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2022 In Review: Is John Schreiber For Real? (Please, Can He Be?)

After a strong showing in AAA in 2021, John Schreiber became, perhaps, Boston’s most reliable reliever in 2022. Let’s appreciate that and try not to ponder the reality of a repeat performance in 2023.

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

2022 In One Sentence

John Schreiber overcame all doubts in 2022 to become one of the most dependable bullpen options the Red Sox had, and has the forward momentum and staying power to be an option for at least a couple years down the road.

The Positives

In a bullpen that didn’t have many positives to choose from in 2022, John Schreiber showed up. Sure, we talk a lot about dumpster diving transactions from Chaim Bloom. But, the former Detroit sendoff proved to be a prime acquisition after spending almost the entire previous year in Worcester. 2022 was a different story. 65 innings, 74 strikeouts, just 16 earned runs in that time, good for a 2.22 ERA, which ranked the best on the team by almost a full run (Tanner Houck finished second with a 3.15.) He recorded 8 saves in a season where the Red Sox lacked a solidified closer outside of Tanner Houck’s good month or so. He allowed hitters a .192 batting average, and was a viable ground ball reliever. In fact, he allowed just three home runs all seasons, good for a measure of 0.54 home runs per 9 innings, second on the team to Brayan Bello. For a $700,000 salary, that’s as much of a bright spot as this bullpen could get last year. Add in that he was almost automatic in the eighth inning (he had ten holds in June alone) and was in the 90th percentile in xBA, xISO, xSLG and xOBP. That is all solid, and much more solid than Red Sox fans ever thought a 28-year-old pitcher with a career 6 ERA with the Tigers would be.

The Negatives

Schreiber did get saddled with four losses in 2022. All four were against division rivals. Furthermore, his 4-seam fastball, which doesn’t quite fall into the 95 mile-per-hour echelon, ranked in the 42nd percentile in spin rate, still managed a 45% hard hit ratio. His changeup was also pretty easy to take advantage of, allowing batters a .333 batting average the 72 times he threw it… but I guess it’s a fourth pitch for a reason.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves
It sure was BRAVE of John to pitch lights out against the 2021 World Series champs... sorry, I’ll be quiet as soon as the catcher in this picture comes back.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Best Moment

There were a few occasions when Cora gave Schreiber the nod for a second inning and he almost always rewarded this decision. Perhaps his best outing was on May 10 against the Braves, an early season two inning save that, to be fair, he was given plenty run support for after coming into the game. But, still, it was a game that showed he was the real deal. He struck out 3 and required just 26 pitches to record those 6 outs against the defending World Series champions. In fact, in case the rest of this article doesn’t set the tone for how reliable Schrieber was, he did not allow an earned run in 2022 until two weeks after this game, on May 27, and that game against the Orioles saw Baltimore have an answer for everyone Boston put on the mound.

The Big Question

Was 2022 one-and-done for Schreiber? As the team rebuilds its bullpen, will he be just another disappointing question mark?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the righty has staying power. All one would need to do is look at the consistency of his pitches, and the fact that even though that fastball could be quicker, it’s still retiring batters at an acceptable rate. Also, simply put, Alex Cora trusts Schreiber to be out there in high-leverage innings.Although he has had some regrettable appearances against teams that the Red Sox need to be better against, three of his four wins came against playoff teams, namely, Seattle, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay. Even in the win against the White Sox, he didn’t allow a baserunner in 1.2 innings. Long story short, although 65 innings is a small sample size, the fact that they all came in a season that saw the rest of the bullpen perform poorly says a lot.

2023 And Beyond

Who’s to say? Luckily, experienced help is on the way in the form of Coldplay extraordinaire Chris Martin and Kenley Jansen (and not experienced as in 12 years with 7 different teams experience, but as in real established arms; arms that have been quite good quite recently). Still, Schreiber’s numbers from 2022 would be a welcome addition to any bullpen. Even a slight decrease in those remarkable numbers would be acceptable enough for a sixth or seventh inning reliever, which is all he may have to be with any more depth! But let’s hope he’s more on the 2022 Boston John and not the Detroit era John.

If Schreiber blows it this year, it wouldn’t be the first time Boston sees a flash in the pan after one season to write home, and the neighbors — and especially the old team — about. But, if he continues on this path of multi-inning dependability and consistency, the Red Sox will have found at least one low-cost arm to turn to and not boo relentlessly.