Great baseball starts and ends with pitching. As constructed, the Red Sox seem to have their rotation figured out for the most part.
This leaves only one thing: the bullpen.
The Boston Red Sox’ bullpen was better than expected this past season, especially since Brandon Workman wasn’t named the team’s closer until late July. But the fact of the matter is that there are some serious depth concerns despite the solid foundation in place.
With the team trying to finesse their way under the luxury tax, they are going to have to look the cheaper route to bolster that bullpen. Need they look no further than former Oakland Athletics closer Blake Treinen.
Treinen, 31, was recognized as one of baseball’s best relievers in 2018, a season in which he posted a 0.78 ERA, 1.82 FIP, and 31.8 percent strikeout rate en route to 38 saves for the Oakland Athletics.
2019 didn’t go as planned for the right-hander, however. A stress reaction in his back cut his season short a week before the playoffs, ending his season with an abysmal 4.91/5.14/5.01 pitcher slash line.
But why might the Red Sox be interested in the recently non-tendered reliever coming off his worst season as a big-leaguer?
The answer is quite simple, and it’s because Treinen’s struggles were mostly because of a significant drop in usage of his slider, his most effective pitch.
In 2018, Treinen used his slider on 22.4 percent of his pitches, making it his second-most used pitch behind his sinker. On those pitches, the then 30-year-old had a -0.97 FIP and a -0.06 xFIP. Fast forward to 2019, and the Wichita native had his slider usage cut to 13.9 percent, making it his least-used pitch in his repertoire. In those 136 registered sliders, he had a FIP of 2.95 and an xFIP of 1.54.
How Oakland witnessed their best reliever from the 2018 season struggle and not attempt to fix the problem is staggering. This tactical error may have been the main reason flamethrower regressed into a below-average pitcher in 2019, thus leading to him being non-tendered.
The Red Sox, a team that has become one of the more analytically-savvy teams in the league, should take note of this and be heavily interested in the right-hander’s services. After all, this bullpen does need a bit of a shakeup, and it starts with adding a lockdown closer –– a title that not even Brandon Workman, though he filled in admirably, can hold.
Treinen should come at a relatively cheap cost, and that’s exactly what the recipe for business looks to be for the Chaim Bloom- and Brian O’Halloran-led Red Sox front office.