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Why Are the Red Sox Pitchers Walking Everybody?


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#1 Manny's Hammies

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:38 PM

I never remember a Red Sox team that walks more batters. We seem to be taking the whole "OBP" phenomenon a little too literally. Courtesy of Eric Wilbur:

The Red Sox pitchers lead all of baseball with 73 walks. That's an average of almost five walks per game. The league average is 49. Last season, the eventual world champs dished out a total of 482 walks, which were sixth-fewest in all of baseball. In 2008, they are walking batters at a rate that would result in 739 walks by the end of the regular season. That would be the most in the majors since Milwaukee gave out 728 bases on balls in 2000.

While that's not likely to happen, Boston's walks are of great concern, and certainly aren't helping when it comes to actually slowing down the opposition. Only Fausto Carmona (eight of his 17 in one game) has more walks in the majors than Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jon Lester (15 each), Boston's No. 2 and 3 starters. Tim Wakefield isn't far behind with 12. Despite all of his troubles (27.00 ERA), Mike Timlin walked his first two batters of the season last night in a disastrous inning of work. David Aardsma, who has generally been regarded as one of the team's solid contributors coming out of the bullpen (1.80 ERA), has walked six in eight innings of work.


Clearly, not having the likes of Schilling (or even Wells) is part of the reason. But what gives this year with the Sox control problems? Is it weather-related? Talent-related? No steroids-or-greenies-related? What's going on with this team's ability to throw strikes?

#2 Shelterdog


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Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:51 PM

I never remember a Red Sox team that walks more batters. We seem to be taking the whole "OBP" phenomenon a little too literally. Courtesy of Eric Wilbur:
Clearly, not having the likes of Schilling (or even Wells) is part of the reason. But what gives this year with the Sox control problems? Is it weather-related? Talent-related? No steroids-or-greenies-related? What's going on with this team's ability to throw strikes?


Here's a partial explanation: they've playing a lot of teams with patient hitters. The average AL team has had 54 BB. The Sox have played the numbers 1 (Toronto, 67), 2 (Oakland, 63) and 4 (Detroit, 60) teams. (Obviously you can argue that those teams have a lot of walks because they played the Sox, but I think that at the end of the season you're going to see those three teams at the top of the league.)

Cleveland and the NYU are average teams (8 and 9 with 53 BB each). They haven't played a KC or a Minnesota (tied for 13th with 37 walks).

#3 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 17 April 2008 - 01:02 PM

I think the primary reason is that 50% of the team's starts have gone to Lester and Matsuzaka, who have control issues. Another factor, and a related one, is that their starters are averaging just 5.4 innings per start, so you're getting more work out of the dregs of the pen, who are more likely to lack control.

#4 LondonSox


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Posted 17 April 2008 - 01:51 PM

Here's a partial explanation: they've playing a lot of teams with patient hitters. The average AL team has had 54 BB. The Sox have played the numbers 1 (Toronto, 67), 2 (Oakland, 63) and 4 (Detroit, 60) teams. (Obviously you can argue that those teams have a lot of walks because they played the Sox, but I think that at the end of the season you're going to see those three teams at the top of the league.)

Cleveland and the NYU are average teams (8 and 9 with 53 BB each). They haven't played a KC or a Minnesota (tied for 13th with 37 walks).


That's a bit chicken and egg, are they top due to red sox pitching or red sox struggling due to the hitting.

I think it's more a case of we know Lester has command issues and is a young pitcher, Dice-K is still up and down, Buchholz is a rookie, Wakefield is a knuckleballer and always a little walk prone and Beckett was hurt and missed a lot of spring training and might be a bit behind where he'd like to be.

Any time you've got two young pitchers starting that's not going to help for sure.

#5 biollante


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Posted 17 April 2008 - 02:12 PM

These stats show that missing Schilling means more than just missing a veteran pitcher but also means missing a pitcher that throws strikes.
Walks are rugged and add to men on base which lead to runs.
Throwing strikes should be everyone's mantra on that staff right now. However simple it sounds.

The "why" part isn't answered easily but walks have to be reduced.

#6 yecul


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Posted 17 April 2008 - 02:12 PM

Walks are up because more pitchers with control issues are on the roster. Simple as that. Lester throws a bunch of pitches and walks a bunch of guys and leaves in the 5th. It's too early to bring in a good reliever so you bring in one of the many bad ones and, being that they're bad, they will be more prone to walk people. And so it goes.

There is hope in these BB/9 graphs.

Matszuaka
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Wakefield
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Lester
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Opponent certainly is a factor, but they've just been bad well above norms and the coaching staff has given them tons and tons of rope. Anecdotally the mound visit usually happens after a bunch of hits and walks and runs, never during or before. If you have pitchers who run into frequent mechanical issues then you'd imagine being a little proactive about it might make some sense. At least run Tek out there.

The article mentioned Aardsma, but he's always had BB issues. That will continue at a comparable (slightly lesser) rate.

Edited by yecul, 17 April 2008 - 02:13 PM.