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2023 In Review: John Schreiber

After a pesky shoulder injury plagued his 2023 season, can John Schreiber get back to his 2022 form, when he was the bullpen’s biggest strength?

MLB: Game One-New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

2023 In One Sentence

John Schreiber continued to experiment with his arsenal in 2023, and while this and a shoulder injury possibly caused a slight departure from 2022’s pristine production, he still proved to be a viable option in the bullpen.

The Positives

The Red Sox bullpen was much more dependable in 2023 than 2022’s historically bad, painful-to-watch campaign, and Schreiber, boasting an ERA under four, was one of the reasons why. Despite Schreiber dealing with shoulder tightness for most of 2023, he still had reasonably good numbers, at least good enough to have many pencilling him in as a high-leverage option in 2024. He strikes out over a batter an inning; 53 in 46 23 innings is dependable, especially in higher-leverage situations. Plus, his slider, which he’s going to more often (more on that later) has been successful to the tune of a .185 batting average and four extra base hits against in 308 pitches. Oftentimes, Alex Cora would go to Schreiber in the seventh inning with a lead and be assured that Schreiber would bring it to the eighth for Chris Martin to pass it to Kenley Jansen.

Source: Baseball Savant

The Negatives

Schreiber is turning 30 in March. As someone who joined that club a few months back don’t listen to anyone who says that it just feels like another day... I feel like I should carry a walker around with me. Luckily Schreiber is a late bloomer in this league, and he still probably has some upside, but being over 30 makes his new injury history a bit more concerning.

Following 2022’s success, the shoulder tightness that landed him on the 60-day IL last year led to a drop in effectiveness, with both his whiff rate and gound ball percentage taking big hits. But worst of all, Schreiber struggled mightily with walks in 2023, increasing his number from 19 to 25 despite pitching almost 20 fewer innings. His velocity decreased a tick on all four of his pitches, by an average of about 1.5 miles per hour. His Expected Batting Average on his once-fearsome four-seam fastball rose from .181 to .264. And another slight concern is that, after coming back from an injury, long after the team had thrown in the towel, Schreiber gave up runs in 5 of his last 10 appearances — remember, these are outings of an inning or less.

Best Game of 2023

September 12 was one of few outings of more than an inning, and an outlier to my last sentence. The Sox didn’t win against the Yankees — surprise surprise — and they didn’t win the other game of that double header that day, either, but Schreiber was a rare bright spot, staying in for a full two innings, accumulating three strikeouts, and walking just one. His appearance later in that series, when he gave up a home run to Oswald Peraza after Mauricio Llovera had already thrown the game away, was less fun.

Show me a cool highlight.

Honestly, who wouldn’t love pitching lights out like this against your old team? Striking out the side in that all-important seventh inning against the Tigers must have made him go home in the mirror and flex for, like, two hours. Maybe even three. It might have made him forget he was on a sub-.500 team. That the slider fooled two batters in a row is even more telling of how his pitch selection has aided his growth; Schreiber still has the stuff despite the slight downtick in velocity. This is a slider that he went to more than his four-seamer in 2023, so it’s good that he’s getting guys out with it.

The Big Question/2024 and Beyond:

Is Schreiber’s performance going to revert back to 2022 form, and if not, what is his trade value?

You heard me. Schreiber’s increasing age and injury possibility make some alarms go off in my head. However, with this bullpen, what isn’t broken need not be fixed. This is, after all, a solid reliever making just $1,175,000, avoiding arbitration, and a guy who will still be in arbitration the next two years, bringing him to his age-32 season.

There’s no need to move Schreiber now, but his value may never higher — the oft-referenced BTV has his trade value listed as +9.7, significantly higher than any other reliever in the organization (though Zack Kelly, coming off of elbow surgery, comes close.) If the Red Sox need to fix another area of the roster, whether it’s the middle infield should newly acquired Vaughn Grissom sputter or elsewhere, Schreiber would be a tempting piece to move at the deadline. But, Schreiber would be in luck if I was in Craig Breslow’s shoes, because I do not believe in fixing one problem by creating another. Unfortunately, I’ve been watching this offseason, and John Schreiber may one day demand a payday that would make John Henry run for the hills in 2026, so nothing in 2024 is a sure thing.