The Boston Red Sox pitching staff has the lowest BB/9 in baseball. That remarkable turnaround from 2016 may be the key to their pitching success.
“Walk This Way” is an iconic rock song by Aerosmith and also symptomatic of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff.
The other night in Houston, the Red Sox attempted to give away a game by walking the bases loaded. Like any reasonable Red Sox fan, I was in full “Can’t anyone on this team throw a strike?” mode. Followed quickly by dumping pitching coach Carl Willis and partner in pitching tutelage Brian Bannister.
That was my taste of idiocy for the evening since I was dead wrong. Totally and 100% wrong. Not only can the staff collectively throw strikes, they are flat-out the best among all 30 teams at being exceptionally parsimonious with free passes.
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This season your Boston Red Sox have a 2.60 BB/9 and that is the very best in the American League and all of baseball. In 2016, the Red Sox were 15th with a 3.06 BB/9. That is a substantial improvement and it is needed when you look at WHIP. In 2016 the team posted a 1.27 WHIP and this year it is now 1.28. The key is the second letter of WHIP and that is H as in hits.
In 2016, the Red Sox staff had an 8.28 H/9 and this year that has jumped up to an 8.87 H/9. If the walks had been maintained at the rate of the previous season the Red Sox staff would be struggling and not sitting in second place in the AL with a 10.7 fWAR. The potential could be even more depressing with BABIP (Batting Average Balls In Play).
The Red Sox have the highest BABIP in the American League at .315. Last season it was .293. With men on base, the long ball can be far more deadly to the final outcome. In 2016, the Red Sox had a 1.10 HR/9 that was the lowest in the AL. This season their 1.26 HR/9 is eighth.
Boston will make the playoffs – that has been my prediction when the season started and I maintain that. They will get their thanks to the pitching staff and their combined ability to minimize walks. The offense is good – very good, but even the most optimistic of fans know this is not a group of prolific fence busters.
The Red Sox are dead last in the AL in home run production with just 67. The Rays, yes – the Rays, have 109. Boston ranks seventh in offense with a 7.8 fWAR. In run production, they are also seventh, so this offense will simply not bludgeon you to submission. Nor will this offense be as capable as past Red Sox teams of making up small and large deficits.
The staff has done remarkably well with all the numerous injuries and worrisome performance questions. Within that is the one item that I have hated for decade after decade and that is walks. This is like a blinking engine light to me. The red bandanna in front of a raging bull. But this season it has changed and if it didn’t the Red Sox would be in a world of trouble.
Stats through 6/18