2012 Fire Brand of the Year: Alfredo Aceves

'Alfredo Aceves' photo (c) 2011, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/The criteria for the Fire Brand of the American League Award is as follows:

“The Fire Brand of the American League is a Red Sox player who exhibits character under pressure, an unassuming man who leaves the spotlight for other people but makes his indelible mark on the past season’s Boston Red Sox. A piece most people take for granted, but whom we would have missed dearly.”

In years past, the recipients of this award displayed widely varying skill sets, and enjoyed vastly different levels of professional prestige and notoriety.  The rather eclectic mixture of players receiving the honor is part of what makes it an interesting and compelling distinction.  Giving such an award to the team’s best player is both simplistic and easy.  Identifying the player who’s contributions, though undervalued and unsung, were vital to the team’s success is a pretty special thing.  This year’s recipient is no different.

Only those with the loosest interpretation of the term would consider Alfredo Aceves to be a superstar.  He’s neither an ace starting pitcher, nor a closer;  a middle of the rotation starter, nor a dominate set up man.  Instead, he toiled in the bowels of the pitching staff for much of the year.  Often times, he was called upon to either soak up innings during garbage time of blowouts, or make spot starts to replace an injured starting pitcher.    Though expectations existed, they weren’t tremendously high.  His job during these appearances was merely to pitch “well enough” to keep Terry Francona from burning through his bullpen.  His job was thankless and forgettable; one that most players hope they never fill and one that most fans overlook.  Still, it was his, and he performed it admirably.

After the All-Star break, Aceves started earning opportunities to pitch in higher leverage situations out of the bullpen.  His biggest break came when the club’s designated seventh inning reliever, Matt Albers, began to falter amid a flurry of bad luck, poor location, and homer happy tendencies.  Slowly but surely, Francona started calling for Aceves in tight spots more frequently.  By September, when Tito had few trustworthy pitchers available in his bullpen, Aceves became his go to guy.  He made 12 appearances, pitched 25 innings, and produced a 1.80 ERA and 20/10 K/BB ratio.  Even more impressively, when the Red Sox were on the verge of collapse, he answered the call in each of the last four games, locked down crucial innings, and nearly carried the Red Sox into the playoffs.

The fact that Aceves was even on the Red Sox at all in 2011 is a bit of a surprise.  After putting together an outstanding 2009 season for the Yankees (10-1, 3.54/3.75, 69/16 K/BB in 84 innings), he was limited to pitching only 12 innings in 2010 due to a broken clavicle.  Despite the injury, he was a versatile pitcher capable of filling multiple roles, and most insiders expected him to play a major role in the Yankees 2011 bullpen.  Then in a move few understood, Brian Cashman unceremoniously non-tendered Aceves in an effort to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for one of their more promising younger prospects. While this move certainly would have been defensible in many other cases, the fact an arm as talented and serviceable as Aceves was allowed to walk without compensation came off as a little foolish.*   This was especially true given the Yankees’ need for pitching in both the rotation at bullpen at the time.  Their loss turned out to be a huge gain for the Red Sox.  On February 8th, they signed him to a major league deal, and the rest is history.

*Honestly, it was probably Cashman’s only real mistake that entire offseason.

Looking forward to the 2012 season, many possibilities await Aceves.  With two gaping holes existing at the back of the rotation, he’ll be on the short list of players (along with Daniel Bard and probably a free agent or two) that will be given an opportunity to contend for a spot.  If he doesn’t end up in the rotation, he’ll most certainly be given a shot at nailing down a key, high leverage bullpen role as the club’s seventh or eighth inning guy.  Either way, it appears his days as a long reliever and mop up man are over for the time being.  That’s a good thing.  As good as he was filling that important (but often overlooked) role, I’d much rather see him pitching situations where he’ll have a much greater day-to-day impact.

Categories: Alfredo Aceves Boston Red Sox

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

9 Responses to “2012 Fire Brand of the Year: Alfredo Aceves” Subscribe

  1. Matt January 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM #

    Love this pick. The Sox aren't as close as they are to the playoffs without him. He absolutely saved our bullpen pitching multiple innings while we were suffering through that Weiland, Miller, Wakefield, etc. time period.

  2. Michael January 4, 2012 at 1:06 PM #

    Make aceves the 5th starter and messing with him….he will win alot of games being #5 with his stuff.

    • Tom K. January 4, 2012 at 8:12 PM #

      Michael, I agree with You on this One-100% Tom – W.Fla.

  3. patozer January 4, 2012 at 3:01 PM #

    Great Choice!!! Congrats to Alfredo "Rubber Arm" Aceves. Hope next season, either from the 5th spot in starting rotation or from the bullpen, you perform even better.

  4. Lee Stange January 4, 2012 at 10:14 PM #

    Great pick, but Mike Timlin is still wondering where his award is.

  5. cdchi January 5, 2012 at 8:38 AM #

    Great choice. I would prefer to keep him in the bullpen. Aveces' career record of 24 wins against 3 losses is an indication that he allows his team to comeback when the starter falters.

  6. BobbyHW September 3, 2012 at 10:18 AM #

    Fire brand of the YEAR ! What year. A guy gets a 3 day suspension and you guys vote him the FireBrand of the YEAR ?
    Actually, he needs to PRAY a little more at the mound ! That should help !

    • Evan Brunell September 3, 2012 at 12:06 PM #

      Aceves was voted 2012 Fire Brand on December 31, 2012, in recognition of his work in the 2011 season. Before jumping to conclusions, I recommend reading what exactly the award means and when the award is given.

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