The Boston Red Sox are cruising into the postseason once again, and with most of their championship team from last year returning, they look to be capable of making another deep run.
They have an extremely deep and experienced rotation, and a lineup that is capable of pounding opposing pitchers. Their one glaring question mark, however, may be their bullpen.
The Sox's bullpen this year has been erratic at times; although, in evaluating the season as a whole, the numbers are solid. The main issue with the Sox's bullpen is that it is not particularly deep. Beyond three or four key guys, they have very few options. In this article, I'll break down some of those key pitchers in the Sox pen.
The Sox's closer has been one of the top closers in the league again this year. His electric stuff and gamer mentality allow him to get the Sox out of sticky situations. A reason for concern may be that, lately, Paps has been getting the Red Sox into jams rather than getting them out of them. He needs to snap out of it if the Sox are to make a run.
Delcarmen has been spotty at times this year, but overall he has been solid. His fastball can be overpowering, but sometimes he relies too much on power instead of deception.
Lopez has been the lefty specialist on the Sox for most of the year. His sidearm delivery can be deadly against hitters on either side of the plate. For the most part, Lopez has been trustworthy this year, and this is why he is the only major Red Sox reliever not to earn a loss.
Okajima was the Sox's set-up man for most of last year, but this year he has played a decreased role in the Red Sox's 'pen. He is still a good option for the Sox, though last year, in the World Series, he had some rough patches. Okajima is the second-best lefty option on the Sox.
Masterson started off the year as a starter, but the Sox converted him into a reliever when some of their injured starters came back. Masterson is their best long-relief option, but he has never appeared in the postseason.
Mainly a long-relief option. He may be called on to make a start
Will probably be used sparingly in the postseason.
Has been brutal since coming off the DL. If he's called in with the game in doubt, the Sox are in trouble.
The Red Sox's bullpen could be a wild card for this team. The Sox should get solid starts from Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka; they don't want to squander these with the bullpen.
I believe that the Red Sox's bullpen will be effective for the most part this postseason. However, the important thing is whether or not it can perform with men on base in a hostile road situation, something the team did not really face a lot in last year's postseason.
As the wild card this year, their relievers will have to be stronger than ever to keep the momentum out of the hands of the home team.