(Photo Credit: NESN)
By Josh Nord – @nordjoshua
Yes, the Sox just lost two of three to the Yankees. No, it’s not time to fire everyone and blow the team up. Take a breath, remember that Boston is still tied in first place with their chief rival. Out of the 12 series’ the Sox have played thus far into the season they have only lost three of them. However, despite all of the wins, it’s the losses that are what those insatiable fans keep focusing on. Why? Maybe it’s not the losses themselves, but how they actually lost them.
Of their nine losses, seven of them were influenced heavily by the bullpen. Here are the notable games listed below.
-March 29th, Rays win 6-4, Carson Smith(L) 2ER, Joe Kelly 4ER
-April 24th, Blue Jays win 4-3, Craig Kimbrel(L), 1ER
-April 28th, Rays win 12-6, Brian Johnson, 5ER
-May 1st, Royals win 7-6, Brian Johnson(L), 3ER
-May 8th, Yankees win 3-2, Heath Hembree(L), 1ER
-May 9th, Yankees win 9-6, Matt Barnes(L) 2ER, Craig Kimbrel, 2ER
-May 11th, Blue Jays win 5-3, Brian Johnson(L) 2ER
What do we learn from this? That Boston has a late innings problem, and while the 2017 squad had real strength in its bullpen, it might be gone now. Two of these relievers, Smith and Kimbrel, are supposed to be mainline fixtures of the late innings. Kimbrel of course, is going to blow saves. Every closer does. It hurts to see this, especially since his velocity is down this year. Matt Barnes, for as wild as he was back in 2015, still had a fastball that could sit in the upper nineties. Now he’s just wild with an average fastball.
Speaking of wild, Hembree might not be a member of this Sox team for much longer if he keeps turning in disaster after disaster. He pitched in two out of the three games this past Yankees series in New York. Combining the stats from both outings, he pitched 0.2 of an inning with three hits, four earned runs, three walks, and zero strikeouts. Hembree looked absolutely lost on the mound in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are a tough team, but the Sox are supposed to be a tough too. You can’t win putting members of your pitching staff out there that want nothing to do with the opposing batters.
But perhaps the worst of them all is Brian Johnson, The lefty long relief pitcher is out of minor league options, so it’s not like Alex Cora can make him disappear back down to Pawtucket. It would be a nice luxury to have since he still holds value in the event of multiple injuries to the starting rotation. However, the fact of the matter is that hes is a soft throwing pitcher who has been getting tattooed every time he takes the mound in a relief appearance. Hector Velazquez is the better option to go with, whether that’s in a spot start, or long relief. He also has minor league options to boot.
So what can Brian Johnson offer outside of being the only lefty in a sea of righties? The tall Floridian lefty certaintly has had an incredible story on his long path to the majors, but its clear the first rounder might not have much of a future in Boston. The rest of the bullpen simply needs to get it together because the Sox can’t and won’t go far without them.
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