The First Man To Seventy; Kyle Weiland And Sample Sizes

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

Alex Convery is a student at the University of Southern California where he studies screenwriting. He spends his time procrastinating. Follow him on twitter here: www.twitter.com/alexconvery

7 Responses to “The First Man To Seventy; Kyle Weiland And Sample Sizes” Subscribe

  1. Charlie Saponara September 24, 2011 at 4:08 PM #

    Nice article Alex. I'm right there with you with regards to Weiland's ultimate upside. 7th inning type reliever is a realistic expectation for him.

  2. Hit Dog September 24, 2011 at 4:27 PM #

    It's been painful to watch Weiland, although I wouldn't question his fortitude. Still, this is a little like if Abe Alvarez was asked to start multiple games in 2004, instead of the one game in a doubleheader.

  3. ChipBuck September 24, 2011 at 4:37 PM #

    Great stuff Alex! Really enjoyed the piece. I feel the same way about Weiland. He has a great two seamer (or at least per the scouting report), but his secondary pitches are lacking a plus offering. He's in the same situation Michael Bowden was in a couple of years ago. Pitchers have to be league average or better at least two things to be successful MLB starters: striking guys out, avoiding walks, and inducing grounders/avoiding HRs. Right now, he's bad at all three. I think a move the bullpen will certainly help limit his negative tendencies. Seventh inning guy sounds about right for his ceiling.

    • Gerry September 25, 2011 at 3:08 AM #

      In support of his move to the Pen, he inevitably pitched a strong first inning or two, then got hit hard. He also had some of the dumbest defense behind him when that happened. That plus his ejection say he needs a Mulligan at Fenway, this time in the Pen. In fact, with Weiland, Bowden & Tazawa all providing some strong 1-2 inning efforts, the Sox Pen may be largely homegrown next year … a very good thing.

  4. Will September 25, 2011 at 6:54 AM #

    I enjoyed the article but what scared me was that you used the Rays and O's offenses to describe why he is pitching so bad. You say they are built for his weaknesses so he will do worse with those ballclubs. Dont both of those clubs have two of the WORST offenses in all of baseball statistically? If they are the reason he is struggling then he has a lot more to worry about!!!

    • ChipBuck September 25, 2011 at 7:18 AM #

      The Rays offense is middle of the pack; right now, they're eighth in runs scored. For whatever reason, they're a much different team at home than they are on the road. Plus with Desmond Jennings and his .381 wOBA sitting at the top of the order, and Evan Longoria (.355) back to being himself; their offense is significantly better than it was earlier in the season. Plus, Ben Zobrist (.354), BJ Upton (.331), Johnny Damon (.331), Matt Joyce (.358), and Casey Kotchman (.353) are all much better than average offensively.

      As for the O's offense, it just happens to be clicking at the right time. Still, I think you bring up a good point. His struggles are more because he's not an MLB quality starting pitcher. A move to the bullpen would certainly help minimize his flaws.

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