The Boston Red Sox pitching staff is among the best in baseball, but I have some doubts on the bullpens propensity to issue walks. Just walk this way.
Walks, damn walks, and statistics. Too many walks are the STD for pitchers and exhibit A was on display the other evening with Boston Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz issuing five in just 4.2 innings. Pomeranz is a sabermetrician case study for the excessive issuing of the “free pass” to hitters.
I will use Pomeranz as an example and BSI’s Randy Wentworth went into greater details in a recent article on Pomeranz.
Pomeranz has the statistical “double whammy” of a 5.6 BB/9 and a 1.8 HR/9 that simply creates an extra run or two with walks being handed out like Halloween candy. With walks comes the usual attendant disaster of pitching behind on the count.
More from BoSox Injection
- Bizarre trade deadline comes back to haunt Red Sox after Nathan Eovaldi departure
- Red Sox’ Moneyball-style offseason continues with Corey Kluber contract
- Rich Hill’s Red Sox departure puts him within striking distance of unique MLB record
- Red Sox offseason takes another nasty hit with Nathan Eovaldi departure
- Why Red Sox fans should be rooting for Carlos Correa’s Mets deal to go through
I will tread along with Pomeranz and that means the illustrious pitch count. Pitchers are increasingly placed on a very short pitch count leash and an extra inning or two can most certainly be squeezed out if walks are minimized. Too many can wear down a bullpen and certainly expose flaws in bullpen depth or a bullpen that may have their own walks issues.
So much for Pomeranz and now to drift on to walks on the staff. A look at FanGraphs and the teams with the lowest of free passes happen to be just about every team with a winning record. The Boston staff is ninth lowest with a 3.04 BB/9. Seattle is best on the leaderboard with a 2.42 BB/9.
The Red Sox starters are giving out first base at a 2.75 BB/9 clip that places them seventh lowest in the majors – a nice contributing factor to a fourth lowest 3.49 ERA. The bullpen, however, is in the middle of the statistical pack with a 3.55 BB/9. And the bullpen has some issues with their go-to pitchers. Recently we gleefully witness what happens when a reliever melds down as Aroldis Chapman did against Boston. Our own bullpen is certainly prone to walks.
Matt Barnes (4.58), Joe Kelly (4.47), Heath Hembree (4.07), and closer Craig Kimbrel (4.02) are all capable of having us twirl the worry beads by giving up walks. Even newcomer Ryan Brasier (3.55) has caught the walking fever. Brian Johnson (3.05) and the aforementioned Pomeranz (5.61) and injured Steven Wright (4.50) are the above 3.0 BB/9 on the staff.
Playoff games can be decided on the seemingly insignificant play such as moving a runner along in a key situation or a walk that eventually scores. In the American League East, the potential playoff opponents of the Red Sox simply issue fewer walks with the exception of the New York Yankees (3.07)
The Mariners (2.42), Indians (2.43), Astros (2.83), and A’s (2.91) are less generous. The possible starting playoff rotation for Boston is certainly solid with David Price (2.74), Rick Porcello (2.11), Chris Sale (2.11) and either Eduardo Rodriguez (2.75) and Nathan Eovaldi (2.75 career) capable of keeping freebies being dished out.
A deciding factor on who leaves the rotation and drifts to the bullpen in the playoffs may be having BB/9 weighed in as a determining factor. With the key elements of the bullpen susceptible to handing out walks I just get a tad nervous with our bullpen.