All winter long, into the spring and now summer, the talk has been that the Red Sox bullpen has been the team's downfall. That, is not the case. This bullpen started off weak and was heavily pressed into action because of the rotation. At first, this set the bullpen back and led to a lot of struggles.
Now, the bullpen bails out the rotation's struggles. With what feels like two bullpen days every five games, the pen's workload has been tested. They've been called into duty, and they've answered.
Matt Barnes still has a 2.57 xFIP to go along with one of the highest K% rates in baseball. Brandon Workman has continued to slide nicely into his role of high pressure situations. Marcus Walden had a rough patch in the early parts of summer but has returned to his impeccable form of the spring; he has a 1.59 ERA over the last month or so.
Then there's two names in the bullpen, that have been so dominant yet also so underrated. A couple of rookies, both left-handed, who have a chance to have a lasting impression and be long-term pieces of this pitching staff.
Darwinzon has been stellar in the big leagues. On the surface, there's some concerns. The 3.80 ERA is higher than it should be, with how well he's pitched overall. The walks, as always with him, are too high. 7.6 BB/9 is currently his biggest downfall, and the one big issue preventing him from being truly dominant.
But when we look deeper, there is a lot to like with Hernandez. His K/9 rate is off the charts, with over 16 strikeouts per nine innings, placing him just ahead of teammate and elite strikeout-man Matt Barnes.
The stuff is there for Darwinzon to be dominant. He has high velocity on his fastball, and his slider is sure to keep generating swings and misses. The other thing that will determine whether Hernandez stays in the bullpen, as a potential closer, or be an arm in rotation, is him adding a third pitch.
Only having two pitches isn't going to fly as a starter in the MLB in 2019. Eck mentioned on the broadcast that he wished Hernandez would hook up with Pedro Martinez, in hopes of adding a change-up. Obviously, Pedro is the guy you want to learn the pitch from.
While Darwinzon's potential change-up could never measure up to Pedro's, the addition of it to his repertoire could be a significant factor in how big a role he plays for Boston going forward. He's only 22, so time is on his side, and if he can keep the walks down and strikeouts up, he has 'future closer' written all over him.
Taylor had a couple trips back and forth between Pawtucket and Boston before he finally settled in up here. Now that he has, he's become one of the most relied upon arms in the pen.
There's nothing flashy about Taylor. He throws mid-nineties, has good but not great off-speed stuff and keeps the ball on the ground. But what I love about Taylor, is how well he plays his role. Taylor, who I like to think of as the Fireman, comes in when needed, and does his job.
Whether it's a bases loaded jam, or a clean inning in a tie game, Taylor is poised, and he's ready to put the fire out. He has a fantastic knack of keeping the ball in the yard, allowing just three home runs in 36 innings - an amazing feat in today's era. He has a 2.60 FIP and a 3.24 xFIP, both predicting that his 3.00 ERA is sustainable.
He's been great in any inning. Be it the first man out of the pen during a bullpen game or anywhere between the 6th and 9th where stress is high, Taylor's handled it.
Taylor has been extremely underrated by Boston fans this year, as well as MLB fans as a whole. His ERA ranks lowest of all rookies with 25 or more appearances this season, and has been 1.74 since the middle of June.
The consistency is there for Taylor, the peripherals are all there, and I love it. I think this was certainly a diamond in the rough, and having Taylor under control for many years to come is a huge advantage for the Red Sox.
They've found themselves two extremely reliable arms, who are contractually with the team for a while, right when everyone was saying the bullpen was bad.