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Memo To Rays Pitching Staff: Strikeouts Are Good, Walks Are Not

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It's pretty simple. Walking more batters and striking out less is a bad thing. For the Rays rotation this has been the story early on. In 2008, the Rays starters had a collective K/9 of 6.57 and a BB/9 of 2.82 which made for a good 2.33 K/BB rate. However in 2009, the starters strikeouts have dropped slightly to 6.31, but the walks have increased by over one per nine innings to 3.88. This makes for a not so good 1.63 K/BB. In fact, none of the current five Rays starters boasts a K/BB over 2.00. In 2008, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza were all over 2.00 with Shields(4.00) and Sonnanstine(3.35) being the best.

Starters

2008

2009

K/9

6.57

6.31

BB/9

2.82

3.88

K/BB

2.33

1.63

In the bullpen we have a similar scenario. The 2008 Rays bullpen's success will probably not be duplicated anytime soon, but their K/9 of 8.03 is a reasonable goal for a 2009 bullpen that features strikeout pitchers like: J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour and Joe Nelson. Despite those names, the 2009 bullpen is way off the 2008 mark with a collective K/9 of 6.66. While the walks are down from 4.11 per nine to 3.93 in 2009, the decrease in that area isn't enough to make up for the lack of K's. Overall, the bullpens K/BB had fallen from 1.95, which is about average, to a less than average like 1.70. So far only J.P. Howell(9.00), Brian Shouse(3.00) and Dan Wheeler(5.00), yes Dan Wheeler, have K/BB rates of 2.00 or greater. Shouse has faced 27 batters this season and has yet to allow a walk.

Bullpen

2008

2009

K/9

8.03

6.66

BB/9

4.11

3.93

K/BB

1.95

1.7

With an offense that just as likely to score 10 runs a night as it is to be shutout, the Rays pitchers, both starters and relievers, need to limit free passes and miss more bats. Once again, it sounds pretty simple, but so far it's something that the Rays staff as a whole has failed to do.