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Junichi Tazawa - Bullpen Ace (Dweller) or Sixth (Seventh) Starter


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#1 TomRicardo


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 05:05 PM

Lets begin this with the ridiculous premise that everyone stays healthy through Spring Training.

Tazawa has one more option year (4th option since this is his fifth professional year).

The question posed here is if you move Tazawa to Pawtucket to stretch him out as a starter or if you want to bring him to increasingly crowded bullpen to work as your long man / 6th and 7th inning ace.

Personally I want to see him go through one more year as a starter in Pawtucket. I believe he has the secondary pitches (curve and split fingered change) as well a decent enough fastball (heavy movement, decent velocity and control) to be a middle to end of the rotation starter which is move valuable then a bullpen arm. If this going to happen he needs to be stretched out this year to ~130 IP.

Preferably I would love him to start as a starter then move up to the Red Sox bullpen in September. I understand that the Red Sox already have three starters in AAA on the 40 man roster. However I think Tazawa has much more of future starting than Chris Hernandez or Terry Doyle.

#2 sackamano

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 05:26 PM

6th question for 2013

Tazawa takes his rightful place in the Red Sox bullpen ... he was one of the AL's best in 2012. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

#3 TomRicardo


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 05:33 PM

6th question for 2013

Tazawa takes his rightful place in the Red Sox bullpen ... he was one of the AL's best in 2012. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


But his value is better served as a starter. Unlike Bard, who was a disaster, Tazawa has an appealing set of secondary pitches and does not rely on fastball / slider velocity to get swing and misses. Tazawa is very appealing as a starter because of this.

The disaster with Bard was tied to control issues as well as his fastball becoming unimpressive as he moved from the bullpen role.

Ideally if a pitcher is capable of starting, you rather him start.

#4 bakahump

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:06 PM

We said the same thing about Bard. "he would be way more valuable as a starter...." and we saw how that turned out. Sure we dont know if he would have fallen off the earth in the "ace setup guy" slot as well. But Sackmano said.....not broke ....so lets not go looking for problems.

#5 Red(s)HawksFan


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:24 PM

Tazawa was flipped to the pen partway through the 2011 season as he was coming back from TJS. Do we know if the switch was related to his recovery, as in they thought he'd bounce back faster/better as a reliever than as a starter? One notable thing after his switch is that his K/9 rate jumped by close to two strikeouts compared to his numbers as a starter. He appears to be a better pitcher out of the pen than he showed in the rotation.

Not saying that he might not provide more value as a starter, but perhaps that ship has sailed as far as the Sox front office is concerned.

#6 NHbeau


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:39 PM

But his value is better served as a starter. Unlike Bard, who was a disaster, Tazawa has an appealing set of secondary pitches and does not rely on fastball / slider velocity to get swing and misses. Tazawa is very appealing as a starter because of this.

The disaster with Bard was tied to control issues as well as his fastball becoming unimpressive as he moved from the bullpen role.

Ideally if a pitcher is capable of starting, you rather him start.


I refuse to believe the conventional wisdom that somehow your 5th starter (who if wasn't a fungible spare part wouldn't be your #5) is somehow worth more than a top flight lock down setup man. Turning 50-60 games into a 7/6 inning affair for the opposing team seems to me far more valuable than the league average at best 150 innings you'll get out of the revolving door that is a 5th starter. I could care less what a flawed stat like WAR has to say about it on top of that. Bullpens are one of those things if you can get top notch performance you can hide a ton of holes in your starting lineup (2011 orioles say hello).

#7 Dogman2


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:39 PM

Tazawa was flipped to the pen partway through the 2011 season as he was coming back from TJS. Do we know if the switch was related to his recovery, as in they thought he'd bounce back faster/better as a reliever than as a starter? One notable thing after his switch is that his K/9 rate jumped by close to two strikeouts compared to his numbers as a starter. He appears to be a better pitcher out of the pen than he showed in the rotation.

Not saying that he might not provide more value as a starter, but perhaps that ship has sailed as far as the Sox front office is concerned.


I think the bolded are the same thing. Bring him along slowly while using him in a role in which there will be minimal innings/cap while in recovery. Last season, the team's starters stayed remarkably healthy and there wasn't a particular need for a 7th or 8th starter. By the time the team made the large trade, there was no reason to use Tazawa as a starter given the team's non-competitive nature as well as his recovery/potential innings cap. Now, he may have looked good as a reliever, but I haven't seen anything to suggest there has been an organizational thought change regarding Tazawa's role. This season should be a definitive guide.

I think the jump in K/9 is incidental to his usage.

I think he goes back to starting.

Edited by Dogman2, 27 December 2012 - 06:44 PM.


#8 PrometheusWakefield


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:48 PM

Yeah, I agree that I want to see Tazawa get a chance to start and I think he should be the first or second guy they call on (with Morales), but I think it's just as likely he can grow into that role by starting this year getting major league hitters out in the bullpen as a starter in AAA.

#9 Red(s)HawksFan


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 06:52 PM

I think the bolded are the same thing. Bring him along slowly while using him in a role in which there will be minimal innings while in recovery. Last season, the team's starters stayed remarkably healthy and there wasn't a particular need for a 7th or 8th starter. By the time the team made the large trade, there was no reason to use Tazawa as a starter given the team's non-competitive nature as well as his recovery/potential innings cap. Now, he may have looked good as a reliever, but I haven't seen anything to suggest the the has been an organizational thought change regarding Tazawa's role. This season should be a definitive guide. I think he goes back to starting.


He was switched to the bullpen two years ago, during the season where Matsuzaka and Buchholz were down and Lackey should have been. But if it was part of the recovery process, I can see why they didn't keep him starting (he made 8 starts in A/AA before he moved to the pen).

However, the 2012 rotation was hardly set in stone from day one. There was a "competition" for the last spot in spring training, after all. Once the season got rolling, and starter candidates like Aceves and Padilla were moved to the pen, the 6th starter was Aaron Cook with DiceK making his way back for a possible June return. Morales wasn't even on the radar as a possible starter (as I recall, that was a midseason Valentine driven move). I would think in the name of maximizing options, Tazawa could have been starting games in Pawtucket in April/May, and if it became clear he was needed more in the bullpen, moved there with an eye toward bringing him up in the second half like they did. But he wasn't, he was in the pen from day one.

As much as he might be a valuable part of the rotation equation, I think they've committed to him being in the bullpen in 2013.

#10 Rasputin


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Posted 27 December 2012 - 11:42 PM

He has the chance to be an absolute shut down short reliever that can anchor our bullpen for the next generation.

I can see giving him a shot at the rotation either now or next year but I want his arm in the bigs.

#11 TomRicardo


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Posted 28 December 2012 - 09:27 AM

We said the same thing about Bard. "he would be way more valuable as a starter...." and we saw how that turned out. Sure we dont know if he would have fallen off the earth in the "ace setup guy" slot as well. But Sackmano said.....not broke ....so lets not go looking for problems.


Sure people said things about Bard but for reasons given it is a very different situation. Please try to comprehend what is said before you respond. If you disagree with me please give reason why you think Bard and Tazawa would be similar cases counter to my given reason. Main board has gone down in quality later due to throw away posts like this.

#12 Div School Sox Fan

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 09:29 AM

The Red Sox have never in the last decade brought a projected starter back from injury as a reliever, and then shifted him to starting again. The choice to make Tazawa a reliever was clearly a choice to make him a reliever permanently. The comparison is Manny Delcarmen, another good prospect who had arm surgery and returned as a full-time relief pitcher, never to start again.

I assume the Sox decided that Tazawa's arm couldn't handle starting, or that his stuff played better in the bullpen, or some combination of the two. I would love it if Tazawa could be the mid-rotation starter his brilliant (pre-injury) 2009 suggested he could be, but the Red Sox' decision to shift him to the bullpen shows that is highly unlikely to happen.

Edited by Div School Sox Fan, 28 December 2012 - 09:30 AM.


#13 Drek717

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 10:27 AM

But his value is better served as a starter. Unlike Bard, who was a disaster, Tazawa has an appealing set of secondary pitches and does not rely on fastball / slider velocity to get swing and misses. Tazawa is very appealing as a starter because of this.

The disaster with Bard was tied to control issues as well as his fastball becoming unimpressive as he moved from the bullpen role.

Ideally if a pitcher is capable of starting, you rather him start.

If he can be a solid starter then sure, that's where his value would be maximized, but Tazawa is 26 (turns 27 at mid-season), and hasn't thrown over 140 IPs in a single season and last time he went over 100 he needed TJ surgery. I don't think we could expect him to throw a full season workload as a starter next season, at least not without engendering significant injury risk.

At the same time the Tazawa we saw for >40 IP in the bigs last year is easily one of our 5 best pitchers or so, meaning it's damn hard not to have him on the 25 man roster helping the big league club win games.

I'd suggest that the best path forward for Tazawa is the old school route of grooming potential starters in the bullpen, but doing so with more of a critical eye than was applied to Bard. A full season out of the bullpen would give him his best chance to mature against ML pitching while also establishing his health one year further removed from the lost 2010 season. If his peripherals hold up over ~70 IP then we revisit the discussion next winter, based on team needs and just how good those peripherals are and where the bullpen is at. Its entirely possible we might have enough mid to back of the rotation starter types that Tazawa's proven relief ability is worth more than adding another arm to an already overloaded competition.

#14 maufman


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Posted 28 December 2012 - 11:11 AM

Sure people said things about Bard but for reasons given it is a very different situation. Please try to comprehend what is said before you respond. If you disagree with me please give reason why you think Bard and Tazawa would be similar cases counter to my given reason. Main board has gone down in quality later due to throw away posts like this.


From the free-agent market, it's clear that most clubs understand that a league-average SP is more valuable than even an elite RP -- yet, those clubs seldom attempt to convert elite RPs into SPs. Maybe Baka didn't connect the dots to your liking, but I don't think he's wrong to see Bard's fate as a cautionary tale.

And I'm not sure Tazawa is a "very different situation." It's hardly standard operating procedure to convert a starter to relief while he's recovering from TJS. Therefore, the Sox presumably had other reasons for converting Tazawa to relief -- which reasons are probably not all that different from the reasons that other pitchers are so converted.

#15 Savin Hillbilly


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Posted 28 December 2012 - 11:33 AM

If he can be a solid starter then sure, that's where his value would be maximized, but Tazawa is 26 (turns 27 at mid-season), and hasn't thrown over 140 IPs in a single season and last time he went over 100 he needed TJ surgery. I don't think we could expect him to throw a full season workload as a starter next season, at least not without engendering significant injury risk.


Besides this, I would question the assertion that Tazawa is a better bet to succeed as a starter than Bard because he has a bigger repertoire. In his 2010 stint he threw about 60% fastballs and a mix of other stuff, with the curve his secondary pitch of choice. This past year he pretty much shelved the curve, throwing it just 3% of the time; he became a fastball pitcher (75%) who also mixes in a change (14%) and slider (8%). That's basically a reliever's repertoire. Those numbers are not that different from Bard 2011, who threw his fastball 68% of the time, his slider 25%, and his change 7%. And Bard's slider is probably a better pitch than any of Tazawa's secondary offerings.

#16 lexrageorge

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 11:43 AM

Tazawa's track record as a starter was pretty minimal outside of some success in the minors pre-surgery, and so I believe it's premature to bank on him becoming a solid member of the starting rotation. Given the fact that the major league club does still have uncertainty in the bullpen (e.g., we really don't know what to expect from Bard), but does have 5 starters pretty much set, it seems that all parties would be well served by keeping Tazawa in the bullpen as a potential relief ace role, and then perhaps reassess mid-season if need be.

Not all relievers can become starters. We had this argument time and time again back in the Papelbon days. While a good starting pitcher is more valuable than a good reliever, a good reliever is more valuable than a replacement level starter.

#17 Joshv02

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 11:45 AM

But, he was a reliever - of course he had a relievers repertoire. (And pitchers are often converted to relief after TJ surgery -- Delcarmen, Soria, Kyle McClellan, Brian Wilson, Isringhausen, Smoltz. Some go on to start again; many do not.)


MCoA has the right of it, I think. Other than Bard, the Red Sox haven't really done that whole reliever-to-starter thing very often (despite paying lip service to it every year). Usually, they do the opposite - Alex Wilson was kept a starter until he was on the verge of a major league career, then he became a full time reliever. Nick Hagadone was a starter until he was traded (including after TJ surgery) even though he generally was considered to be a reliever. The fact that Tazawa was converted to a reliever is fairly strong evidence that he will stay a reliever.

I do think it would be fun if the Front Office were willing to try Tazawa out as a starter again. But, I'd be very surprised if they actually did.


edit: What the Sox do with De La Rossa will be telling. I suspect that he will be a piggy back type starter rather than a reliever in order to build up arm strength. I think they really do think that a 5 day routine is important enough to stick to that if someone is going to be a starter. If RDLR begins the season as a reliever [unless used every 5 days with a clean inning start, like a starter], I suspect that he will be a reliever in Boston (though, of course, we'll have to see).

Edited by Joshv02, 28 December 2012 - 11:48 AM.


#18 Paradigm


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Posted 28 December 2012 - 10:12 PM

Tazawa is 5'11" 180lbs -- this is where any talent evaluator questions whether he can handle a starter's workloard.

Bard is 6'4" 215lbs. Ain't nobody questioning whether Bard's frame can log innings.

Personally, I'd watch out for Tazawa as closer in 2014. Hanrahan will be a free agent and something tells me Bailey isn't long for this team.

#19 teddywingman


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Posted 29 December 2012 - 05:50 PM

Put me down as firmly belonging in the camp that says Tazawa should be in the bigs, as a relief ace.

The Bard experiment aside, there is always risk involved when taking an arm that's become accustomed to the bullpen routine, and trying to convert it back into the starting role.

I don't think the risk is worth it.

#20 TomRicardo


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Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:55 AM

From the free-agent market, it's clear that most clubs understand that a league-average SP is more valuable than even an elite RP -- yet, those clubs seldom attempt to convert elite RPs into SPs. Maybe Baka didn't connect the dots to your liking, but I don't think he's wrong to see Bard's fate as a cautionary tale.

And I'm not sure Tazawa is a "very different situation." It's hardly standard operating procedure to convert a starter to relief while he's recovering from TJS. Therefore, the Sox presumably had other reasons for converting Tazawa to relief -- which reasons are probably not all that different from the reasons that other pitchers are so converted.


The problem with Bakas throw away line is that you need to look at each pitcher individually. Before last year people were saying Bard would be an awesome starter because Texas converted a bunch of relievers and look how awesome they were.

Lets look at why Bard failed as a starter. Bard's main pitches are his fastball and his slider. His changeup is at best below average. He has control issues with his changeup and doesn't even bother throwing it to RHH. He uses it only to disguise his slider a bit more to LHH. While he was relieving his fastball and slider had unreal velocities however those diminished as he moved from the bullpen. His once ~100 mph with movement becomes a more pedestrian 94 mph fastball. Basically he then needs to live on his slider,

As Bard pitched he easily got gassed and started losing his arm slot, first with his fastball then with his slider. This then caused problems with his control as he started getting behind in counts and walking people.

In the end, Bard was a two and half pitch pitcher with endurance issues. It wasn't rocket science to see without a legitimate third pitch or the ability to go past the fifth inning before dropping your arm slot (both problem he had in the minors) he was going to fail spectacularly as a starter.

Now Tazawa is coming back from Tommy John however if you look at his work in the minors he never relied on fastball velocity to cover command issues, In fact he had rather good command as a starter. Also he has fastball, a curve, a split fingered change, and a slider that are at all at least average.

Paradigm did make a decent point about size though I don't 5'11" is going to kill a guy as a starter. What he needs to do is try to get back to 120 IP this year if he has any hope to start going forward.

Edited by TomRicardo, 02 January 2013 - 12:56 AM.


#21 Paradigm


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Posted 03 January 2013 - 12:02 PM

Kevin Goldstein wrote an interesting article about starting pitcher heights/weights and an anecdotal body-mass measurement.

There certainly have been successful starting pitchers on the shorter side: Shaun Marcum, Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer. From observation, Tazawa is shorter and weighs less than all of those pitchers. 5'11" is not going to "kill a guy" but it makes it harder for him to carry the workload, and there are fewer successful examples of pitchers at that height/weight contributing significant value.


Next, look at the bullpen situation: Hanrahan is a free agent after this year and could be traded by mid-season. Bailey doesn't pass the sniff test: why would the team trade for an established closer when they already have one on the team? Either he's being traded or they've soured on him.

Meanwhile, Tazawa is signed through the 2016 season, and showed devastating signs of success last year. It's entirely possible that by June 2013, he could be established as the Red Sox most dangerous reliever -- better than Hanrahan or Bailey.

Next, the team does not have any relief prospects on the farm. Some teams do: the Mariners (Capps and Pryor), the Tigers (Rondon), the Blue Jays (Stroman), the Yankees (Montgomery), but the Red Sox don't have anyone in Double-A or Triple-A that is on the reliever track. They might convert failed starters to relievers, but if that happens, it's only because that pitcher fails to start effectively, and that will take at least a full season, if not longer, to play out.

Then, look at the market for free agent relief aces. It's terrible. I don't need to get into it, but there are very few bargains to find in free agency and there's value in establishing a stable closer and not turning the position over year-after-year.

Finally, the Sox (fucking finally) have starting pitching depth: Barnes, Webster, Rubby, and starting pitching is more abundant. The Sox could sign Shaun Marcum tomorrow and add to that depth.

So, you're faced with this choice: you can groom Tazawa for the closer's role, and prepare him for the highest-leverage innings in baseball, or you can demote him, stretch his arm out, add him to the bucket of "starting pitching depth" and make him another commodity.

My guess is that he's Boston's long-term closer by 2014, if not sooner.

#22 Jordu

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 06:57 PM

Kevin Goldstein wrote an interesting article about starting pitcher heights/weights and an anecdotal body-mass measurement.


Has anyone done a similar analysis on whether SP heights/weights correlate with career length? Or effectiveness over a longer period than one season?

The conventional wisdom is that little guys who throw hard (Guidry, Pedro) have shorter careers than big beefy horses (Seaver, Clemens). It always seemed to me Theo Epstein bought into this conventional wisdom when he offered long-term big money contracts to Beckett and Lackey.



#23 TomRicardo


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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:32 PM

Next, look at the bullpen situation: Hanrahan is a free agent after this year and could be traded by mid-season. Bailey doesn't pass the sniff test: why would the team trade for an established closer when they already have one on the team? Either he's being traded or they've soured on him.

Meanwhile, Tazawa is signed through the 2016 season, and showed devastating signs of success last year. It's entirely possible that by June 2013, he could be established as the Red Sox most dangerous reliever -- better than Hanrahan or Bailey.

Next, the team does not have any relief prospects on the farm. Some teams do: the Mariners (Capps and Pryor), the Tigers (Rondon), the Blue Jays (Stroman), the Yankees (Montgomery), but the Red Sox don't have anyone in Double-A or Triple-A that is on the reliever track. They might convert failed starters to relievers, but if that happens, it's only because that pitcher fails to start effectively, and that will take at least a full season, if not longer, to play out.

Then, look at the market for free agent relief aces. It's terrible. I don't need to get into it, but there are very few bargains to find in free agency and there's value in establishing a stable closer and not turning the position over year-after-year.

Finally, the Sox (fucking finally) have starting pitching depth: Barnes, Webster, Rubby, and starting pitching is more abundant. The Sox could sign Shaun Marcum tomorrow and add to that depth.

So, you're faced with this choice: you can groom Tazawa for the closer's role, and prepare him for the highest-leverage innings in baseball, or you can demote him, stretch his arm out, add him to the bucket of "starting pitching depth" and make him another commodity.

My guess is that he's Boston's long-term closer by 2014, if not sooner.



What are you talking about? Reliever track? A lot closers start in the minors.

Of last years top ten save leaders, only four were relievers in AA and AAA (they were mostly failed starters). There is no need to have someone close in the minors to become a closer. And you can never ever have to much starting depth. It never happens especially with guys with options on mediocre teams.

#24 Red(s)HawksFan


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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:56 PM

Looking back at some other prominent and not so prominent conversions (successful and failed) of relievers to a starting role, one of the common situations in which it happens is when the big league rotation is short...when there are only three or four clear rotation candidates on the roster. When they decided to convert Bard last winter, they had an open spot in the rotation (arguably two). When they flirted with the idea of Papelbon in the rotation prior to 2007, they had an open spot in the rotation (his spot went to Tavarez when he decided to go back to closing). CJ Wilson...again, the team needed a starter. Going back to Derek Lowe even, the team was in need of a starter right away. There was no sending the pitcher down to stretch out and be the erstwhile 6th or 7th starter on the depth chart.

My point being that a team isn't going to weaken the big league team to send a pitcher to the minors simply to be depth. The Sox have five pitchers for the 2013 Opening Day starting rotation, barring spring injuries or set backs. They also have at least 2-3 back-up options should one of the five falter or get hurt early. At present, Junichi Tazawa appears to be one of the three best relievers on the roster right now. He can contribute positively to the team from day one of the season in the bullpen. Putting him in Pawtucket to stretch him out in the off-chance that he will become their best option for the rotation when a spot becomes available at some abstract future date will have an immediate negative impact on the 2013 team. I just can't see them, or frankly any other team in the league, doing that.

#25 Paradigm


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Posted 06 January 2013 - 11:43 AM

What are you talking about? Reliever track? A lot closers start in the minors.

Of last years top ten save leaders, only four were relievers in AA and AAA (they were mostly failed starters). There is no need to have someone close in the minors to become a closer. And you can never ever have to much starting depth. It never happens especially with guys with options on mediocre teams.



Forget about the value of starting pitching depth for a second, and concentrate on roster construction, organizational talent depth, and free agent market dynamics. Hanrahan is a free agent after the 2012 season, and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that Bailey is falling out of favor -- why else would he be demoted this offseason?

My question: who's the closer in 2014?

If it helps, here's a list of closers expected to be free agents in 2014:


Grant Balfour (36)

Rafael Betancourt (39) - $4.25MM mutual option with a $250K buyout

Frank Francisco (34

Joel Hanrahan (32)

Ryan Madson (33)

Carlos Marmol (31)

Joe Nathan (39) - $9MM club option with a $750K buyout, Nathan may void if he reaches GF targets

Mariano Rivera (44)

Fernando Rodney (37)

J.J. Putz (37)

Edited by Paradigm, 06 January 2013 - 11:45 AM.


#26 Scoops Bolling

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Posted 06 January 2013 - 03:06 PM

Forget about the value of starting pitching depth for a second, and concentrate on roster construction, organizational talent depth, and free agent market dynamics. Hanrahan is a free agent after the 2012 season, and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that Bailey is falling out of favor -- why else would he be demoted this offseason?

My question: who's the closer in 2014?

Isn't Bailey under team control through at least 2014?

#27 Paradigm


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Posted 06 January 2013 - 05:04 PM

Isn't Bailey under team control through at least 2014?


Yes, he's under team control until 2014. I actually like Bailey and think he's a good pitcher and deserves a shot, but I'm not running the team and it's obvious that there are questions about him.

Keep in mind:

1. The front office brought in Hanrahan to close games in 2013, despite the presence of Bailey, a "proven closer"
2. As a trade chip, Bailey is more valuable with two years left, or 1.5 years left if he's traded midseason
3. He's been injury prone

And on a personal note...

4. I don't see the logic in using Hanrahan in 2013, Bailey in 2014, and then a new closer in 2015. Extending Bailey or Hanrahan is obviously possible, but do you want to commit $30 million to a closer in his 30's, one of whom is injury prone? Not the best use of funds since Tazawa is cheaper and signed through, I believe, 2017.

I'd aim for stability and set one pitcher up for sustained success as closer for the long-term.

Think about how comforting that was when Foulke and Papelbon were sure things in the 9th.

Edited by Paradigm, 06 January 2013 - 05:06 PM.


#28 TomRicardo


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Posted 06 January 2013 - 11:09 PM

So your point is Tazawa should be in a crowded bullpen instead of starting in AAA because we don't have a closer apparent in two years?

What does giving Tazawa one last chance in AAA to start have anything to do with his ability to close in two years? Hell if Bard returns to form he would be the closer apparent. A lot can happen in two years but keeping a pitcher with potential to start from starting for the sole reason he may be your closer in two years? That is ridiculous.

#29 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 12:49 AM

There's a difference between saying there isn't a long term closer candidate in place and saying that Tazawa might be a closer in two years. It's entirely possible that if Tazawa spends the year in the pen, he could be closing games by the end of the season or take over to start 2014. I don't think Paradigm is suggesting Tazawa should toil away in the 6th or 7th inning this year and wait for Hanrahan and Bailey to get out of the way so he can have his shot in 2015.

It's also possible that the Sox feel having a shut down pen this year that can turn games into 6 inning affairs is more important than trying Tazawa in the rotation again. Perhaps they're worried (or even know) that he can't maintain the higher velocity over a starter's workload and have decided that he projects to be an average starter, but a dominant reliever. Sure, he's never been a dominant fastball kind of pitcher, but the extra few MPH could be the difference between dominating lineups and merely handling them.

I'm not sure where I fall on this particular question, but I can see the argument for keeping him in the pen.

#30 Drek717

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 09:31 AM

So your point is Tazawa should be in a crowded bullpen instead of starting in AAA because we don't have a closer apparent in two years?

What does giving Tazawa one last chance in AAA to start have anything to do with his ability to close in two years? Hell if Bard returns to form he would be the closer apparent. A lot can happen in two years but keeping a pitcher with potential to start from starting for the sole reason he may be your closer in two years? That is ridiculous.

I think his point is that this team is short on proven relief commodities that they have long term control of. If Tazawa is the elite bullpen arm he looked like last season maybe we're better off not trying to "maximize value" and instead enjoying the highly valuable player that he is as a bullpen ace, including having our long term closer in-house already.

Your previous post is completely correct that very few of the game's best relievers are earmarked as such throughout the minors, but you skipped over Paradigm's follow up point to that - any of our "failed starter to reliever" conversions are going to require time to 1. fail as a starter 2. convert to closer and 3. prove themselves as quality MLB relievers.

The long term road map for a strong bullpen here in Boston is pretty weak right now. Hanrahan is a rental, Uehara is a rental, Bailey can't stay healthy, Bard is a coin toss to be worthwhile at all. Tazawa is the one long term asset who looks on the verge of proving himself as a valuable piece to the 'pen, he's already in the later half of his 20's, and he doesn't exactly have the body you'd expect 200 innings from as a starter (not to mention a previous TJ surgery that happened while starting, shortly after working the heaviest innings count he's had to date).

The straight numbers "a mid-level starter is worth more than an elite closer" calculation requires that we assume Tazawa holds up both physically and productively. Those are two big X factors and right now it's pretty hard to argue that a team with ample mid-range starters and few long term bullpen solutions should take the gamble to "maximize" value.

There is very real value in certainty. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush to quote the oft used proverb.

#31 TomRicardo


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 12:06 PM

Who cares about long term bullpen assets? Bullpens have natural turn over. Most closers have short half lives as well.

Right now the Red Sox have a very crowded bullpen:

Hanrahan
Bailey
Uehera
Aceves
Miller
Morales
Breslow
Mortensen

Are all out of options. That excludes Bard and Tazawa. Even if Tazawa knocked off Mortensen (a depth killing move) and beat out Bard, I still can't see him getting any high leverage innings on this team without serious injury problem. He would struggle to get 40 IP in this bullpen.

That is a huge road to climb. He was fantastic last year however it was not enough to propel him up that ladder.

The bullpen is a strength to this team with or without him. To put him in the bullpen would mean killing some depth on the back end of the bullpen and kill some starting pitching depth. I just don't see the value in that kind of move.

#32 Red(s)HawksFan


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 12:29 PM

Who cares about long term bullpen assets? Bullpens have natural turn over. Most closers have short half lives as well.

Right now the Red Sox have a very crowded bullpen:

Hanrahan
Bailey
Uehera
Aceves
Miller
Morales
Breslow
Mortensen

Are all out of options. That excludes Bard and Tazawa. Even if Tazawa knocked off Mortensen (a depth killing move) and beat out Bard, I still can't see him getting any high leverage innings on this team without serious injury problem. He would struggle to get 40 IP in this bullpen.

That is a huge road to climb. He was fantastic last year however it was not enough to propel him up that ladder.

The bullpen is a strength to this team with or without him. To put him in the bullpen would mean killing some depth on the back end of the bullpen and kill some starting pitching depth. I just don't see the value in that kind of move.


Gotta call bullshit here. No way is Miller, Morales, Aceves, or Mortensen better than Tazawa. It's arguable if Breslow ranks ahead of him on the depth chart, I'd say no. Same with Bailey, frankly. I said it earlier, I'll say it again. He's likely the third best reliever on the team right now. He had a better season last year than anyone on the roster. Sure, there's volatility with any reliever, but on a purely performance-based level, there's no way in hell he gets bumped out of this bullpen.

If the team had an opening in the rotation, whether it was in the immediate rotation or as a 6th starter, I could see maybe pushing him into that role. But the rotation is full, and there are two, maybe three guys who are just as capable as Tazawa of picking up spot starts or filling in should one of the first five spend time on the DL. Sending him to Pawtucket to be starting depth is making the major league team weaker without a greatly tangible benefit for doing so.

#33 TomRicardo


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 01:08 PM

Gotta call bullshit here. No way is Miller, Morales, Aceves, or Mortensen better than Tazawa. It's arguable if Breslow ranks ahead of him on the depth chart, I'd say no. Same with Bailey, frankly. I said it earlier, I'll say it again. He's likely the third best reliever on the team right now. He had a better season last year than anyone on the roster. Sure, there's volatility with any reliever, but on a purely performance-based level, there's no way in hell he gets bumped out of this bullpen.

If the team had an opening in the rotation, whether it was in the immediate rotation or as a 6th starter, I could see maybe pushing him into that role. But the rotation is full, and there are two, maybe three guys who are just as capable as Tazawa of picking up spot starts or filling in should one of the first five spend time on the DL. Sending him to Pawtucket to be starting depth is making the major league team weaker without a greatly tangible benefit for doing so.


I never said they are better, I said they are without options.

Miller would be ahead of Tazawa in the depth chart simply because he is left handed.

Going off what happened last year I would guess the bullpen falls like this:

Haranhan - Closer
Bailey - Set Up / Off day closer
Miller - LH Set Up
Uehera - RH 7th Inning
Morales - LH 7th Inning
Aceves - Long Man

All those guys have guaranteed spots. There isn't a question about it. Aceves can go to the minors if he approves but the only way that happens is if he is being stretched out to start. I can't see him doing the Red Sox any favors otherwise.

So you are left with 1 or two spots (Probably 1)

You have Breslow and Mortensen with no options. You also have Bard who has a longer track record of bullpen success than Tazawa if he gets back to 2011 for (Bard pre starting is a better reliever than Tazawa. This sin't a question). Finally you have Tazawa.

Is Tazawa in 7th IP (pushing Uehara to garbage man) worth dumping an asset like Breslow or Mortensen? How much value does he give you?

He is not going to set up and he is not going to close unless half the bullpen catches ebola. So is there enough value in middle relief over a Mortensen or Breslow to justify cutting that depth? I am not really sure how you justify that. Even if he does pitch 50 IP which would be tough the way the bullpen is presently constructed.

#34 Drek717

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 01:23 PM

Who cares about long term bullpen assets? Bullpens have natural turn over. Most closers have short half lives as well.

Right now the Red Sox have a very crowded bullpen:

Hanrahan
Bailey
Uehera
Aceves
Miller
Morales
Breslow
Mortensen

Are all out of options. That excludes Bard and Tazawa. Even if Tazawa knocked off Mortensen (a depth killing move) and beat out Bard, I still can't see him getting any high leverage innings on this team without serious injury problem. He would struggle to get 40 IP in this bullpen.

That is a huge road to climb. He was fantastic last year however it was not enough to propel him up that ladder.

The bullpen is a strength to this team with or without him. To put him in the bullpen would mean killing some depth on the back end of the bullpen and kill some starting pitching depth. I just don't see the value in that kind of move.

Well this gets straight to the heart of the matter then. I think most of those you're arguing with (including myself) on this see Tazawa as being paired with Bailey and Uehara to give us three set up studs in front of Hanrahan, effectively ending every game in the 7th inning on a nightly basis (three of the four each night, in my ideal world, rotating the off day). His slightly over 40 innings of work last year had all the signs of him possibly emerging as the best reliever on the club period, and at his age and production level we'd be wasting value by sending him back to AAA again. Way more value than if we had to outright a Mortensen type.

That said, it's not like we have to just outright cut these guys either. The FO will have all spring training to evaluate their best 6 or 7 relievers and react accordingly. We shouldn't take Tazawa out of a situation he's clearly shown a good fit for (relieving) when we could instead trade a couple of the lower tier log jam guys and have a better club for it.

Miller and Breslow - one wins the LOOGY job, the other gets traded. I'm strongly leaning toward keeping Breslow because his career numbers are much better, he's better against right handed batters, and he didn't fade as hard as Miller down the stretch last season. Plus, Miller is younger and with more years of control so he could net the better pay off despite being the lesser pitcher.

Morales and Aceves - only one of these guys should be retained on the 25 man roster, and that is as the long man/spot starter. I'd lean Morales personally because he adds an extra lefty to the mix, is younger, and flashed a little something in his limited starts last season.

You flip two of those guys and see what Bard does in ST. If he makes a case for himself then you start exploring the trade market for Bailey with legitimate interest, but no real rush as you can go with a 7 man pen of Hanrahan, Bailey, Uehara, Tazawa, Bard, Breslow/Miller, and Morales/Aceves.

It's Cherrington's job to be able to assemble the best 25 man roster possible and turn any quality assets that don't fit that 25 man roster and are out of options into additional value. Moving Tazawa to AAA and weakening the bullpen to retain control of some middling bullpen arms is the wrong way to do that.

Edited by Drek717, 07 January 2013 - 01:25 PM.


#35 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 01:52 PM

Wait, you want to see Miller as one of the setup guys? He had a strong year last year, but let's not get carried away. The bulk of that success came in low leverage innings, the rest in medium leverage. He only had 7 high leverage innings all year last year. Add to that the fact that his walk rate was still 4.46 last year and I don't want him sniffing the 8th or even 7th inning next year. Especially not in front of Tazawa.

#36 Red(s)HawksFan


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 01:57 PM

I never said they are better, I said they are without options.

Miller would be ahead of Tazawa in the depth chart simply because he is left handed.

Going off what happened last year I would guess the bullpen falls like this:

Haranhan - Closer
Bailey - Set Up / Off day closer
Miller - LH Set Up
Uehera - RH 7th Inning
Morales - LH 7th Inning
Aceves - Long Man


Frankly, I think it's way too early to be pigeon-holing anyone into set roles like this, outside of maybe the closer (and that's only as a concession to the "norm").

I can't see a bullpen with Miller in it but not Breslow unless they can manage to turn Breslow into something of real value to another part of the team (a 1B or an upgrade to Nava/Kalish as a LHH platoon partner for Gomes). Breslow is clearly the better pitcher between the two.

I'm not especially keen on a bullpen with both Aceves and Morales either. I think one of the two is going to be moved before the start of the year, and I'm leaning toward Aceves being that guy just because Morales being left-handed gives him a leg up value-wise.

So my ideal pen would be Hanrahan, Bailey, Uehara, Tazawa, Breslow, Morales, and take your pick of Bard/Miller/Aceves/Mortensen. The four guys following Hanrahan would be mixed and matched at any point from the 6th through the 8th, Morales would be the long/mop-up guy, and the remaining pitcher would likely pick up a good deal of the low-leverage opportunities in losing efforts.

#37 Drek717

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 02:45 PM

Wait, you want to see Miller as one of the setup guys? He had a strong year last year, but let's not get carried away. The bulk of that success came in low leverage innings, the rest in medium leverage. He only had 7 high leverage innings all year last year. Add to that the fact that his walk rate was still 4.46 last year and I don't want him sniffing the 8th or even 7th inning next year. Especially not in front of Tazawa.


He also saw his ERA and WHIP climb higher each successive month of the season and got real walk happy on the back end of the season in one of his higher workload months. At Miller's best he's a better guy to get lefties out than Breslow, but he's inconsistent, Breslow still holds opposing lefties to a sub-.600 OPS, and Breslow is actually capable of getting right handed batters out.

A LOOGY who can't bridge a L-R-L combination without giving up an .829 OPS to the guy in the middle is pretty one dimensional.

#38 TomRicardo


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 07:22 PM

Wait, you want to see Miller as one of the setup guys? He had a strong year last year, but let's not get carried away. The bulk of that success came in low leverage innings, the rest in medium leverage. He only had 7 high leverage innings all year last year. Add to that the fact that his walk rate was still 4.46 last year and I don't want him sniffing the 8th or even 7th inning next year. Especially not in front of Tazawa.


LHP late inning specialist. Breslow or Miller it is interchangeable for this example. Basically a lefty for late inning situations. Miller was used as the LHP Set up man last year and had three bad games. Usage may be different with Farrell and if Breslow takes the position it doesn't mean Tazawa is any high up the list.

#39 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 07:56 PM

LHP late inning specialist. Breslow or Miller it is interchangeable for this example. Basically a lefty for late inning situations. Miller was used as the LHP Set up man last year and had three bad games. Usage may be different with Farrell and if Breslow takes the position it doesn't mean Tazawa is any high up the list.


But why would you force a lefty specialist into late inning situations when you have two pitchers (Tazawa and Uehara) who who can handle both left handed and right handed hitters and are better than Miller against lefties? Hell, Bailey isn't much worse against lefties than Miller is and he has a sizable split in 2011.

Both Uehara and Tazawa had better xFIP's against left handed hitters than Miller did last year, so what's the justification for forcing him into late inning situations ahead of either?

#40 nvalvo


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Posted 07 January 2013 - 08:47 PM

Let me sum up where most of everyone's comments are headed: some of the bullpen gets traded in spring training if everyone's healthy.

Personally, as a) I am not a big believer in the 2013 and b) I accept that relievers are among the toughest players to project, I would be happy to let these choices (say, between Miller and Breslow) be dictated to some degree by who can fetch the best return.

(And, edited to add, c) it is fairly unlikely that everyone will be healthy.)

What teams do people think will be seeking relief reinforcements?

Edited by nvalvo, 07 January 2013 - 08:48 PM.





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