Red Sox Going With Closer by Committee to Start the Season

WEEI – Matt Barnes. Ryan Brasier. Heath Hembree. Brandon Workman. Brian Johnson, Colten Brewer. Hector Velazquez. Tyler Thornburg.

Thornburg is the highest-paid member of the group at $1.7 million despite not proving to be an effective big leaguer since 2016. Two guys the mix to close games — Barnes and Brasier — have a combined two career saves to their credit. Hembree has never been relied on as a consistent late-inning guy. Workman has never seen a full season in the majors. Johnson and Velazquez are more perceived as long men/spot starters than high-leverage options. And Brewer’s major league debut last season with San Diego resulted in 11 appearances in which he gave up 10 runs on 15 hits and seven walks.

And you know what? Alex Cora genuinely remains really optimistic about what he has to work with.

Closer. By. Committee. The three most feared words in all of baseball. Seriously, it’s NEVER a good idea and I am still scarred by the mere mention of it after the disaster that was the 2003 Red Sox. Byung-Hyun Kim, anyone? Kim, Brandon Lyon, Chad Fox, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Casey Fossum, Alan Embree, Jason Shiell (who?), Bronson Arroyo, and Robert Person all had saves for the Boston Red Sox in 2003. Thats TEN dudes that got the ball in the 9th inning. There’s a reason they went out and paid boatloads of money for Keith Foulke that offseason and then actually won the World Series the following season.

Lets just take a look at the Red Sox recent championship history as it relates to the closer position.

  • In 2018, there were four guys that recorded a save, with Craig Kimbrel racking up 42/46.
  • In 2013, there were three guys that recorded a save, with Koji Uehara racking up 21/33.
  • In 2007, there were five guys that recorded a save, with Jonathan Papelbon racking up 37/45.
  • In 2004, there were four guys that recorded a save, with Keith Foulke racking up 32/36.

Have I made my point clear enough?

Don’t get it twisted, I am not the guy campaigning to give Kimbrel and his wildly inconsistent performances $100M, but I do prefer to give the job to one guy until he proves he cannot handle the job. None of this closer by committee junk that 100,000% will fail spectacularly.

The manager added, “One thing we found out towards the end, that although the people outside our world think we’re short on pitching, we’re not, and we’re going to be fine.”

I understand that there isn’t a young stud closer waiting the wings. There isn’t a Papelbon pushing Foulke out the door on this roster, but what worries me about the Sox is how they went about this. And I knew they would the second they won the World Series too. All summer we railed against the team for not making any big trades to shore up the bullpen and how it would be the end of them. Naturally they fell ass backwards into Ryan Brasier and Joe Kelly turned into 2003 Eric Gagne for a month and the Sox cruised to another title. Now Dave Dombrowski is pointing to what the team did last year and their philosophy on the position and the results they got. Except the only problem is that shit ain’t normal. Joe Kelly will never pitch that well for that long again. Ryan Brasier could be an absolute diamond in the rough, but he could also revert to the guy that was pitching in Japan before the Sox signed him last year.

So to not only double down on that devil may care attitude with the bullpen, but then to also make no moves while guys like Kelly and (probably) Kimbrel walked is not ideal.

But hey did you hear that Tyler Thornburg is close to returning from injury for the third consecutive year??

Oh man, I hope this Durbin Feltman kid really does fly through the minor leagues this year and is ready for prime time because this could get ugly quick. Hopefully he’s more Papelbon than Craig Hansen though.

It’s not that I’m down on all of the individual relievers themselves because they’ve all proved they can be more than effective…in certain roles. If we are looking to go the 2003 route where the Sox had 10 guys vying for saves, then I think this team is in big trouble.

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