If you’ve been following this Red Sox this year, and if you’re reading this chances are you have been, you’ve almost certainly noticed how many extra inning games they’ve played this year. It’s not only the number of games, either. It’s how long those games have gone, as they seem to play in a marathon 15-inning game once a month. There’s a few things that go into this strange trend that’s been happening all year. One part of it is the strange randomness that makes baseball so wonderful. Strange things happen because of luck and small sample size noise, and it’s unexplainable. That’s only part of it, though. Another part of it is that they are a team that leans more on pitching than hitting, and when you play lower scoring games you’re more likely to be in tie games and close games that are one swing away from being tied. If they had a better offense, this wouldn’t be happening so much.
It’s not all negative, though. The lack of offense explains why they’ve gotten into so many extra innings games, but there’s a positive to this and why those games tend to go so long. That’s that the Red Sox bullpen has been fantastic basically all season, and they’ve been particularly amazing in extras. While the offense has frustrated and been unable to pick up wins in the tenth or eleventh, the Red Sox bullpen has been there to do the same. No one deserves more credit than this unit for Boston’s 13-3 record in extra innings this year, a mark that leads all of baseball by a significant margin. I just want to take a quick look at how amazing they’ve been.
First, the sheer number of innings they’ve tossed is incredible. Boston’s relievers have thrown 53 2⁄3 extra innings this season, which is eleven full innings — or more than one game — more than the Giants. For reference, the Giants have actually played in three more extra inning games than Boston. If you’re looking for all-time numbers, they aren’t all that close to the record, though they are tied for the 62nd highest inning total. The record is held by the 2013 Diamondbacks, who threw 76 1⁄3 extra innings. They do have a chance at the all-time Red Sox record, though, as they just need one more full extra inning to pass the 1951 Red Sox team for most all time.
It’s not just the number of innings they’ve thrown, though. They’ve also been phenomenal in those innings. As a team, they’ve pitched to an incredible 1.34 ERA over those 53 2⁄3 innings while allowing a .511 OPS. That ERA leads all of baseball in extra innings, and if you combine the innings totals of the next three teams on the leaderboard they still come up 11 innings short of Boston’s. On the all-time list, they ranks 54th all time. (Side note: The Indians had a 0.00 ERA in forty extra innings in 1941.), and they rank third on the all-time Red Sox list.
It’s not really clear what we’re supposed to take away from this other than the simple fact at hand: The Red Sox bullpen has been amazing in extra innings. It hasn’t just been one player who’s stepped up, either. Joe Kelly obviously had his great moment with three scoreless innings on Friday. Heath Hembree has been outstanding, and leads the team in extra innings thrown. Brandon Workman and Fernando Abad have also had their moments. More than anything, though, this has been a team effort. With 13 wins coming from these extra innings games, I think it’s fair to say this team wouldn’t be where it is without these spectacular performances beyond regulation, and it’s time the bullpen gets some credit for it.