Playoff Preview: Boston Red Sox Bullpen

kyle erhaContributor ISeptember 30, 2008

After running through the rotation, the Boston Red Sox bullpen is a much easier task to take on.  It's a pretty simple thumbs up or down for this team, there isn't that much debate over who will be pitching and in what situation.  So let's dive right in and see who will be key to holding the lead in those Daisuke Matsuzaka starts.

Jonathan Papelbon

Why not start at the top?  Jonathan Papelbon remains one of the game's top closers.  If not for the year that Francisco Rodriguez has had with the Angels, Papelbon would be the unanimous choice for best closer in the playoffs this year.  Another great year for Papelbon in Boston is highlighted by numbers that, outside of saves, are almost identical (if not better) than K-Rod's.  Take a look at these stats...

           Papelbon    Rodriguez
IP         69 1/3        68 1/3
WHIP      .952          1.288
ERA        2.34           2.24
K's           77             77
BB            8              34

Needless to say, there is no reason to worry about Johnny Paps.  He does what he does, and he does it better than just about anyone.  Just don't ask him to speak coherently.

TWO Big River Dancing Thumbs Up

Hideki Okajima

On the flip side of the numbers coin, here is a guy who's numbers just don't show the struggles he's had this season.  Hideki Okajima has had massive peaks and valleys this season, and has been basically, "Baseball Bipolar." (Patent pending)  He has shown enough of his dominance from last season to post the numbers he has this season, but has stuggled enough to lower every Red Sox fan's confidence in him.  He is crucial to the bullpen, and the Red Sox chances of winning the World Series will rely heavily on him.  That being said, I don't think anyone is excited about that idea.

Wanting To Give a Thumbs Up, But Going With The "So-So" Instead

Manny Delcarmen

To anyone that would listen, I've been extolling the greatness of Manny Delcarmen for at least two years now.  This kid is for real.  This is not just based on the fact that he can throw a ball hard (looking at you Craig Hansen), but the only Manny left in town has gotten it done all season long.  As you might expect from his age and total experience, he's had his moments of "Okajima-ocity" (Patent pending) this season, but more often than not he has established himself as the best setup man on the Red Sox roster.  I would not hesitate to call on him in any situation that presents itself during the playoffs.  If you can manage to get him in to start an inning though, the Red Sox will most assuredly be golden.  Manny Delcarmen should be pitching where Okajima is, and it will be even more important for Delcarmen to finish innings, as the idea of bringing in Okajima with men on base just made me cry a little.

Big Thumbs Up, Pointing Him To Okajima's Spot On The Bench

Justin Masterson

The kid.  22 years old, and, fun fact, bet you didn't know he was born in Jamaica?  Fact!  Justin Masterson has been a savior of sorts to the Red Sox this season, who chose to sit on their asses at the deadline and not look for bullpen help.  Instead, they ended up bringing Masterson back up to work out of the pen.  Splitting time as both a starter and a reliever, it's as a reliever that he found himself a place on the 2008 Boston Red Sox.  And he has delivered for the most part.  Throughout the season, perhaps if by plan, the Red Sox put him into tight situation after tight situation, only to see him succeed.  His youth and inexperience are huge points against him though.  This isn't like Jon Lester's relative inexperience, Masterson hasn't spent a full season in the majors yet and has never seen an inning of playoff baseball.  I also think the Red Sox will be very careful about how they use him.  They've got to protect him both physically and mentally.  It'd be a shame to watch some kid's whole future go down in one series deciding inning as he just implodes in front of the whole country.  I wish I could be more excited about his ability to help the team, but I think between the "Kiddie gloves" treatment he may receive, and his inexperience, he won't appear in many (if any) big spots.

Thumbs Up On His Potential To Be a Factor, Thumbs Down To Reality

Javy Lopez

Lefty specialist.  That's it.  Honestly, there's nothing more to be said here.  You need a lefty/lefty matchup?  Here comes Javy Lopez.  Am I excited about the idea?  Eh, it could be worse, it could be better.  It's hardly worth putting thought into though, because it is what it is.

A Left Handed, "Whatever"

And now, my list of guys I don't want to see in games closer than 10 runs.

10 Run Guys

- David Aardsma

- Mike Timlin

It's possible one of those guys (Aardsma) doesn't make the playoff roster.  Good.  Take them both.  They are worthless to this team other than to eat innings in a blowout.  Mike Timlin used to be great, and then he turned 73 years old.  I'm no doctor, but I just don't think it's a good idea to be pitching in the majors at 73 years old.  If he comes in during a close game, prepare to hear the sound of six states crying out in terror.

As long as the Red Sox can rely on Delcarmen and Papelbon, and limit Okajima to situations where he can do the least possible damage if things go wrong, and work Masterson in here and there, they should be alright.  If Mike Timlin starts to see real work... run.


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