Usually when a player is the only individual to ever don a certain number for an organization, they are fairly important. Perhaps their number has been retired to cement their achievements and legacy to a team. Or maybe their number is an obscure one, high in the range of double digits, where not many players venture. Or maybe they’re just Kyle Weiland, who on July Tenth became the first Red Sox player to ever wear the number Seventy. He also became the first Red Sox to ever be ejected from his major league debut. Tossed after hitting Vladimir Guerrero with a heater, Weiland received an early departure from what had been the biggest game of his young life.
While Weiland may be remarkable in a historical or trivial perspective, his statistical feats have not been anywhere near impressive. He comes into the day with a 7.99 ERA, a 1.73 WHIP, and a 0-3 record, numbers that have even John Lackey pointing fingers.
Even worse, his peripheral numbers give no reason to think that Weiland will improve anytime soon. Opponents’ BABIP against him is .289, meaning he is certainly not getting unlucky when it comes to cheap hits or errors from the defense behind him. Furthermore, his 6.86 FIP means his 7.99 ERA is only slightly worse than the actual level he has been pitching at.
Weiland is guilty of committing three cardinal sins of the game: walking too many, striking out too few, and yielding too many home runs. The fact that his 10.4 BB% is higher than his 9.6 K% is discouraging. Along with that, his HR/9 sits at a lofty 1.90. Mainly, he is putting too many men on base, and his penchant for the gopher ball means that when those balls are hit out of the park, it usually is not coming with the bases empty.
The Red Sox selected the lanky right-hander with their third round pick in the 2008 draft. He had been a relief pitcher at Notre Dame, usually closing games out. It was not until 2009 that the Sox began to stretch him out as a starter in Single A. Weiland put in solid work, posting a 3.46 ERA in his first year as a starter. He regressed back to 4.42 the next year, but was sporting a 3.58 mark when he was called up this year.
The most puzzling aspect of his performance with the big league club this year is the disappearance of his strikeouts. In the minors he never finished with a K/9 below 7.60, and had marks above 8.40 twice. In the majors this has tumbled down to a 4.18. The fact that he’s walked so many men should not come as a complete surprise as his BB% has always been on the high side. The home runs are a bit of an enigma too, as his HR/9 in a season was never above 0.91 in the minors.
The good news for Weiland? The 23.2 inning sample size in the Majors this year is incredibly small. Save for two innings, all his pitches this season have been thrown against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, two teams that cater particularly well to his weaknesses. Baltimore has hit the fourth most home runs in the Majors this year, and their long ball tendencies certainly have something to do with Weiland’s high HR/9. The Rays, meanwhile, have drawn the second most walks in the game this season, making Weiland’s 4.56 BB/9 seem almost reasonable. At the end of the day, Weiland may have just gotten unlucky with the teams he was matched up against. That’s not to say that the way he’s pitched has been excusable, just that there may be reasons why it has been this bad.
At this point, it seems unreasonable to think that Weiland can ever become a front of the rotation starter for the Sox. The fact that he was a closer in college makes it a little unclear as to why the Sox ever stretched him out as a starter in the first place. In the future he is probably best suited for a long reliever or a man to bring in for the sixth or seventh, or even both. If how he’s pitched this season has taught us anything, it’s that he still has much to learn. Remember, he’s only twenty-five, and it shouldn’t be unreasonable to think that in the next few years, we may get used to him warming up behind right field to pitch the seventh inning. And even if he never makes it to the Show again, he still has some historical relevance. After all, only one man can be the first to wear number seventy.
Categories: Kyle Weiland