Does Adding Fernando Abad Give Boston a Better Bullpen?
While acquiring a starting pitcher has seemed to be the top priority of the Boston Red Sox, on Monday, they traded for reliever Fernando Abad, sending minor leaguer Pat Light to the Minnesota Twins in return.
sources: fernando abad traded to red sox, pending medicals
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 1, 2016
At first glance, Abad and his 2.65 ERA in 34 innings this year, seems like an immediate upgrade for Boston. They currently have the 14th-worst bullpen xFIP this season at 4.11, so an upgrade was needed.
However, Abad owns a 4.17 xFIP and a career-worst 10.10 percent walk rate (league average is currently 8.20 percent) this season, so will he actually be a boost for Boston?
Abad has shown some concerning signs this season. His percentage of pitches that batters swing at outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) is not only a career-low, but at 20.5 percent, it's also the lowest among qualified relievers this season by almost two points. In other words, no one is chasing his pitches.
Making matters worse, Abad is not missing any bats either when batters do decide to swing. His swinging-strike rate of 6.0 percent is third-lowest among relievers, hence the 84.8 percent contact rate (eighth-highest) he's allowed.
This makes sense why his ground ball percentage of 45.2 this season is a career-high because batters are putting the ball in play more. Pitching to contact is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the pitcher is able to induce weak contact.
In Abdad's case, he has done this well in 2016. His 14.7 percent soft-hit rate ranks 21st among relievers, so although he's not missing many bats, the weak contact makes up for some of that.
Another possible area of concern is how he's pitched as the season has gone on. Breaking things down by month reduces his already small sample size of innings pitched this season even further, so take that into consideration when viewing the table below.
Putting much stock into samples of 10 innings or fewer is probably not a good idea, but considering Abdad's xFIP has increased each month of the season, it's something to monitor going forward.
Despite some worrisome stats, Abad does offer value as a potential specialist against left-handed hitters. Check out his splits this season when facing lefties versus righties.
Abad has been almost unhittable when facing lefties, and he's walked them just twice out of 52 batters faced this season, compared to 12 walks in 86 righties faced. His xFIP is also almost a full point lower when facing lefties.
The Twins didn't use Abad as a lefty specialist this season -- he faced more righties than lefties -- but the Red Sox might want to consider deploying him in this fashion. This is where, in my mind, he offers the most value and can help improve Boston's bullpen.
Even if Abad has shown the ability to get out righties in big spots this season.
Prior to the trade, we projected Abad to record a 3.15 ERA and a 21.7 percent strikeout rate over the remaining course of the season.
Boston should be happy to get his out of the 30 year-old southpaw and help improve on their current 64.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to our projections.