Allen Webster has ‘the stuff’ and minor league success that suggests he could be a prosperous big league starting pitcher. The Red Sox certainly concur with that statement, and have given him multiple opportunities the past two seasons to try to fulfill the prophecy set for him. However, his control, or lack thereof, has held him back from thriving, and among starters who have logged at least twenty innings, Webster has the highest BB/9 ratio at 6.97.
No one, I mean no one, can be mildly successful with such an abysmal walk rate. I don’t care if you have a strikeout rate like Jose Fernandez or a sharp sinker designed to induce ground ball double plays; simply put, it’s just impossible.
The right-hander surrendered eleven — yeah, eleven — free passes his first two starts this season. His last two outings have been much better, as he only allowed five base on balls in that period, and earned two victories to his name in the process. Each of those starts he failed to eclipse 85 pitches, but still went six plus innings both games.
Sure, one — his most recent, actually — of the two aforementioned starts was against the not-so-formidable Houston Astros’ offense, however, the start beforehand was facing, according to wRC+ at least, the best offense in baseball in the Los Angeles Angels. Ironically, to this date it is the best outing of his young career.
Has a corner been turned? Truthfully it’s too soon to say for certain, yet going to his slider, which has held hitters to a meager .118 OPS this season according to Pitch F/X, much more frequently the past two starts may be the answer to — other than control of course — his new-found MLB success. Take a look at his slider percentage correlated to his performance per game in ’14.
7/27 vs. Tampa Bay Rays- Allowed 2 earned runs in 5 and 1/3 innings while throwing the slider 7.0% of the time.
8/2 vs. New York Yankees- Allowed 4 earned runs in 2 and 2/3 innings while throwing the slider 5.6% of the time.
8/8 vs. Los Angeles Angels- Allowed 2 earned runs in 6 and 2/3 innings while throwing the slider 25.0% of the time.
8/14 vs. Houston Astros- Allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings while throwing the slider 24.7% of the time.
Obviously this is a small sample size, and a firm perspective on him can’t be judged at this early juncture. However, signs of hope for Webster can be evidently seen.