Red Sox pitching has allowed entirely too many walks this season
The Boston Red Sox have raced out to an early lead in the AL East but they are walking a tightrope when it comes to maintaining the top spot with a pitching staff that has been generous in allowing free passes. Walks have been a problem over the last three games, which includes a two-game losing streak and a near-blown save.
Garrett Richards continued to provoke the wrath of Red Sox Nation with his latest frustrating appearance. He took the loss by allowing four earned runs but the greater concern was a staggering six walks. Richards can hint all he wants about his unfamiliarity with New England’s cold spring weather but if his command doesn’t improve then he’ll be walking to the unemployment line.
The decision to position Franchy Cordero in shallow left field has been sufficiently dissected but we can’t overlook that the double that lined over his head was proceeded by a pair of walks issued by Nick Pivetta. Nobody would be questioning if Cordero should have been in better position to make that play if the Mariners weren’t gifted a pair of base runners that resulted in the tying runs crossing the plate.
Boston would end up losing to Seattle in extra-innings. The go-ahead run was scored by the player who automatically began the 10th inning on second base so we can’t blame Darwinzon Hernandez‘s control for that. The two-out walk that he issued right before Mitch Haniger’s three-run homer put the game out of reach can very much be pinned on the reliever though.
The Red Sox snapped their mini-losing streak on Friday but the pitching staff didn’t make it easy. Most teams would be thrilled with their No. 5 starter allowing only two earned runs. It’s less encouraging when Martin Perez failed to make it out of the fourth inning, in part because the four walks he allowed drove up his pitch count early.
Garrett Whitlock has been brilliant this season and his 2 1/3 scoreless innings were a significant factor in the Red Sox recovering from their starter’s shaky outing to hold on for the win. Whitlock allowed two hits, ending his streak of retiring 25 consecutive batters. He also allowed his first walk of the season. There’s nothing negative to say about a pitcher who still hasn’t allowed a run this season but hopefully this free pass isn’t a sign that the generosity of this staff is rubbing off on him.
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It wasn’t a save situation but the Red Sox called on Matt Barnes to protect a seemingly comfortable four-run lead that he quickly turned into a nail-biter. Barnes walked the first batter he faced, a cardinal sin for any closer. A one-out base hit and three-run blast from Kyle Seager put the Mariners on the verge of an improbable comeback before Barnes settled down to retire the side.
We should be cautious of being critical based on recency bias but these control troubles aren’t limited to the last few games. The Red Sox pitching staff owns a 3.93 BB/9, the seventh-highest walk rate in the majors and third-highest in the AL.
Boston’s pitching has exceeded our wildest expectations in many regards, ranking top-five in the AL with a collective 3.88 ERA and 2.8 WAR, per FanGrahps. It will be a tall task for this staff to remain among the elite if they continue to issue walks at an alarming rate though.
The Red Sox enter the day leading their division and tied for the most wins in the AL but if they want to stay at the top, they need to get these command issues under control.