Boston’s Best Tools 2012: Best Control

The Boston Red Sox favor a certain type of pitcher. Whether they are drafting, signing free agents or exploring the trade market, they consistently hone in on power pitchers. The team has one of the hardest throwers in the game in Daniel Bard, one of the hardest throwing starters in Josh Beckett and one of the hardest throwing lefties in Jon Lester. These guys throw hard and rack up the strikeouts, but they are not among the great control pitchers in the game. Only one Red Sox pitcher was among the top 10 in BB% last season and sadly, Jonathan Papelbon will not be back in 2012.

Looking at the 2011 team by the ratio of strikes to balls, it is not surprising that Papelbon holds a commanding lead over all other Sox pitchers. In fact, only Papelbon and Dan Wheeler had a ratio of strikes to balls over two (though ironically, Tim Wakefield came very close).

Among current Red Sox pitchers, Josh Beckett leads the way in strike to ball ratio, edging out Daniel Bard by a hair. Beckett has the advantage in walk rate as well, far ahead of the other current Sox pitchers.

2011 Best Control Data

Name

IP

ERA

BB%

Zone% (pfx)

O-Swing% (pfx)

Pitches

Strikes

Balls

Ratio

Josh Beckett

193

2.89

6.80%

51.60%

30.00%

2994

1936

1058

1.83

Daniel Bard

73

3.33

8.30%

52.90%

29.70%

1095

707

388

1.82

Alfredo Aceves

114

2.61

8.90%

50.90%

26.40%

1757

1113

644

1.73

Jon Lester

191.2

3.47

9.40%

48.10%

27.10%

3192

1974

1218

1.62

Clay Buchholz

82.2

3.48

8.80%

47.70%

27.60%

1355

831

524

1.59

Beckett not only walks the fewest hitters and throws the most strikes; he also gets the most swings on pitches out of the zone. When he throws out of the zone, it seems to be with a purpose. His advantage in the control department is just as clear when looking at the past three seasons.

Best Control Data 2009-2011

Name

IP

ERA

BB%

Zone% (pfx)

O-Swing% (pfx)

Pitches

Strikes

Balls

Ratio

Josh Beckett

533

3.97

6.80%

52.30%

29.30%

8533

5483

3050

1.80

Daniel Bard

197

2.88

9.60%

51.60%

31.20%

3084

1966

1118

1.76

Jon Lester

603

3.37

8.90%

49.20%

29.00%

9953

6179

3774

1.64

Clay Buchholz

348.1

3.1

9.20%

49.90%

27.10%

5686

3504

2182

1.61

Once again Beckett has the highest ratio of strikes to balls and the lowest walk rate. Daniel Bard’s walk rate is much higher in this larger sample, despite just a slight drop in his ratio of strikes to balls. Bard does take the lead in out-of-zone swings, however. In this longer view, Jon Lester has a more reasonable walk rate, reminding us that while he was still a very good pitcher, 2011 was an off year for the ace lefty.

Beckett was the favorite among the OTM writers for best control. Marc, Matthew Kory and Brendan all picked the righty, while the lone dissenting vote went to lone1c, who picked Jon Lester.

It would wise to mention one player in the Sox system who does exhibit the kind of pinpoint control that we rarely see on this team. Should he land the 5th starter spot, Carlos Silva will almost certainly be the Red Sox top control guy. His career walk rate is just 4.5% and he has throw 56.3% of pitches in the strike zone on his career. Silva lacks the power that Boston fans are used to in their pitchers, but he does attack the zone.

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