The Red Sox bullpen blew a 6-1 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday with the help of four straight walks from both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier in the eighth inning.
Per FanGraphs, the Boston ‘pen has been the fifth best in the American League so far this season in terms of ERA (4.00) and fWAR (2.9), but they also lead the AL in blown saves with 15 on the year. All this without a set closer.
Matt Barnes entered June with a 2.08 ERA on the season. Since then, the right-hander has posted an ERA of 7.15 while appearing in 12 of the 22 games the Red Sox have played this month. He is on pace to make 71 relief appearances in 2019, nine more than he made all of last year.
Brandon Workman has become one of the more valuable members of Boston’s relief corps after not making last season’s Opening Day roster and being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket three times. He appeared in a total of 43 games in 2018 and is only five outings away from reaching that mark this year.
In those 38 appearances, the right-hander has really limited the hits he has given up, but walks remain a legitimate issue, as he is averaging nearly seven per nine innings.
Ryan Brasier, meanwhile, was not even up with the big league club at this point in 2018. He may have played an important tole in Boston’s success then, but, in what is now his first full season in the majors, it’s clear to see that the 31-year-old has regressed, which had to have been expected.
From July 8th to the end of the 2018 campaign, Brasier appeared in 34 games for the Sox, posting a 1.60 ERA and .171 batting average against over 33 2/3 innings of work.
This year, the right-hander has already made 35 appearances out of the ‘pen, and has yielded 12 earned runs on 25 hits and 10 walks in 31 1/3 frames of relief.
The bottom line here is that, at this rate, the big three of Barnes, Brasier, and Workman will be worked into the ground with the way things are going.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been given no other choice in order to give his club the best chance to win. Contributions from guys like Heath Hembree, Marcus Walden, and now Josh Taylor have helped, but the Red Sox bullpen needs some legitimate support from the outside.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to go out and acquire a veteran reliever with closing experience. If a move is not made in the coming weeks leading up to the trading deadline, then it may be too late to think about clinching a fourth straight American League East title.
I will post a list of a few relievers I would like to see the Red Sox pursue before July 31st very soon, so stay tuned for that.