One of my favorite Internet columnists, ESPN.com&'s Rob Neyer, is a die-hard Kansas City Royals fan. On his website (www.robneyer.com) he updates daily how many walks Royals hitters drew and how many walks Royals pitchers yielded in the previous game. He also updates their season totals and league ranking in each category. As most people know, the Royals have been dreadful so far this year, and this is reflected in their walks and walks allowed statistics. However, although the Brewers have been pretty successful so far this year, their walks and walks allowed stats also leave a lot to be desired. Through May 24, Brewers batters had walked 150 times this year, or 3.26 times per game. That puts them 9th among the 16 National League teams, which is respectable. On the other hand, Brewers pitchers had issued 185 walks, or 4.02 walks per game. This puts them next to last in the NL, with only the Marlins issuing more free passes per game. Although better than last year, when Brewer pitchers were on pace for much of the year to break the record for walks issued in a season, this is not acceptable. Here are the BB/9 innings so far this year for the five opening day starters:
Name IP BB/9 Jeff D'Amico 22.2 2.78 Jimmy Haynes 62.1 3.32 Paul Rigdon 58.1 4.32 Ben Sheets 47.0 4.60 Jamey Wright 60.0 4.0
With D'Amico on the DL, Jimmy Haynes currently has the lowest BB/9 rate among Brewers starters. Thats downright scary, folks. But what about the hitters? It seems to vary from game to game. On May 23 they set a season high by drawing 8 walks. The next day? One.
As one might expect, the Brewers have a much better record when the hitters walk at least as many times as the opponent. This has happened 23 times so far this year, and the Brewers are 19-4 in those games. In the 23 games in which the opponents hitters have walked more than Brewers hitters, the Brewers are 6-17. The Brewers are on pace to draw 528 walks this year and issue 652. This would give them a BB/BBA ratio of .81.
What does this mean? Well, since the wildcard was introduced in 1995, there have been 48 playoff teams. Do you know how many of these teams issued more walks than their hitters took? Five. And none of those five made it to the World Series. The team with the worst BB/BBA ratio of the five was the 1996 St. Louis Cardinals, who walked 495 times and issued 539, for a BB/BBA ratio of .92. In fact, the average BB/BBA ratio for those 48 playoff teams was 1.15. In other words, .81BB/BBA isnt going to cut it.
I, like many fans, am excited about the start that the Brewers are off to this season. For the first time since 1992, I feel this team has a shot to make some noise in September. But to do that, they are going to have to do something about walks. The hitters need to become more selective on a consistent basis. And more importantly, the pitchers need to stop nibbling and start going after hitters. Wright and Rigdon seemed to be doing that early on, but have got away from it in recent starts. If this team is serious about a playoff birth, they need to get the walks under control.