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The Boston Red Sox continue to cast a wide net to filling their bullpen position, signing 33-year old reliever Dan Runzler to a minor-league deal. This signing shouldn’t be seen as anything more than emergency depth, as Runzler spent the entire 2018 season out of baseball. Additionally, the lefty reliever didn’t throw a major league pitch from 2013 to 2016.
Runzler technically pitched with the Pirates during 2017, but he only threw four innings. During that minimal sample, Runzler allowed an ugly 4.50 ERA and a 9.16 FIP at the major league level. On a more encouraging note, Runzler pitched 41.1 innings with the Pirates AAA affiliate in 2017 to the tune of a 3.05 ERA and 4.28 FIP.
Runzler first entered professional baseball as the San Francisco Giants’ tenth-round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. Climbing quickly through the minors, Runzler made his major league debut in 2009, pitching 8.2 innings with the Giants while recording a 1.04 ERA. Runzler broke camp with the Giants in 2010, throwing 32.2 innings to the tune of a 3.03 ERA.
However, Runzler’s career hit a major roadblock in the 2011 season. After showing promise during his first two seasons, Runzler allowed an ugly 6.26 ERA in 27.1 innings with the Pirates. That said, his FIP sat at 2.95, so Runzler was getting seriously unlucky. However, the Giants clearly lost confidence in Runzler, as the lefty pitched just 3.2 major league innings in 2012 before spending the next two seasons exclusively in the minors. The Giants cut bait with the lefty, and Runzler spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Diamondbacks and Twins minor league systems, respectively.
Runzler is a two-pitch player, favoring his fastball while adding in a slider on rare occasion. According to Fangraphs, Runzler’s fastball sits at 94.6 miles per hour and he throws it roughly 75% of the time. He complements this with an 85 mph slider which he throws 23% of the time.
Runzler has decent strikeout numbers, posting a 9.67 K/9 throughout his career. However, his walk rate is truly atrocious. The lefty has a career 5.42 BB/9, which is simply horrific. It’s this high walk rate which likely caused Runzler to fall out of favor with San Francisco in the first place.
All this adds up to a remarkably unremarkable pitcher. Runzler has a career 3.89 ERA and a 3.53 FIP at the major league level. These numbers aren’t bad, and out of context one could expect him to compete for a major league depth spot. However, almost all of Runzler’s major league work came before the 2012 season. If he were any good, he would’ve earned some major league playing time between now and the birth of Gangnam Style. This is a low-risk, low-reward signing that hopefully never has to see the light of the majors.