Saturday, April 02, 2005

Enter Sandmen

Let’s move on to the bullpen, a group that I think is the strongest in baseball. They may be sort of shaky in the regular season, but there’s no group of guys I’d rather have in October than Foulke-Timlin-Embree. And with the addition of Mantei and signing Myers, it can only get better.

Closer: Keith Foulke

In my opinion, the MVP of the World Series had a roller coaster 2004 season. He was rattled in spring training, to the point where teammates and the front office started getting worried whether he could handle the real pressure. He was awarded the save in his first opportunity, but May and June resulted in more blown saves than expected. Then he settled down, and in August, was by far, the best closer in baseball. He didn’t blow a save during the entire postseason, coming in for huge innings against the Angels, and the now famous “ball-busting” bottom of the ninth in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. Not to mention, throwing nearly three innings in both Game 4 and 5 at Fenway. He closed out every single World Series game.

Foulke has the nastiest changeup in baseball. If he gets that baby working, not much can stop him. With Rivera’s recent struggles against his rivals, it won’t surprise me at all if Foulke is labeled the best closer in baseball sometime this season.

2004 Stats: 5-3, 2.17 ERA, 32 saves
2005 Prediction: 5-2, 2.11 ERA, 37 saves

Righty Setup: Mike Timlin

This tall, lanky right-hander doesn’t back down to anyone. Yeah, he was a little shaky last year, especially when he faced Vlad Guerrero in Game 3 of the ALCS. But, like the whole bullpen, was practically un-hittable in the postseason. I’ve always thought Timlin was under appreciated in Boston and in the world of baseball, and with all the late inning home runs the Sox hit, I can see his wins flying up from last year. Age might catch up to him though.

2004 Stats: 5-4, 4.13 ERA, 1 save
2005 Prediction: 6-2, 3.99 ERA, 1 save

Lefty Setup: Alan Embree

Francona must really like this guy, for they share that big wad of chew which is famous around Beantown now. Embree is a flamethrower that uses primarily his arm. I’m really surprised he hasn’t need some sort of rotator cuff surgery yet, but there’s always 2005 for that! Embree and Timlin are great friends and are often talked about together, hence the identical 4.13 ERA. And I swear to God, I will never use the word “hence” again. This guy could be a nice closer on most teams.

2004 Stats: 2-2, 4.13 ERA, 0 saves
2005 Prediction: 1-2, 4.12 ERA, 1 save

New Face: Matt Mantei

Anybody remember when Matt Mantei was the premiere closer in baseball? Everyone feared him. Now, after some tough injuries, his arm feels healthy and this guy is ready to explode. Mantei can reach back and get up to the high 90’s on his fastball. This guy was sort of an under-the-radar signing for Theo in December, but he sure won’t be under the radar when talked about as a key element in the Red Sox World Series run.

2004 Stats: 0-3, 11.81 ERA, 4 saves
2005 Prediction: 2-1, 2.45 ERA, 1 save

Sixth Starter: John Halama- 7-6, 4.70 ERA
Situational Lefty: Mike Myers-
5-1, 4.64 ERA
New Addition: Blaine Neal- 1-1, 4.07 ERA


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