How the Red Sox Bullpen Became a Strength

Since the start of August, no bullpen in baseball has been stronger than Boston’s. They’ve pitched just over 100 total innings in August, posting a league-best 2.78 ERA.

Up until the All-Star break, all the talk was about how the bullpen was sinking this team. Now? It’s the thing lifting this team up. When the starters are having a rough game or the bats are a little cold, the bullpen has been there to bail them out.

This seems like a complete role reversal of earlier in the season, when the offense was constantly picking up blown leads by the bullpen. Now, we see guys like Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden & Brandon Workman all having elite seasons out of the pen. Taylor and Walden, both rookies, have been even more exceptional in the last couple months.

I believe this is a huge reason for the bullpen’s success. As soon as Marcus Walden regained his early season form, and Josh Taylor shook off some early season rust, was right when this bullpen turned around. Brandon Workman has been a force all year. Matt Barnes has been heavily underrated. However, it is Taylor and Walden who are the primary sources for the re-invigoration of the bullpen.

Giving the “Big 2” More Rest

There was a point in this season, where almost every game would feature one of the two of Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman. They were both incredibly dominant out of the gates. Barne with his elite strikeout rate, and Workman being virtually impossible to hit to start the year

Then the dog days of summer began to kick in and fatigue showed up. Workman’s walks continued to rise, and so did the walks from Matt Barnes. Workman never really lost full control, and was able to regain his form once he was able to rest a little more. The constant use of Barnes has definitely affected the surface numbers for him this year, especially the home run ball.

There was a point where it felt like every outing he was giving up a bomb. That likely being the main contributor to his 4.32 ERA. So like I said, on the surface, it may not be great. But deep down, the ability to give Barnes more rest has paid huge dividends. Not only has his ERA been better over the last month and a half or so, but his K% still ranks among the top in the MLB, and both his FIP and xFIP are under three.

Barnes can finally have a day or two off in between outings. I believe that is huge for keeping an electric arm like his fresh. Workman has settled in nicely to the closer/high leverage role. With other relievers finally picking up some of the middle inning slack. A lot less pressure is on Barnes and Workman to not have the daily expectation of shutting a team down.

Why the “Big 2” Have Been More Rested

Marcus Walden has 10 appearances in each of the first two months. He ended both months with a spectacular ERA of slightly over 2. However, over the next 24 games he’s posted an ERA of 5.96. Then his last 12 appearances, he’s had a 1.50 ERA, with hitters batting just .108 off him in that time.

After it appeared for a moment in time that Marcus Walden might’ve just been a fluke to start the year, he re-energized himself, and was able to carve out a definitive role in this bullpen. Since that moment in late July, he’s been near perfect for Boston. Him being as good as he was in the early part of 2019 has been one of the main factors for more rest being given to Workman and Barnes, which in turn has equaled the bullpen’s recent success.

Josh Taylor is a name who was not on most people’s radar coming into the season, myself included. He’d been a farmhand in Pawtucket for a couple years, and didn’t see much potential in his call-up. Boy, were I and so many others ever wrong about Josh Taylor.

This guy appears to be the real deal. Of any AL rookie with 30+ appearances, he has the lowest ERA at 2.82, and the FIP to match at 2.55. He’s also 4th of all AL rookie relievers with a K/9 of almost 12. Taylor has by far been the biggest surprise in this bullpen, and his success doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. He is someone that could be in this bullpen for many years to come.

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