Garrett Whitlock Needs To Go Back To The Bullpen
For the record, this is not an insult. I love Garrett Whitlock and you should too. While pitching as this weird multi inning reliever, Whitlock became not just a good pen arm, but one of the best pitchers in baseball. Since moving to the starting rotation, the results haven’t been nearly the same. Did the Red Sox forget the most important lesson of all? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Can we please move Garrett Whitlock back to the bullpen? I think I can speak for every Red Sox fan with this one. It’s not an insult, the sport is just changing. You win the game one inning at a time and a horse like this that can turn the tides late in the game? You can’t put a price tag on those guys. Whitlock in his prior role was invaluable.
Sure, one could argue it’s just baseball. Why overthink it? Whitlock was brought up and pitched in the minors as a starter. If he can get big league hitters out then what does it matter when he pitches the game? While that may be a valid thought, I’m not sure it’s the correct one. The number really don’t lie here.
Starter: 39 innings, 4.15 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 8.8 K per 9
Reliever: 83 innings, 1.84 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 10 K per 9
Maybe it’s a fluke. Maybe it’s not. Sure, a pitcher’s job again is to get out regardless of when asked upon. We also know for a fact that the more times a hitter sees you per game, the more likely they’re going to dial up on one of their pitches. That appears to be happening with Whitlock.
Credit to Red Sox Stats for finding this.
Maybe Whitlock isn’t 100% and needs to spend a stretch on the IL. Maybe the sinker has gone flat. Then again, the underlying metrics on the sinker don’t appear any different from a year ago. Hitters are hitting his sinker at about the same rate. It’s the slider that has dipped in production.
Personally, I believe it’s the fastball that truly makes the difference. Whitlock’s average fastball velocity last year sat at 96.3 MPH. This year that’s down to 95 MPH which makes sense. He’s a starter now so there is more finessing trying to eat up more innings.
For whatever reason, there is just late life on Whitlock’s fastball. Hitters are always late on it. That puppy hits much different out of the pen when you’re going balls to the wall on every pitch instead of trying to locate and find your way through six innings. Maybe I’m wrong but the numbers don’t lie here.
The good news is maybe this decision will be made for Boston. Rich Hill is the only starter in the rotation with a worse ERA than Whitlock. Chris Sale and James Paxton appear to be on track to make starts sooner rather than later. Moving Whitlock back to his more “traditional” role when a healthy Sale – Paxton returns makes too much sense to not happen.
Additionally, this Boston bullpen is really starting to figure things out. Tanner Houck has moved more towards the pen. Matt Strahm actually looks damn good as a closer? Did you know John Schreiber is the second coming of Hideki Okajima and that side arm cheese! Schreiber currently sports a 1.08 ERA in 16 outings this year. Put Whitlock back in as the multi inning middle man and the Red Sox look like title contenders again.
If no one else is going to say it, I will. Can we please put Garrett Whitlock back in the bullpen. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Whitlock was one of if not the best pitcher in baseball as a reliever. Why is Boston so persistent to use him as a starter now?