boasts the AL’s highest strikeout rate (50 percent) with three walks and a 2.08 ERA. Out of those 13 spots, five have come in the ninth, four in the eighth, once in the seventh, and he has pitched in both the seventh and eighth a pair of times. Barnes has had a steady rise over the years, and it has culminated into the impressive season he has put together so far.

However, Red Sox closers have combined to amass three blown saves through 11 chances. In comparison to the last three seasons with Kimbrel, that is a troubling trend. The team has already struggled to bring leads into the later innings. But the individual numbers suggest the Sox will be just fine.

Braiser has handled the bulk of the save opportunities, securing the game in six of eight tries. Despite his 2.57 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings, the calls to make a change were loud after he allowed a walk-off home run to Nick Delmonico (hitting about .150 at the time) against the White Sox on Thursday night.

Brasier has been a lot better than he’s earned credit for

An article by Alex Speier of The Boston Globe analyzed the work of Brasier between this season and last. HIs findings showed that the journeyman is still about as effective as he was in 2018. Although, he has allowed three homes runs through his 14 innings so far. That is one more than he allowed through 33.2 innings of work last season. Speier points out that there is not any direct reason for concern, as Brasier’s strikeout and walk percentages remain in tact. He is still generating lots of swings and misses with his fastball/slider/splitter makeup.

While fans might be uneasy about the plan’s long term success, Cora has put the team in a good position. There’s no analytical evidence that either Barnes or Brasier are in danger of coming undone. As long as they keep posting numbers like these, the Red Sox are in good hands.

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