The BoSox Injection staff reflects on the 2016 season by grading each member of the Boston Red Sox based on expectations for them entering the season.
In total, Junichi Tazawa’s 2016 campaign was an exercise in futility; however, in perusing his season’s statistics, I was reminded of how effectively he had pitched to open the season. In fact, he pitched brilliantly in his 21 appearances from Opening Day through May 27. Then he began a 3-month stretch, from May 21 to August 31, where he was indistinguishable from Fernando Abad. Finally, he closed out the season with five scoreless, albeit of very low leverage, appearances.
What was incredibly frustrating about Tazawa was his propensity to allow inherited runners to score. On the season, Tazawa allowed 14 of 22 IR to score. Of the relievers in the American League who allowed a minimum of 14 IR to score, none of them inherited less than 31 runners on base. In other words, while Tazawa only needed 22 IR before allowing 14 of them to score, no reliever was able to allow that many IR to score while inheriting less than 31 runners.
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As mentioned in the initial paragraph, Tazawa’s season can be broken down into three distinct segments. In his first 21 appearances of the season, Tazawa made 21 appearances, produced a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 IP. He allowed a HR rate, Walk rate, and Strikeout rate of 1.4%, 6.8%, and 33.8%, respectively. He generated a slash of .162/.230/.221 and allowed only one of seven inherited runners to score.
Tazawa’s next 27 appearances were atrocious. He produced a 7.20 ERA in 25.0 IP. He allowed a HR rate, Walk rate, and Strikeout rate of 6.9%, 6.9%, and 19.8%, respectively. He generated a slash of .308/.353/.589 and allowed 13 of 15 inherited runners to score.
The final leg of Tazawa’s season includes his 5 September appearances, only one of which was the outcome in doubt. For what it is worth, in Tazawa’s 5 September appearances, he pitched five scoreless innings, allowing 0 ER and 3 hits. In addition, he walked one batter, while striking out six.
Regardless of how small one’s expectations for Junichi Tazawa were at the beginning of the season, he could not have met them. As a mainstay in the back of the bullpen from 2012 through 2015, Tazawa’s usage in September, both in terms of frequency and the leverage index of the situations into which he was inserted, indicated that his role on this team had been forever and irreversibly altered due to his ineffectiveness.
Personally, I did not expect much from Tazawa this season and Lord knows I got it. In years past, people attributed Tazawa’s poor pitching to overuse, this year some people attributed his poor pitching to a dearth of usage. I think it is clear that Tazawa might have been overused; he might have been underused, but in no way was either the cause of his poor pitching.
Tazawa will be a free agent and my guess is that the Red Sox do not even make a qualifying offer. Tazawa turns 31 years old next season, and while he still appears to possess swing-and-miss stuff, he has too much swing-and-homer stuff.
I would be shocked if Tazawa’s career as a member of the Boston Red Sox has not reached the end of the line.