Allen Webster is making his second start of his major league career Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins, and this one has a little more spice to it than his last one.
Why? Instead of filling in as a spot starter in the April 21 double header against the Kansas City Royals, he is nudging out Félix Doubront out of the starting rotation.
Joel Hanrahan, of course, overshadowed this little shuffle of the deck, but John Farrell is making a pretty big statement, a statement that Doubront needed to hear.
Forget for a second that Doubront has lost two miles an hour on his fastball (92.8 MPH last year, 90.3 MPH this year). The man does one thing that pitchers can not do in this day in age: throws a lot of pitches.
A fun little nugget: Doubront has only pitched into the seventh inning 10 times in his career (eight times in 2012, twice in 2013). That is in 37 career starts. A little comparison? Clay Buchholz has already pitched into the seventh six times this year alone, and 10 times in his last 13 starts.
Webster could very well be the same kind of high pitch-count hurler, but that’s not the persona he took in his first career start. Against a Royals team that was in first place in the American League Central at the time, he threw 84 pitches in six innings, an average of 14 pitches per inning. That means he could have been under 100 pitches going seven if he had a normal leash, and he might have come out for the eighth as well.
Now Doubront’s strikeout rate is at a career high pace at 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings. What comes with it, though? 4.7 walks per nine and a 1.70 WHIP. Comparison? John Lackey, as bad as his year was in 2011, had a 3.2 BB/9 rate; that is not great either, but that is still 1.5 walks less than Doubront has this year.
Webster, as a young pitcher, could have control problems in the majors, but he does have a 2.7 BB/9 rate in Pawtucket so far, so that’s at least encouraging.
In the end, John Farrell could have made this decision based on bullpen experience. Essentially, Webster has none, and Doubront has some (he came up in 2011 a few times to help in the bullpen). Considering the limping bullpen the Red Sox have, it might make sense for Doubront to provide some multiple-innings ability while Webster keeps his rotation spot warm until some bullpen help comes.
At the same time, if Doubront was going deeper into games, Farrell’s decision might have been different. Maybe he would not be giving Allen Webster the extended trial in the big leagues that he has earned.
(Photos Courtesy of the Associated Press, Barry Chin / Boston Globe)