Did We Over Value Brandon Workman?

Brandon WorkmanOn Sunday Brandon Workman was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket, and, in return, recently-acquired Heath Hembree was called up to the show. Undoubtedly, Workman was sent down due to failing to maintain consistency with the Red Sox’ rather inexperienced rotation — oh, sorry, forgot about Clay Buchholz.

It’s a sensible transaction, especially considering (if Boston’s smart) it’ll allow Anthony Ranaudo to rejoin the club’s pitching staff. It is, however,one that surprises a bit given his hype (notably surrounding his postseason success in ’13) coming into the year and Boston’s lack of urgency to make a change. After all, won’t Boston just inevitably call him up September 1st for MLB’s roster expansions? You couldn’t wait seven measly days?

Anyway, the logic behind the move is not what I wanted to discuss, rather, I’d like to dabble into the trickery small sample size success (especially in big-games) has on the masses opinion.

Yes, Workman was absolutely lights out for Boston in the postseason, not allowing a single run in eight and 2/3 innings pitched. In fact, he was so good I strongly contemplated purchasing a Brandon Workman World Series bobblehead — I went with a Xander Bogaerts one instead.

However good he may have been in such a short sample size, at least in my mind, it seems to have distorted his actual potential/value. I mean, the guy posted a 4.97 ERA with Boston last year, yet everyone was calling for him to be a part of the rotation before the season even commenced. His peripherals were respectable in ’13 in large part to his tremendous 10.15 K/9, but lurking next to that was an ugly 3.24 BB/9 that seemed to be ignored. Oh, and it’s not like Workman had ever produced such a terrific strikeout rate in the minor-leagues before, so, naturally, his K/9 probably would fall back down to earth the next season.

How much it would fall, admittedly, I didn’t see coming, and entering Monday it reads at just a 6.90 K/9. Sitting next to it on Fangraphs, is an even worse 3.45 BB/9. Such lackluster peripherals generally lead to runs being allowed at a high-rate, and that’s been the narrative for Workman, too. Through 73 innings of work the right-hander has sported a 4.93 ERA (and 4.58 FIP).

Don’t get me wrong; Brandon did perform well (not great) in the minors, but aside from his work in Pawtucket last season, which produced a 4.76 FIP but excellent 2.80 ERA, there’s no reason to believe he’ll be prosperous as a big-league starter. Maybe the bullpen is better suited for Workman. He certainly has two really good pitches in his cutter and curveball (or knucklecurve) and could thrive as a reliever.

Only time will tell, but for now Workman will (or should) focus on in Pawtucket what John Farrell requests he hone.

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