Several pitchers who are being watched very closely opened the season with worst case scenario occurring: They threw way too many pitches way early in the game and walked too many batters. All of these pitchers we are going to talk about have had control problems in the past or are young, inexperienced pitchers. All have great stuff but can't get it over the plate. All were impressive in the spring for NOT throwing walks. The pitchers in question? Check out below:
Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw made 31 starts last year and only got a decision in 16 of them. He just throws too many pitches early in the game. Last year, the great news was that he struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings. The bad news was that he walked 4.8. This spring, the talk was that he had to pound the strike zone. He said it himself over and over. So what did he do his first time out this year? He walked 6 in 4.2 innings. He goes again on Monday. He's got to throw strikes.
Fausto Carmona: Despite the fact that the Fan has been calling him Francisco all spring, he was still amazing. After losing his control the last two years to the tune of more than 5 walks per nine innings, he only walked one or two batters all spring. So what did he do his first time out this year? He walked 6 in 6 innings. Despite that, he only gave up one hit and won the game. But that isn't going to happen often. He's got to throw strikes.
Francisco Liriano: Now HIS name IS Francisco! In 2006, Liriano struck out 10.7 batters per nine while only walking 2.4. Those numbers have been getting closer to each other ever since. Last year, it was 8.0/4.3. This spring, there was talk of him becoming the closer. But he pitched so well and his command was so good, he made the rotation. But his first time out this year, he walked 5 in 6 innings. Oh no! Not again! He's got to throw strikes.
Mike Leake: Leake made the Reds' rotation despite never having thrown a minor league pitch because he showed great command and threw strikes and let his stuff dominate. Well, his first time out, he walked 7 and threw only 57 strikes out of 107 pitches. By the way, is Dusty Baker going to ruin this kid too? 107 pitches in his first game out? Geez. But, Mr. Leake? You've got to throw strikes!
Carlos Marmol: Marmol walked almost as many batters in relief last year as most average starting pitchers throw in three times as many innings. He averaged an amazing 7.9 walks per nine innings last year. So far this year, he's only walked one in two outings, both converted saves. That's a promising start. He's got to throw strikes!
A. J. Burnett: Last year, Burnett led the league in walks AND wild pitches. His typical pattern was to get two quick strikes and then try to get cute with sliders outside. But he wound up walking over four batters per nine and thus became way too inconsistent as a starter. So far in two starts this year, his walks are down. We'll see. He's got to throw strikes.
Dontrelle Willis: We all know the story here. Willis couldn't throw a strike the last two years if the place was on fire. Well, he's made his first start this year and he only walked 2 in six innings, so that's hopeful. But he got to three balls on six hitters. He's got to throw strikes.
The Fan will be watching these pitchers very closely along with other guys in the minors like Aroldis Chapman and Stephen Strasburg, both of whom had their pro debuts on Sunday. Both looked dominant, but both walked too many guys. They have to throw strikes!