Red Sox SP: Tanner Houck
There are a lot of nasty pitches on the current Red Sox roster. Nathan Eovaldi’s splitter. Garret Whitlock’s changeup. Nick Pivetta’s curveball. Yet the most unhittable offering of them all may be Tanner Houck’s slider. The big, sweeping breaking ball simply overmatched big league hitters, holding them to a .159 batting average and induced whiffs 42.4 percent of the time.
Houck’s slider allowed him to dominate hitters the first and second time through the order, but the lack of a dependable third pitch (sound familiar?) hurt him as he worked deeper into games. Opposing batters slashed an incredible .353/.450/.765 when facing Houck for the third time and posted an astronomical .467/.556/.933 line after pitch 75. As a result, Houck failed to exceed 5.1 innings in any of his 13 starts.
The strange thing about Houck, however, is that he has a quality third pitch. Houck started mixing in his splitter last year to give him another look versus lefties, and the results were terrific. Batters hit just .059 against the pitch and whiffed over 34% of the time. Yet, for some reason, Houck threw the offering just 9% of the time. It’s hard to win in the big leagues as a two-pitch pitcher, but if Houck is willing to throw his splitter more, he can develop from a glorified opener to a true innings-eater.
Houck is the X-factor for this team. Hill, Wacha, and Pivetta might have more of a track record, but none of them can match Houck’s ceiling or his swing-miss stuff of Houck. If he can start throwing his splitter more and improve his command, Houck can be a true front-of-the-rotation arm.
Stat Predictions: 10-6, 3.58 ERA, 149 IP, 10.8 K/9, 3.6 BB/9