The Boston Red Sox bullpen is a bit of a mess right now, and nobody is worse than Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg initially arrived in Boston in a trade package which involved Travis Shaw and a few minor leaguers. This trade has blown up in the Red Sox face, as Thornburg has been either injured or ineffective whenever he’s taken the mound. It’s time for the Red Sox to cut their losses, as Boston has several better relief options currently toiling away in Pawtucket.
Tyler Thornburg, Boston Red Sox Must Part Ways
Tyler Thornburg has been a trainwreck just about every time he steps on the mound. That’s nothing against Thornburg the person, but the atrocious results simply do not justify a roster spot. As of this posting, Thornburg his pitched 17.2 innings for the 2019 Red Sox. During his time on the mound, he’s pitched to the tune of a hideous 7.13 ERA, 5.26 FIP, and a 5.06 xFIP.
None of those numbers are good, and the underlying numbers aren’t any better. Thornburg is walking an absurd 4.08 batters per nine innings and allowing 2.09 home runs per nine innings. While the home runs will likely decrease in time, his inability to throw good pitches is a big reason for his inflated home run rate. The only “good” underlying number is his 9.68 strikeout rate, but that alone cannot overcome all the other ugly numbers.
Additionally, Thornburg is giving up terrible contact. According to Fangraphs, Thornburg is allowing fly balls on 51.0% of all contact, which is a terrible rate. Fly balls are the most dangerous type of contact, as they often lead to home runs and extra base hits. On top of that, hitters are tearing the cover off of Thornburg’s pitches. According to Fangraphs, hitters are making hard contact 51% of the time and medium contact 35.3% of the time. Soft contact is obviously the preferable option, and Thornburg hardly forces any soft contact.
The Other Options
Fortunately, the Red Sox have a few intriguing options in the minor leagues. Jenrry Mejia is having a decent season in Pawtucket, currently owning a 3.66 FIP in 19.0 innings of minor league relief. This obviously isn’t a great number, but it’s a significant step up from Thornburg. Additionally, relief prospects Travis Lakins and Bobby Poyner have struggled in Pawtucket, but both have the raw skills to succeed in the majors. In Poyner’s case, the lefty actually has some major league experience under his belt. These guys aren’t guaranteed to fix anything, but it can’t hurt.
If the Red Sox wanted a “safer” bet, they could promote Darwinzon Hernandez from the Portland Sea Dogs. The Red Sox are currently trying to develop Hernandez as a starter (something I applaud), but they’re facing an outside shot due to his command issues. Seeing the dire shape of the bullpen, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox pull the plug on Hernandez as a starter and convert him into a reliever. He’d immediately become the second- or third-best arm in the bullpen.