One of pitching coach’s least favorite things in the world are walks. Walks lead to base runners, and base runners often lead to runs. While being a “control artist” isn’t as sexy as being a “strikeout artist,” sometimes the former is more important. Below are the top five “control artists” from 2011.
Josh Tomlin (1.14 BB/9): In Tomlin’s first full-season, the right-hander provided the Cleveland Indians with a tremendous, cheap asset. The starter won 12 ballgames, while posting a 4.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 4.24 K/BB. His 1.14 BB/9 led the entire Major Leagues too. Tomlin exhibited better strikeout numbers in 2010 (from 5.30 K/9 to 4.84 K/9), but his xFIP improved mightily in 2011 (from 4.76 xFIP to 4.03 xFIP). The Indians should be very excited about the 26 year-old’s future with the team.
Dan Haren (1.25 BB/9): Haren is one of the two bona-fide aces who ranked within the top five for BB/9 in 2011. The now 31 year-old actually saw his strikeout numbers take a huge hit for the first time in his career (from 8.27 K/9 to 7.25 K/9), but luckily, Haren also honed his control skills (from 2.07 BB/9 to 1.25 BB/9). The result was his best showing since 2009, posting 16 Wins, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 5.82 K/BB in 238.3 innings in 2011. It looks as though Haren is on the Greg Maddux route to using control as a dynamic weapon.
Brandon McCarthy (1.32 BB/9): After sitting out all of 2010 due to injuries and never pitching more than 101.6 innings in a given season (also due to injuries), Brandon McCarthy finally stayed healthy in 2011. The right-handed pitcher hurled 170.6 innings, while posting a sensational 3.32 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 4.92 K/BB. Interestingly enough, McCarthy, who enjoyed an elite 1.32 BB/9 in 2011, had a career 3.4 BB/9 mark before the season. Granted, the pitcher did own a 1.8 BB/9 in 594.6 career Minor League innings, but it took the injury-prone hurler quite awhile to exhibit those skills in the show.
Roy Halladay (1.35 BB/9): Like Haren, Roy Halladay is the other legitimate ace who understands the importance of limiting walks. Halladay’s 2011 was one of his best career years, posting a 2.35 ERA (2.71 xFIP), 1.04 WHIP, and 6.29 K/BB. The ace actually posted a superior BB/9 in 2010 (from 1.08 BB/9 to 1.35 BB/9), but substituted a few walks in 2011 for strikeouts (from 7.86 K/9 to 8.47 K/9). There is no doubt that his ability to consistently limit walks has been a key reason to his incredible career.
Doug Fister (1.56 BB/9): In Fister’s second full-season in the Major Leagues, he not only established himself as a top-notch “control artist,” but also as an extremely reliable pitcher. While the righty proved his stingy approach to walks last season, by posting a 1.68 BB/9 in 171 innings, Fister improved that rate in 2011. In addition, Fister was an even more dominant version of himself once he was dealt mid-season to the Detroit Tigers. In his first 146 innings (with the Mariners), Fister posted a 3.33 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 2.78 K/BB (with a 1.97 BB/9), but in his last 70.3 innings (with the Tigers), the righty hurled a sensational 1.79 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and incredible 11.40 K/BB. His eye-popping command was certainly fueled by a spike in strikeouts (from 5.48 K/9 to 7.29 K/9), but the real influence was his immaculate control (from 1.97 BB/9 to 0.63 BB/9).