Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 4/5/13
Los-angeles-dodgers-boston
Felix Doubront‘s starts felt like Groundhog Day throughout much of 2012. Like most of the Red Sox’ pitchers, he tended to let the big inning get to him, but at times the young left-hander looked brilliant, using his vast repertoire, mid-90s velocity and devastating movement to great effect. But no matter how well or how poorly he was pitching, by the fifth inning you’d look down at the box score and, invariably, the now-25-year-old’s pitch count would suggest he wasn’t long for the game. That clearly needs to change if Doubront hopes to take the next step in his evolution as a pitcher. His stuff suggests that he has the potential to be as dominant as any pitcher in baseball. But pure stuff and potential don’t matter much if you can’t command it. Throughout the year, most of Doubront’s struggles were attributed to his green status. However, according to some statistical heavy lifting on the part of The Providence Journal’s Tim Britton, it’s just patently false that pitchers intrinsically improve their command and pitch efficiency as they age, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for Doubront. On the season, Doubront threw 2,868 pitches over the course of 161 innings, which works out to an average of 17.8 pitches per inning — just beating out Tim Lincecum for baseball’s worst rate among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched on the season. That’s a mark that obviously needs to improve, but is it a function of maturity? Ask the coaches around Doubront last season, and that’s exactly what they’ll say. “It’s just a learning process,” Red Sox pitching coach Randy Niemann said. “He’ll get it. He’s young in his development. The stuff is there — it’s just a matter of doing it. Pretty soon, those 18- to 20-pitch innings turn into 10- to 12-pitch innings, and now we’re deeper into the game with a better chance to win.” “When he understands how to attack certain hitters, it’s going to be easier to throw less pitches and get more strikeouts and less walks,” echoed former manager Bobby Valentine. But here’s the problem: There’s no statistical evidence that suggests a correlation between experience and pitch efficiency. No one is expecting Doubront to ever develop Cliff Lee‘s aversion to free passes, but everyone agrees he needs to learn to consistently work beyond the sixth inning to become the pitcher the Red Sox are counting on him to be. To quote Britton’s article: Contrary to popular belief, efficiency isn’t necessarily a learned skill. On the whole, veteran pitchers throw about the same number of pitches per inning as young pitchers. In 2012, 107 different pitchers have thrown at least 120 innings as starters, ranging from 21-year-old Jordan Lyles to 39-year-old Bartolo Colon. Pretty much regardless of age, they throw between 15.5 and 16.5 pitches per inning. Pitchers 23 or younger average 16.0 pitches per inning, which is actually better than pitchers in their purported primes at 27-29 (16.2 per inning). Furthermore, pitchers who have years like Doubront’s 2012 — years with more than 150 innings and more than 17.9 pitches per inning — haven’t shown a predilection for improvement with age. In fact, most of them run into problems. Pitchers such as Scott Kazmir and Jonathan Sanchez have not shown improved efficiency with age. Britton goes on to note that Doubront averages more than four pitches per plate appearance, and he ends at-bats in three pitches or fewer just 40 percent of the time. Additionally, getting ahead in the count is not as much of an advantage as it should be, as Doubront has walked 9 percent of batters he’s faced after going up 1-2 in the count, which is just a tick below the 10.3 percent walk rate he has in all situations. Does this mean that Doubront is indeed condemned to the future of fellow failed lefties Kazmir and Sanchez? Well, not necessarily. Kazmir actually showed improved pitch efficiency later in his time with the Rays and early with the Angels, but by that point he was also compensating for shoulder injuries, which sapped much of his velocity. Sanchez, meanwhile, appeared to a be bit of a head case who may be closer to Steve Blass than a pitcher who’s simply nibbling at the corners too much. More to the point, Doubront gave some huge reasons for optimism to close the 2012 season. While many voices suggested shutting down the southpaw due to the fact that his innings workload had already surpassed any in his professional career, Doubront lobbied to stay in the rotation — a decision that paid off. In his last two starts, Doubront threw seven innings in each, walking just three over those 14 frames while striking out 21. And, most importantly, Doubront averaged 15.6 pitches per inning, showing noticeable improvement in his willingness or ability to attack the strike zone. Nonetheless, Doubront’s late-season success is a reminder that the facets of the game where he needs improvement may not be a part of normal development. Rather, they will take real, tangible changes in his approach or mechanics to get better. For the Red Sox to contend in 2013, the rotation will need a fair amount of in-house improvement, and that starts with Doubront, who, as a sophomore, is expected to have not reached his ceiling yet. By all accounts, Doubront knows the results he needs to change in order to evolve as a pitcher — he’s consistently acknowledged his efficiency shortcomings in interviews all year. But does he know what specific changes to make to his game, and does he have the mental discipline to make possibly drastic changes to an approach he likely hasn’t had to adjust in years? The Red Sox are counting on it.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dwight Howard: ‘I have not asked the Rockets to trade me’

Nazem Kadri fined $5,000 for throat-slashing gesture

Hassan Whiteside suspended one game for elbowing Boban Marjanovic

Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has torn labrum

Report: Antonio Tarver suspended six months, fined $50,000 for positive test

Texans owner wants team to draft a top quarterback

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Subban undergoes larynx surgery, out at least eight weeks

Report: Raiders staying in Oakland for 2016 season

Cavaliers showing trade interest in Kings’ Ben McLemore

Report: Rockets shopping Dwight Howard

Jim Fassel takes issue with Cam Newton's warmup MVP cleats

Report: NFL upholds Vontaze Burfict’s three-game suspension

NBA to weigh adding advertisements to jerseys

ESPN, Stephen A. Smith and Little League International sued by parents of Jackie Robinson West

Kobe Bryant shoots down notion he wants All-Star MVP record

Justin Tuck will sign one-day contract to retire with Giants

Ronda Rousey returns to training

Von Miller likely to get franchise tag from Broncos

Barry J. Sanders transferring to Oklahoma State

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

USWNT start Olympic qualification in style by scoring in first 12 seconds

Magic Johnson wants Peyton Manning to join Rams

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

Franchise tag has been a useful tool for John Elway, Broncos

The 16 best NBA All-Star Game sneakers ever

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker