Bullpen Report: Closers on new teams 

January, 28, 2013
The best relief pitchers in the Boston Red Sox bullpen in 2012 were, believe it or not, right-handers Scott Atchison and Junichi Tazawa. Actually, that dynamic duo led all Red Sox pitchers in wins above replacement, which is hard to believe -- and a bit sad -- considering the staff included Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and even Alfredo Aceves, who saved 25 games. Atchison and Tazawa did perform well in their combined 95 1/3 innings, but still, their team-leading WAR was a strong indicator as to why the team finished in last place in the AL East.

The current Red Sox bullpen, if not the rotation, certainly seems much improved on paper, with enough choices that fantasy owners might be wondering about handcuff options and safe, valuable setup innings. After all, former Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Joel Hanrahan boasts consecutive All-Star game selections and 76 saves the past two seasons. Brittle Andrew Bailey is a former Rookie of the Year, with a career ERA of 2.47. Former Baltimore Orioles/Texas Rangers right-hander Koji Uehara boasts a sub-3.00 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in four seasons in the USA, and then there's former setup man/failed starter Daniel Bard, still a formidable presence. Plus, Aceves and Tazawa are back, and lefties Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller were solid in 2012. What could go wrong in 2013? There must be some drama!

Well, let's start with Hanrahan. I'm avoiding the top 10 closers in most leagues, opting to wait on saves since so many options, even the so-called safe ones, will be imploding, and Hanrahan is one of those names to be wary of. He's not the only closer switching teams and/or leagues, but in his case, it will be interesting to see him adjust from closing in the relative obscurity of Pittsburgh and the NL Central to the AL East and the Fenway Faithful who grew to dislike even the reliable Jonathan Papelbon. I won't really compare Hanrahan to Mark Melancon, but let's just say the stakes changed there, and a serviceable arm imploded. Hanrahan certainly brings his own blowup potential.