Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Robbie Ross Jr.

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.

At 27, Robbie Ross Jr. made himself a bit of a linchpin for the Red Sox in 2015. When the team needed a middle reliever to trust, manager John Farrell turned to Ross much of the time.

In fact, Ross threw for 55.1 innings, second only to Matt Barnes (66.2 innings) out of all the arms in the bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel (53) and Heath Hembree (51) rounded out the top four relievers for innings pitched. The big difference, however, was what Ross did in his opportunities.

Ross had an opposing batting average of .228, which was better than Barnes’ .248 and Hembree’s .249. Both Barnes and Hembree also gave up six home runs apiece in big moments, while Ross allowed only two.

In Hembree’s case, he looked inconsistent compared to Ross; Hembree would either look like a dominant force or would get belted around the ballpark. Ross, on the other hand, threw reasonably good stuff every chance that he got on the mound. It wasn’t that Ross was pitching like a closer as much as it was that he wouldn’t give up a ton of hits in key situations. Hembree ended up seeing time in the minors while Ross continued to work in the majors with the big club.

The lefty reliever from Kentucky threw 56 strikeouts to 23 walks while holding eight times in all eight save situations that he was called upon for relief. When a reliever can honestly say that the game was not any worse after he pitched than when he went into the game, he had a good performance.

Being a good middle reliever is when the fans barely even knew that you went into the game. Either Ross mopped up messes or he held the opposition off of the scoreboard. The Red Sox needed Ross’ innings, as many of the other highly-paid relievers went on the disabled list with injuries throughout the season.

Grade: B+

What’s Next?

Ross is in an arbitration year, with free agency looming in 2019. It’s not like Ross was pulling Jedi mind tricks on batters on the mound, but he was getting the job done. Not every MLB team can say the same about their own relievers. Ross may have made himself pretty attractive to other teams willing to pay money to have that type of consistency. Teams pay for closers and they pay for starting pitchers, but the major leagues are finally starting to see how vitally important middle relievers are to the success of the team. Ross should keep his role with the team, as long as the Red Sox pay him the money that he’s owed for performing well in 2016.

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