Monday, April 22, 2013

Breaking Down Webster's Debut

Thanks to the double header and the Lackey injury, the Red Sox called on Allen Webster. Webster was one of the two main prospects in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and wasn't expected to pitch at the major league level outside of a September call up.

Good : The control. Coming in to this season, Webster had issues with walking too many batters (4.2/9 IP in AAA last year). The Red Sox believed this was in part due to where he pitched on the rubber, and shifted him to always throwing from the extreme first base side. So far, that appears to have worked. Webster walked three in 10 innings in AAA, and only walked one in five innings against the Royals, continuing his improved control from spring training (1 BB in 11 IP). At one point David Ross stuck out his right leg as Webster was getting set to pitch. The Royals announcers thought that it was a trick to confuse the batter, indicating that the pitch was coming inside when it really was going outside, but I'm not so sure. Perhaps Ross was simply reminding Webster to stick with his spot on the rubber. The release points from PitchFX indicate that he did a very good job having a consistent release point, both horizontally and vertically.

Bad: The command.The difference between command and control is a bit tricky, but to sum it up as briefly as possible, good control means you're not walking guys, good command means that you're putting the ball where you want it to go. Webster left several pitches either in the middle of the plate or waist high that led to two home runs and a double. He also got away with several other pitches. Thanks to his stuff, he may be able to get away with the occasional fat pitch, but major league hitters can handle a waist high fastball on the outer half, even if it is going 97. Webster only allowed two home runs in 130 innings in AAA last year, but allowed the same number in one start.

Good: The stuff. Webster had all three pitches working for him at points during the game. His sinking fastball was sitting mid-90s, and touched 97. He got several swings and misses from his strongly breaking slider and got at least one batter looking on a nasty front door change up. All told, Webster had five Ks to only one walk, had 14 swinging strikes (17%, an elite number, albeit in a single game), and on top of that he was generating lots of ground balls (7 GB outs to 5 FB outs).

Bad: The stamina. This is a bit of a nitpicky criticism, but Webster clearly is not quite ready to be a major league starter and take the ball every five days. The Red Sox were understandably cautious with him in this game, only allowing him to throw 84 pitches, but Webster was appearing to tire towards the end of his start. Although his fastball velocity did not drop significantly in the later innings, he didn't seem able to reach back to get to 96 or above in the fifth and sixth innings. Part of this is likely due to it being early in the season, as the Red Sox have taken to slowly building up minor leaguers arm strength, but Webster has had issues with stamina and efficiency in the past. In 2012 he only averaged 4.5 innings per appearance (24 starts, plus three relief appearances), but even if you toss out the three relief appearances that average is still only 5.4 innings per appearance. This is something that will hopefully improve over time.

All told, it was a great debut for Webster, and one that was probably five months earlier than the most optimistic projections indicated. It is still early, but so far the returns from the Adrian Gonzalez deal look promising. It wouldn't be shocking to see Webster be a contributor down the stretch, especially given the lack of other options should an injury befall a Red Sox starter.

No comments:

Post a Comment