I Traded For Allen Webster

I traded for Allen Webster and I’m not sure you should too. You see, I traded for Webster in a 20-team 28-keeper league, and he’s immediately my last keeper. Even if he’s the best last keeper, he’s probably no better than 540th. On the other hand, I spent a real-life asset to get him, so, yeah, I’m going to own some Allen Webster shares.

The trade, so that you can get the context. I traded with Chad Young in Devil’s Rejects, an industry dynasty with OBP as the only real wrinkle. (Oh, and the fact that you can own anyone anywhere, and for a while last year I owned this guy for his 93 mph splitter even though he’s not posting for years.)

I got: Jason Castro, Jenrry Mejia, Allen Webster
I sent: Jose Quintana, Jace Peterson

I didn’t have a starting catcher going into the season thanks to Wellington Castillo. My only other ‘closer’ is Josh Fields. Allen Webster replaced Frankie Montas in my keeper list. I may try to use Montas to upgrade Fields or Mejia into Jake McGee, but I don’t love the elbow injury.

Anyway, you can already tell that Allen Webster was more sweetener than centerpiece, and that’s probably the way I’d treat him. Because as many things that Webster has going for him, he has going against him.

By pitch-type peripheral analysis, he’s exciting. He was 18th in the newest version of Arsenal Score, and it’s obvious why. He’s thrown at least 200 sliders, changes, and two-seamers, and all are above-average by whiffs. The change was elite (25.7%, 7th-best, minimum 200 thrown), but the slider (16%) and two-seamer (8.1%) were both plenty good when compared to the league.

The caveats are obvious. Webster has trouble commanding the ball.

That’s putting it nicely. Since he entered the league, Webster’s had the fifth-worst walk rate among starters with at least 60 innings. He’s had the 15th-worst zone rate. You could use cuss words to describe his command.

It’s possible that these stats understate the issue. Tim Britton, writing on Webster late last season, did bring up the command issue:

When Webster struggles, it’s for a simple enough reason: He can’t throw enough strikes. Webster walks about one out of every eight hitters he faces; no pitcher with

But Britton brings up another issue, which may be as important — but doesn’t have a single statistic attached to it.

Nieves thinks a tinier strike zone and added adrenaline contribute to the number of pitches that “out of the hand are not competitive.” There’s also the issue of confidence.
“[To be a consistent pitcher in the majors], the first thing you must attain is, you’re not stepping on the mound saying, ‘I hope I throw strikes, maybe I’ll throw strikes, I wish I throw strikes,’” Nieves said. “That thought process has to be eliminated. If that’s going through your mind, half of the battle’s already lost.”

Mention Webster as a sleeper to a Boston fan and you’ll get a raised eyebrow at best. Watching Webster struggle through innings with pitch after pitch, walk after walk, and bad body language to boot… they’re happy to have Wade Miley (who, incidentally, also did well in Arsenal Score 2.0, scoring 53rd on weighted whiff and grounder rates on his pitches).

But I return to cautious optimism. Anecdotally, I remember having these same exact conversations with Indians fans about Carlos Carrasco before last season. It tempered my enthusiasm some, but I still bought shares of the pitcher, thinking that a little run of good luck could solve the confidence issue, and that velocity and stuff can overcome bad command in the short run. Carrasco is now my number three or four pitcher on that same 20-team staff.

By the numbers, you can see that a bad walk rate puts you in a bad bin. It’s obvious. Take Webster’s walk rate projection, and then look for pitchers that had that walk rate or were worse over the last three seasons, and the result is underwhelming. You’re basically hoping that Webster can be the good versions of Matt Moore or Ubaldo Jimenez — and those names alone tell you what kind of a fine needle you’re attempting to thread.

Allen Webster’s command is probably worse than Carrasco’s. His velocity dipped from 94 to 92 last year, so he doesn’t have Carrasco’s velocity. And maybe Webster needs to turf a pitch (the four-seamer got 1.9% whiffs last year, which is terrible). But the new Diamondback does have a decent amount in common with a pre-breakout Carlos Carrsco, and that alone is enough for me to take notice.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Matthew
7 years ago

Realistically, I think Webster can be a right handed Fransisco Liriano if everything goes right.