Always be closing
Today Joel Hanrahan returns and Boston will have two ‘closers’ where convention allows for only one.
So what should John Farrell do?
Farrell has been described as a progressive manager and I believe he should further embrace modern baseball thinking and use his bullpen situationally, everyone in the bullpen needs to always be closing.
The closer is generally thought to be the best relief pitcher on the team, but in this current Boston bullpen would you really remark at how much better Andrew Bailey is over Joel Hanrahan, or Koji Uehara? To designate one of them as the closer (or best relief pitcher) who can only enter the game in the 9th inning hurts the team.
Joel Hanrahan over his career has induced significantly more ground into double plays vs right hand batters than either Bailey or Uehara. So if you need a double play to keep the opposition from scoring, even if it’s in the 6th inning, bring him in.
All three pitchers are tough on left and right handed bats but Uehara has significantly better strikeout to walk ratios. If a situation arises where you need a strikeout but a walk will kill you, even if it’s in the 5th inning, bring him in.
It doesn’t matter what inning it is, it doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that you have, and you use, your best relief pitchers in situations where they can help you the most. It does not help the team to have Andrew Bailey still sitting on the bench because he only pitches in the 9th inning while another pitcher blows the game.