If this were 2012, then there would be no doubt about it: the Boston Red Sox would be the far and away the best team in baseball with what they have compared to other teams. And part of that would be thanks to dominance in the bullpen.
Sure, they have David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winners and some has been hitters with the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Chris Young, Allen Craig and Brennan Boesch, but their bullpen would be absolutely devastating if they had the 2012 versions of who they have.
Of course, take Craig Kimbrel any year since 2011 and he’ll be utterly dominant. That goes without saying which is why he would make a fine closer on this theoretical team. In 2012, however he wasn’t even human. He had a 1.01 ERA and 42 saves. On top of that, he struck out 116 men in 62.2 innings. Yes, apparently that’s possible.
And that would push Koji Uehara into the eighth inning role — just as it does this year. Uehara was strong in 2012, posting a 1.75 ERA for the Texas Rangers.
But on top of that, the Red Sox signed Carlos Marmol, the former Chicago Cubs closer, to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite yesterday. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2014 and he was truly putrid. But, in 2012, he was an adequate closer — which translates to dominance in a smaller role — in theory. He recorded 20 saves that year and posted a respectable 3.42 ERA (the worst of anyone in this bullpen).
2012 was also the year Junichi Tazawa posted a 1.43 ERA and Robbie Ross Jr. went 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA. For both of them, statistically speaking, it was the best years of their careers — and it will probably stay that way.
Even Tommy Layne wasn’t half bad (3.24 ERA in 26 games) that year, his rookie season. Statistically, it was better than his 2015 season. But he was grossly misused last year.
Six strong relievers isn’t bad. But for those who aren’t satisfied: Joe Nathan is a free agent. In 2012, he had a 2.80 ERA and 37 saves.
Now though, Kimbrel and Uehara still look dominant while Tazawa is still a useful arm that will see plenty of action. Ross was solid after April last year and Layne is very effective — in the right role. Marmol is a has been — and he probably won’t throw a pitch for the Red Sox. And that leaves two.
Carson Smith had a 2.31 ERA in his first full big league season last year in relief, so he should be big for the team. Steven Wright could also prove key as well. The knuckleballer could serve the team invaluably as a long reliever.