Edward Mujica

Power isn't everything to John Farrell when it comes to a good bullpen

Mike Petraglia
April 18, 2015 - 3:18 pm
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As the Red Sox assembled their 2015 bullpen over the winter, there were some questions as to whether they had enough "power" arms in the back end of games. Power bullpens have become all the rage among those teams who fancy themselves World Series contenders. Kansas City is the most classic example, as the Royals rode a trio of 98-plus arms to the Fall Classic last year. Detroit has had success in the past employing a similar formula. In the National League, St. Louis has had a great deal of success with pitchers who overpower batters at the end of games, led by Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez (now a starter). But the Red Sox saw a different way. With Matt Barnes the only true power arm in camp with a shot at the roster, and with names like Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Edward Mujica already with spots on the club, the Red Sox decided to go in a different direction. The Red Sox added Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando and perhaps the hardest thrower of the bunch, Robbie Ross Jr. The results have not been bad so far. Entering Saturday, in 42.2 innings, they've allowed 33 hits and walked 14 for a 1.10 WHIP. The ERA is 2.74 and they allowed four of 12 inherited runners to score. They've had just two save chances and converted one, with Mujica's blown chance in New York being the only missed opportunity. If Red Sox relievers have proven anything, they've shown you don't have to overpower batters to get good results, including strikeouts, recording 37 so far in 2015 before Saturday. "Location is important but I think what we have are a number of relievers that use an assortment of pitches rather than rely on arm strength and velocity," Farrell said. "Bottom line is outs. How they get them, the ability create some mishits. Sure, strikeouts are good but we have guys capable of strikeouts, even though they're of average major league velocity." Another trait Red Sox relievers have is experience. And with experience comes adjustments. Mujica threw mainly fastballs on April 10 in New York before Chase Headley timed one and tied the game. Friday night, he opened with seven straight splitters and recorded a key strikeout of Manny Machado to bail out Joe Kelly. "His last two, three outings, he's gone to that pitch a little bit more than the night in New York where there were a high number of consecutive fastballs," Farrell said of Mujica. "That's not to say he doesn't have confidence in his fastball. He's not afraid to throw it for a strike and put a hitter away with it." That was followed by scoreless performances from Tazawa and Uehara, both masters of the split-fingered fastball. "Well, it says in those games, our bullpen has pitched very effectively, and that was certainly the case [Friday] night," Farrell said. "We had a lot of experience last year in one-run games. Unfortunately, it might not have always been to our advantage. We have veteran players that made good decisions in moment on the field."

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