Burke Badenhop Brings Great Control, Adds Depth to Red Sox’ Bullpen at Reasonable Price

Burke BadenhopMaybe Dish Network was on to something.

Surely, you’ve seen the commercials; a group of guys with overemphasized Boston accents sitting around talking about “The Hopper,” which apparently is some home-wide DVR thingamajig. Now, the fellows, equipped with their Boston accents, could, theoretically, be referencing a member of the Red Sox.

The Sox acquired right-handed reliever Burke Badenhop — aka “The Hopper” — from the Brewers on Friday in exchange for minor league pitcher Luis Ortega. The move put the Red Sox’ 40-man roster at exactly 40, and Badenhop, who is arbitration-eligible for the final time, is projected to earn $2.1 million.

Badenhop brings more than just a nifty name, too. The 30-year-old features good command and is tough on right-handed hitters, making him a nice addition to Boston’s bullpen given the low cost of acquisition.

Badenhop is coming off a season in which he went 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA (24 earned runs in 62 1/3 innings pitched) over 63 relief appearances with Milwaukee. He was particularly strong down the stretch, posting a 2.05 ERA (five earned runs in 22 innings) over his final 21 appearances.

The career numbers for Badenhop aren’t staggering. He had a career-best 3.03 ERA in 66 appearances with Tampa Bay in 2012, and his 2013 WHIP of 1.19 marks his best to date. But if used in the right situations, the veteran could provide the Red Sox with meaningful innings in 2014.

As mentioned, Badenhop is solid against righties. Right-handed batters hit just .229 (35-for-153) against him in 2013, and have hit .254 (218-for-858) against him throughout his six-year career. Righties have hit .234 (74-for-316) against Badenhop over the last two seasons combined.

In fact, the last two seasons have been Badenhop’s best, and his ability to keep the ball down is a big reason why — something that should play well in Fenway Park. He and Giants closer Sergio Romo are the only two pitchers to appear in at least 60 games while allowing less than one home run per nine innings and two walks per nine innings in both 2012 and 2013. Opposing hitters have grounded into 16 double plays with Badenhop on the mound since the start of 2012, which ranks 10th among major league relievers. In 2011, Badenhop’s 58.5 percent ground-ball rate ranked eighth among National League relievers.

Red Sox fans might really come to love Badenhop’s control, though. The 6-foot-5 hurler pounds the strike zone, evidenced by his 1.7 walks per nine innings since the start of 2012 — fifth among major league relievers with at least 115 innings in that span.

Additionally, Badenhop has posted a 2.59 ERA (12 earned runs in 41 2/3 innings) in 43 career appearances against AL East opponents — mainly stemming from his 2012 stint with the Rays.

The Red Sox, by no means, acquired a world-beater in Badenhop. So in a sense, it’s a rather ho-hum move when you consider the juiciness of the MLB offseason. But Badenhop is a piece that could help comprise a well-constructed puzzle if all goes right.

Boston should hop on board with that.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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