Walks have been costly early for White Sox pitchers

Walks have been costly early for White Sox pitchers
April 8, 2014, 1:30 pm

DENVER — Too many walks have become a thing for the White Sox and Robin Ventura isn’t a fan of the trend.

Felipe Paulino had four of five free passes allowed by White Sox pitcher in Monday’s 8-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Through seven games, White Sox pitchers have walked 31 batters in 62 innings, which ranks 29th among 30 major league teams.

One base on balls that seemed to bother Ventura was in the second inning Monday when Rockies batter D.J. LeMahieu got aboard in front of pitcher Jordan Lyles, who followed with an RBI double to left-center field.

“They’re starting to come at inopportune times,” Ventura said. “You walk the eight-hole guy to get to the pitcher and he ends up knocking you around. We just need to be a lot sharper than that.”

Though it certainly is a small sample size with only seven games played, and the White Sox have four brand new pitchers, a deeper look at the numbers reveals just how costly the walks have been.

[MORE: Walks hurt Felipe Paulino as White Sox fall to Rockies]

Of the 31 batters to walk against the White Sox, 14 have scored, per CSNChicago.com’s Chris Kamka. That percentage increases when it comes to Hawk Harrelson’s famous “dreaded leadoff walk” as five of six batters to start an inning with a free pass have scored.

The only games in which the White Sox have avoided multiple walks are when Chris Sale has been on the mound. Through 15 1/3 innings this season, Sale has issued two walks. That means the rest of the staff is responsible for 29 walks in 46 2/3 innings pitched through Monday’s game.

Pitching coach Don Cooper admits, “we’ve helped other teams out a little bit more than we need to.” But at the same time, Cooper sees this as a separate issue rather than a group one. He’s not worried about several of his top starting pitchers and he’s also pleased with the work of his bullpen, save for the effort of Nate Jones, who walked three batters when he pitched hurt.

“It’s an individual thing to me,” Cooper said. “It’s not a group thing. We’re not talking about Chris Sale here. We’re not talking about (Jose) Quintana, and (John) Danks last year was great with walks, so we’re really not talking about him. We’re talking about the two other starters in (three) games."

White Sox pitchers have struck out 53 batters, meaning they have less than a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The team’s staff also has a walk-per-nine-innings average of 4.5, a number that increases to 5.59 when Sale isn’t on the mound.

The White Sox ranked 20th in the majors with 509 walks issued last season. The 2013 walked 3.1 batters per nine and finished with a 2.45:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.