By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
At least temporarily. The Red Sox bullpen has been struggling as of late. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree have been getting knocked around. Joe Kelly has been still pretty solid, but has continually found himself coming into games with multiple runners on base to get the previous reliever out of a jam.
Prior to their recent struggles, there had been quite a lull in it’s earned runs given up by the bullpen dating back to May 15th, when Steven Wright made his first appearance. He was coming of a 15 game suspension stemming from his domestic violence related arrest last December.
During the sixteen days which Wright was in the bullpen, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly both made a combined 12 relief apperances, neither of whom gave up a single earned run. Heath Hembree had a 3.60 ERA from five apperances. And Kimbrel had a 2.35 ERA over eight apperances. What’s also very important is that other than Kimbrel closing frequently, the only time any other reliever had to pitch innings on back to back days was Joe Kelly on May 25th & 26th. Due to Wright’s ability to seamlessly pitch multiple innings whenever necessary, all other relievers in the bullpen had optimal rest and were not over taxed.
I get that this will not be a popular “take.” But given the recent struggles, and Friday night’s bullpen meltdown, ask yourself this question: “Would the Red Sox win more games if Wright pitches only once in a five day window (as a starter), or if he pitches two or three times (as a long reliever) within a five day window?”
There is no obvious solution for who would replace Wright in the rotation. Drew Pomeranz, Hector Velazquez, or Jalen Beeks would remain options to start the fifth game. Possibly even Brian Johnson, who I absolutely hate as a reliever. Are any of these options highly desirable? Not exactly. But we do have the luxury of four other starting pitchers who makeup what is arguably the second best rotation in the American League. Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez are all having very strong seasons thus far, and each of whom deserve to have a solid bullpen protecting them in the final few innings of their starts.
So in my opinion, it’s better to have Wright giving them stability from the bullpen, and to gamble that the Red Sox will find a way to win those fifth games. Whether it’s that fifth starter pitching a solid game, or the offense puts up a bunch of runs.
Another scenario to consider: If Wright does remain in the rotation, say for a moment that he hypothetically pitches seven shutout innings, Joe Kelly is unavailable, and then Barnes comes into the eight inning and gives up two or three runs. Entirely possible right? That would mean if you take into account the four days before AND after that particular start, you would have gotten absolutely no value out of Wright for NINE straight days. All while the bullpen is likely sputtering, possibly getting injured, etc.
I love Steven Wright. I absolutely love him as a starter, his consistency, and ability to get outs. However, at this given time, under the present set of cirumstances, he is much more valuable as a reliever. Most importantly of all, it will translate to more wins.
ICYMI: AVIDBOSTON PODCAST EPISODE 54!!!
RED SOX SWEEP THE ORIOLES!!!
SHOULD THE RED SOX KEEP BOGAERTS OR KIMBREL?
AND MUCH MUCH MORE!!!
Also available on iTunes!