Teams throughout the winter discussed Delcarmen with the Red Sox, according to reports, but Theo Epstein never bit on any trade. He was simply too valuable of a late-inning reliever for the Red Sox to give away without getting real value back.
All of a sudden, though, he might be on the cusp of being marginalized within his own bullpen. His ERA has climbed to a season-high 4.34 after his second meltdown in three days, this time an outing in which he surrendered three doubles and a walk and couldn't find a way to get the third out of the inning.
Month by month, here's Delcarmen's ERA:
What's wrong with Delcarmen?
Let's start with his velocity.
The righty was hitting 94 miles an hour regularly and touching 96 in key spots back in mid-April. He's now hitting 92 miles an hour regularly and touching 96.
(Both of the above examples are games against Baltimore at Fenway Park. In case you think the radar gun was juiced in April and isn't juiced now, well, Ramon Ramirez was recorded as throwing harder 10 days ago then he was back in April.)
Whether it's injury or fatigue -- Delcarmen threw more than 70 innings in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008 when you count his stint in Triple-A -- Delcarmen isn't throwing the same fastball he was throwing earlier in the year.
Something's also wrong with his command. Check out these charts -- the first from that same mid-April outing...
... the second from his rocky one-third of an inning against the Orioles almost two weeks ago...
... and the third from Monday night's disaster:
(Note: The "approach plot" normalizes the chart so there's no difference between righties and lefties. Everything on the left half is inside, and everything on the right half is outside. All of the pitching charts come from brooksbaseball.net.)
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's happening there. Everything in April either was down in the zone or up and uncomfortably in. Nothing, with the exception of what seems to be a change-of-pace curveball, was up and over the plate.
Now, though, everything is up in the zone and over the plate.
When hitters are putting the ball in play, it's not on the inside edge or outside edge of the strike zone. It's right over the middle, right where they get get the barrel of the bat on it and hit it hard somewhere.
The command and velocity could be related: If Delcarmen is pitching through fatigue and reaching back to summon every last little bit of velocity, his command naturally is going so suffer -- and he's naturally going to leave the ball up in the strike zone.
Delcarmen isn't just unlucky. Something is wrong. ESPN's Amy Nelson reported on Saturday that the righty has been flying open with his delivery, not getting his hips aligned the right way, a possible indication that he's trying to do too much with a diminished fastball.
If it doesn't get fixed, the Red Sox might have no choice but to leave him off their postseason roster. With the pride of West Roxbury, all of a sudden, no lead is safe.