Walking into Trouble

With a young pitching staff, the Red Sox need to enforce a no-walk regime as their old pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan convened in 1997. Under Kerrigan’s influence the Red Sox brought in control pitchers and cut down on their walks in 1997-2001. It was a pleasure to watch.

In 2014 the Sox have basically brought up the Pawtucket pitching staff, along with relievers Alex Wilson and Tommy Layne. Rubby DeLaRosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo are all potential starters in the 2015 rotation, but, with the exception of Workman, they are walking themselves into trouble on a regular basis.

First, it should be stated that Brandon Workman has taken it to big league hitters from his first day on the job. He works quickly and pounds the strike zone. That is what kept him on the team in 2014 right into the World Series. Right now he is getting pounded, but he is not walking hitters.

In contrast, Allen Webster arrived at Fenway with phenomenal stuff that he could not get over the plate in a year of trials. He has admitted recently that he needed to trust his ability to get batters out and pitch to contact.

Likewise Rubby DeLaRosa has had sudden bouts of wildness, often walking the lead-off batter even in his best starts. He has had the presence to pitch around the walks and won some impressive outings in August, but walks will always get you in the end.

Anthony Ranaudo can be forgiven for bouts of nerves in his first two Major League starts, but he also needs to get the message that walks are poison. Good teams will take advantage and get those runners in, even if you are pitching well.

Under Joe Kerrigan the Red Sox just did not walk batters; they had to hit to get on. I don’t know how he did it, but he made the games a lot more enjoyable, because we did not see pitchers toiling from behind and walking runners into scoring position. Let the punk hit the ball and take your chances with the defense.

Webster is the most painful, because you can see he has electric stuff, but he nibbles around the plate. His career hangs in the balance just like his last outing, which he won, in spite of early control problems. If he was facing a good team those walks would have lost him the game, but it was Houston.

So bring back the Kerrigan regime, whatever it takes to make young pitchers work the strike zone. Maybe a fine for walking the lead-off batter. Maybe pull them if they walk more than a specified limit, say four BB’s. Maybe a trip to the mound to remind them, “one more walk and the hook is coming.”

This suggests that pitchers have a choice about walking batters and some don’t. Craig Breslow knows what he has to do, but he can’t do it. On the other hand, Allen Webster knows and can do it. Both could be pitching somewhere else in 2015.

If this sounds like a rant, it comes from watching the slow motion disintegration of pitchers, instead of some hitting and base-running. It is a lot more exciting to watch outfielders chase a ball than a hitter to amble to first base. Walking is baseball’s buzz kill.

Please. More walk-offs; fewer walk-ons.

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