Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm Walking, Yes Indeed...

Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette applied Occam's Razor to the Pirate staff's problem with walks today. Simply stated, old William of Occam said way back in the day that "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."

Do Buc hurlers suffer from bad mechanics? Lousy coaching? A nibbler pitching philosophy? Naw. As DK says "If the Pirates are going to be anything other than the worst pitching staff in the league in terms of walks, part of the process has to involve acquiring pitchers who have a history of throwing strikes."

Let's look at who the new suits have added to the Pirate pitching corp. First, there was Phil Dumatrait. In 753-2/3 innings of minor league ball, he walked 340 guys, or 4.2 men per nine innings. In the pros, the average grows to 5.0 per 9 innings.

Next came Tyler Yates. He issued 4.1 free passes per nine in the bushes, and 4.85 in the bigs. Denny Bautista? The wild child walked 4.0 men per game on the farm and 5.0 hitters per game in the MLB. Craig Hansen of the Jay Bay deal couldn't find the plate in the minors, tossing four balls to 4.3 batters every nine innings. He bettered (if better is the word) that in the show, walking 6.0 guys per game.

Ross Ohlendorf has the biggest split. The Big O only issued 2.3 free passes per nine in the minors, but let 4.3 hitters work him for a walk per game in the majors. He's the only example of a guy blowing up by more than a walk per game, so his problem may actually be correctable to a degree.

Other Yankee pitchers have held up OK, though. TJ Beam was the only one who actually sharpened his control in the big leagues, going from 2.7 walks/nine in the minors to just 2.45 in the majors. Jeff Karstens was a strike thrower down on the farm, walking only 2.25 guys every game, and he's OK in a MLB hill, too, issuing just 2.7 walks per nine.

The latest pick-up, Donnie Veal, hasn't had a shot at the show yet. But his 4.6 walks per nine in the minors doesn't bode well for poor Joe Kerrigan, tasked with showing him where the dish is at PNC.

And the Bucs are rumored to be sniffing around Daniel Cabrera, who has walked 5.1 batters per nine in his five year MLB career. Aye carumba!

What this all means is that the odds are stacked. If you're wild in the minors, you'll be wilder in the majors. Every pitcher the Pirates have brought aboard this year, except for TJ Beam, has walked an extra batter per nine innings when they got the call to the show, and some more than that.

And the extra walks beget the dreaded "counts" conundrum - pitch counts, hitter's counts, run counts...

Pitching style is part of the mix, too. The Green Weenie corollary to Occam is that the harder you throw, the less likely you are to know where the dang ball is going. So as long as the Pirates are enamored of power arms scavenged off the waiver wires, that's how long they'll have to learn to live with the walks.

And there ain't much Joe Kerrigan can do about that.

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