Two runners on, nobody out, in a tie ball game?
I still feel confident seeing Uehara run in from the bullpen.
(Kelly O’Connor/

There are only two categories of people in this world: People who put people into two categories, and those that don’t. I am in the first category.

One of the many groups of people that I put into two categories are relief pitchers. When you see the bullpen door open and a pitcher run out there are really only two general feelings. 1) Ok, good. He’s got this. 2) Oh crap, him? Seriously?

A while back, when Meet the Parents was merely a decent standalone movie (instead of a trilogy of forced, crappy comedies) I labeled this as the “Circle of Trust”. With Jack Burns you were either in the Circle of Trust, or you were out, and once you were out it was nearly impossible to get back in. 

This is the same lens through which I view and categorize relief pitchers. If seeing him running in makes me feel calm and confident (Mike Timlin in 2004) he is in the Circle of Trust. Conversely, if the very sight of him making the slow jog in causes instant consternation (Eric Gagne in 2007) then he is out. Once someone is out of the circle it is a monumental task to get back in. Let’s take a look at where the bullpen pitchers stand through 40 games.

Player: Alfredo Aceves

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: 8.66 ERA (that is actually pulled up by his two relief appearances – 5 ER in 4.1 IP), 3.1 HR/9 (trails only Joel Hanrahan and Allen Webster)

Member Since: April 8, 2012 vs. Detroit Tigers. Aceves came in with a 10-7 lead over the Tigers. He faced 3 batters, threw 7 pitches, and the game was tied 10-10. After being the only pitcher actually inside the Circle of Trust during the brutal month of September 2011, he left early in 2012 to never return.

Player: Andrew Bailey

Status: In

Pertinent Stats: 1.46 ERA, team-leading ERA+ of 302, team-leading WHIP of 0.811, SO/9 of 14.6, 5/6 in save opportunities

Member Since: April 17, 2013 vs. Cleveland Indians. In Bailey’s second save opportunity of the season, he struck out two batters, and retired the side in order. With the exception of a one-run hiccup against the Rays on Patriots Day (in which he took the blown save but also backed into the win), he has been nearly flawless this season.

Player: Daniel Bard

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: 9.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 18.00 BB/9

Member Since: September 7, 2011 vs. Toronto Blue Jays. Bard entered the game to bail out Dan Wheeler in the bottom of the 7th with an 8-6 lead. He closed out the 7th uneventfully, but in the 8th he gave up 5 ER (with 3 of them coming on a bases clearing double allowed by Matt Albers). He was hit or miss from that point on in September, and of course never the same after his foray as a starter in 2012.

Player: Craig Breslow

Status: In

Pertinent Stats: 2.25 ERA, ERA+ of 208

Member Since: August 1, 2012 vs. Detroit Tigers. Breslow came to the team as a reliever I respected. On top of that, he was acquired for one of my least favorite bullpen arms in the last decade, the aforementioned Matt Albers. In Craig’s first 12 appearances with the 2012 Sox he gave up 2 ER total. After starting the year on the DL, he’s only thrown 4 innings to this point, but until he remains in the circle based on his 2012 performance.

Player: Jose De La Torre

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: 2 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

Member Since: May 12, 2013 vs. Toronto Blue Jays. De La Torre has only pitched twice for Boston so far in 2013. He has a good appearance (1 IP, 0 ER, 2 SO, 0 BB) and a bad one (1 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB). We’re obviously dealing with a very small sample size here, but he needs several more clean innings like he had in Wednesday’s blow out of Tampa Bay before we can even begin discussing him joining the circle.

Player: Joel Hanrahan

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: 9.82 ERA, 2.182 WHIP, BB/9 7.4, H/9 12.3

Member Since: April 10, 2013 vs. Baltimore Orioles. 5 ER in 0.2 innings, a blown save, and the loss. The Sox went from 5-3 lead to an 8-5 loss in the blink of an eye. A few friends who are Pirates fans were absolutely delighted with the Sox traded for Hanrahan this summer. That’s always a really bad sign. In the preseason I predicted that he would save 40 games but also take some years off of your life. Well, I went 1 for 2 there.

Player: Andrew Miller

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: Appeared in 17 games (second only to Tazawa), 1.688 WHIP, team leading 16.0 SO/9, 6.8 BB/9

Member Since: July 6, 2012 vs. New York Yankees. Miller had a 1.86 ERA through 24 appearances in 2012 before taking a loss to the Yankees (he finished the year with a 3.35 ERA). In a nutshell, there are two Andrew Millers. One has great stuff and some idea where he is throwing it, the other has great stuff and no clue where it will end up. Nothing gets a pitcher kicked out of the Circle of Trust faster than being wild.

Player: Clayton Mortensen

Status: In

Pertinent Stats: 3.60 ERA, 2 HR allowed (less than both Uehara and Tazawa while pitching more innings than either of them), 20.0 IP (leads the team in relief innings)

Member Since: May 6, 2013 vs. Minnesota Twins. After watching Hanrahan blow another save, Mortensen, came in and closed out the 9th without further damage, and managed to get through the 10th, and 11th, giving the Red Sox three chances to win a game that they really needed. With a bullpen that literally had no one else available to pitch he threw 43 pitches over 2.1 innings and did not allow the Twins to score, despite having appeared in two of the team’s previous three games. Stephen Drew was the MVP of that game, but Mortensen was right on his heels. I immediately began to feel badly about how I had ranked Mortensen in the April Roster Power Rankings. He is headed for a nice jump in the May edition.

Player: Junichi Tazawa

Status: In

Pertinent Stats: 3.31 ERA, 11.6 SO/9, 1.7 BB/9, tied with Uehara with a team-leading 7.0 SO/BB

Member Since: April 30, 2012 vs. Oakland Athletics. Tazawa was the best pitcher on the team in 2012, and made it through his first 5 appearances (between April 20th and 30th) without allowing a run. He gave up only one home run in 44.0 innings last season, and has already served up 3 in 16.1 this season. That’s concerning, but it’s hard to not like a relief pitcher like Junichi who pounds the strike zone, strikes a lot of guys out, and rarely issues a free pass.

Player: Koji Uehera

Status: In

Pertinent Stats: 2.30 ERA, 0.957 WHIP, 12.1 SO/9, 1.7 BB/9, tied with Tazawa with a team-leading 7.0 SO/BB

Member Since: December 19, 2012. Uehara had a 14.33 SO/BB and 1.75 ERA with Texas last year. I was astounded that we were able to sign him so cheaply and quietly. Very few pitchers enter the Circle of Trust on the day they sign with the team, but Koji is definitely an exception.

Player: Alex Wilson

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: 12.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 295 ERA+ (2nd to Bailey), 0 HR, 5.3 BB/9

Member Since: April 11, 2013 vs. Baltimore Orioles. Wilson is currently the player closest to making the jump from out of the circle to in the circle in the near future. All of his numbers are outstanding, except for the 7 walks that he has issued. The four pitchers with more innings pitched out of the bullpen (Mortensen, Tazawa, Uehara, Bailey) are all in the Circle of Trust, a few less walks and Wilson will be joining them.

Player: Steven Wright

Status: Out

Pertinent Stats: 12.27 ERA, 2.727 WHIP, 3.2 IP.

Member Since: April 23, 2013 vs. Oakland Athletics. Wright’s one appearance in a 13-0 loss to the A’s (5 ER) ensured that he’ll be on the outside looking in for quite a while. I loved Tim Wakefield, but it is nearly impossible for a knuckleball pitcher to enter the Circle of Trust because the primary pitch they are relying on is by nature unpredictable and therefore generally unreliable.