Criticism can be a powerful motivator. Such was the case with the Boston Red Sox’s bullpen.
Throughout the summer and into the fall, Boston’s pen had been poked, prodded, critiqued and ripped apart by every media member, hot take artist, radio host and pessimistic fan looking for a reason the most dominant team in baseball couldn’t win it all.
In case you missed Sunday night, the Red Sox finished off the Dodgers 5-1 in Game 5 of the World Series to clinch the title and they did so on the back of a strong showing from, you guessed it, the bullpen.
Boston’s relievers, namely Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, were lights out in October and their performance was fueled by a special tactic from the coaching staff.
Prior to the start of the playoffs, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and advance scouting assistant J.T. Watkins created a video to show to all of the relievers on the team in an attempt to light a fire under the much-maligned unit.
“It was just headline after headline about how this bullpen was going to be the weak point of the Red Sox this postseason,” assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister told Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. “It was unbelievable to watch it. I got chills watching it, because I knew how fired up these guys would get, how they’d respond to that meeting.
“It finished with every single pitcher on the staff blowing away all the hitters we were going to face in the postseason in every round. It was an unbelievable video. They did a tremendous job of putting it together.”
The Red Sox’s bullpen was dominant in the postseason, posting a 2.71 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 63 innings while holding opposing teams to a .187 batting average and a .599 OPS.
There’s no motivation like someone telling you can’t do something. The Red Sox chose not to acquire a power reliever at the trade deadline, a move they were scolded for down the stretch. But when it mattered most, Kelly, Barnes and Co. bucked up and shut down the opposition, proving all their doubters wrong in the process.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images