Boston Red Sox: Despite success, bullpen still needs to be addressed

Hansel Robles #57 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Hansel Robles #57 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are in the thick of the American League playoff picture. After a terrible start to the season, a torrid stretch during May and June has seen them become one of the best teams in the majors again, which should setup an eventful trade deadline.

But as of late, the Sox have cooled off a bit. They lost two of three against their division rival, the Toronto Blue Jays, and dropped the opening game of their current series against a bad Chicago Cubs team. The common denominator in these losses, and even their lone win during that four game stretch, was poor pitching out of the bullpen.

During Boston’s solid winning stretch, their bullpen was phenomenal. Guys have stepped up, found their role, and after a listless first month, things are finally coming together. But with the deadline less than a month away, it’s clear that the Sox front office is going to need to identify some targets to come in and help their bullpen, or else they will likely flame out at some point down the line.

The Boston Red Sox need more consistency in their bullpen

While roles have been established in the pen, the guys filling them have been changing on a nightly basis. Whether it be injuries, poor performances, or even the COVID vaccine issue when it comes to playing in Toronto, it hasn’t felt like Boston’s bullpen has been set at any given point this season.

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It starts in the back at the closer positon. They only have 17 saves as a team, and their save leader, Tanner Houck, has only six and was a starting pitcher at the beginning of the year. Houck has been really solid since moving into the closer role, but his decision to not get vaccinated against COVID prevented him from traveling with the team to Toronto, and the bullpen struggled to replace him.

Houck has shown potential to be a good closer, but if he’s not going to be able to play in every game, he can’t be counted on. Acquiring another late innings guy or two at the deadline, even if they aren’t closing games every night, would certainly help out here.

It’s also helped that the guys around Houck have been great too. John Schreiber has come from literally out of nowhere to be one of the best relief pitchers in the entire league, which has been a welcome sight. Austin Davis, Jake Diekman, and Matt Strahm have formed an effective trio of left-handed pitchers who can be used in a couple of different situations.

The problem is getting the game to them. Aside from Hirokazu Sawamura, pretty much every middle-innings guy that hasn’t been mentioned has struggled at one point or another. Ryan Brasier and Tyler Danish are currently the two main guys tasked with this, but both of them have ERA’s over four. Hansel Robles, who was so good to start the season, has completely faltered, and sports a 5.70 ERA now.

Some of this will be fixed once the team gets healthy. Garrett Whitlock will almost certainly get bumped back to the bullpen when he comes off the injured list, and his ability to handle any situation would be a huge help. The looming returns of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and maybe even James Paxton down the line, could help push some starters into bullpen roles as well.

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Without adding another couple of bullpen arms, though, the Boston Red Sox won’t get that far this season. More help is needed to help stabilize a unit that has been surprisingly good this season. They have proven to be worthy of an investment as the season goes on, and now it’s time for the front office to reward them with some more help.