A definitive closer
“Closer by Committee” doesn’t work. In 2003 the Red Sox brought a bunch of arms into the bullpen mix. Chad Fox, Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Brandon Lyon, Scott Williamson, and Ramiro Mendoza (among others) were expected to compete for the closing job and Sox brass was convinced that someone from the group would emerge and rise to the top.
The problem was, only Timlin had an ERA under FOUR. Lyon got the lion’s share (see what I did there) of save opportunities, collecting nine from April to late May before the Sox had to swap infielder Shea Hillenbrand for D-Backs closer Byung-Hyun Kim.
Kim solidified the back-end of the relief core. Filling his defined role let manager Grady Little mix and match with the set-up guys, which led to a deep run in the 2003 playoffs. A year later, the Sox traded for Keith Foulke, and we all know how important that went.
After losing Craig Kimbrel to free agency after 2018, the Sox went into spring training in ‘19 with a similar approach to 2003, and it was an unmitigated disaster.
The Red Sox were 21st out of 30 in the majors for save conversions last season and blew 31 of them. Dave Dombrowski thought he had caught lightning in a bottle with Ryan Brasier, but found out pretty clearly in 2019 that Brasier’s strong performance a year earlier was an anomaly.
Where does your fandom rank?
See 2019 Rankings
According to 98.5 The Sports Hub, the front office has free agent Sergio Romo in their sights for additional bullpen help. He does have some closing experience, and although a bit long in the tooth (36) he could provide some much-needed bullpen depth.
I say the Sox should just come right out and name Brandon Workman the closer. He’s already on your roster, so if you’re actually cutting payroll, he costs you no additional money.
His numbers were pretty darn respectable, too. He led the team in saves (16), had a .148 batting average against in late and close contests, a 0.94 BAA in tie games, and a .135 BAA in the ninth inning and a 1.88 ERA overall.
If you’re not going to spend the money, at least be smart and name your best reliever the closer of this team to give other pitchers an idea of what their role is moving forward.