Much of what has gone wrong in the bullpen this year has been completely outside of Farrell’s control. Who could have possible predicted that both of Boston’s All-Star closers would end up on the disabled list in the first few weeks of the season? Anyone? Didn’t think so.
Despite being handed a bit of a rag-tag bullpen, Farrell has managed to pull together a very strong relief corps.
Red Sox relievers has managed a decent 4.07 ERA through 126 innings of work, many of which were pitched without the help of Andrew Bailey or Joel Hanrahan. That’s not too shabby at all.
There are some areas for improvement.
Former minor league starter Alex Wilson has proved to be one of the bullpen’s most reliable arms. Despite his quality work, he has been almost exclusively relegated to low-pressure, mop-up duty. It’s high time Farrell start trusting the young right-hander in tougher situations.
On a slightly more pertinent note, Red Sox current closer Junichi Tazawa is struggling to find a consistent approach on the mound. While his 2.95 ERA is very strong, he’s still giving up home runs at an alarming rate and allowing almost a hit per inning—issues that can be devastating for a closer.
One possible reason for this regression is that he has changed his pitch approach.
Last season when Tazawa established himself as a quality big league reliever, he was throwing his best pitch, a split-fingered fastball, more than 30 percent of the time. This year, he’s only throwing the pitch half as often and is relying too heavily on his heater to get hitters out.
Such a pattern suggests that he may not be receiving ideal coaching in the area. A quality secondary pitch is extremely important for a big-game reliever. If Tazawa cannot trust his splitter, his future may not be as bright as we hope.