I was excited to see Allen Webster take the mound in a Boston Red Sox uniform Sunday night. Yes, I am a Red Sox fan, but I also am a PITCHf/x fan. To my knowledge, tonight was the first time that Webster has thrown in front of PITCHf/x cameras in a major league ballpark. Scouts rave about Webster’s fastball, and about how much it moves. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett had this to say about Webster:
His fastball moves so much that he doesn’t necessarily have to be really fine with it, throwing it to the black at all times. Because of the late action and the velocity that he has on that pitch, he has the luxury of probably pitching a little bit more to the halves of the plate or the thirds of the plate than the corners, like some guys need to.
Webster appeared confident in his fastball in the early going, as he challenged Kansas City’s best hitters with it. His fastball touched 97 mph in the first inning, though it didn’t really return to that level afterward. He threw two change-ups in the first inning, and he was able to generate great arm side movement on them even though his arm action seemed a bit tentative.
The right-hander was able to better spot his fastball in the second and third innings, and he also started to work his change-up in more often. I couldn’t tell if he was throwing one or two breaking balls, but he does throw both a curveball and a slider. He used breaking balls often to get a called strike, and none looked particularly impressive.
After allowing a solo home run to George Kattaras in the fifth, Webster came back with a breaking ball and two change-ups to strike out Elliot Johnson. He began to rely heavily on his off-speed stuff after allowing his second solo home fun in the fifth; it looked like Kansas City hitters were keying in on his fastball, which was no longer looking like a plus pitch.
After a long half inning on the bench, Webster struggled to control his fastball a bit in the sixth. In an effort to be more accurate with the pitch, it looked like he took a little off. His average fastball velocity in the sixth was 1-2 mph lower than in the first. It did look like he threw more two-seam fastballs as the game progressed, but he also was fighting control issues.
Now that we’ve seen Webster throw in front of the cameras, we can evaluate Crockett’s claim quantitatively. PITCHf/x results from the early innings revealed that his four-seamer moved around three inches horizontally and around 10 inches vertically (before accounting for the effects of gravity). His two-seamer had an additional three inches of arm side movement, and less “vertical” movement. According to Texas Leaguer’s league chart, average horizontal movement for four-seamers and two-seamers is about five inches and eight inches, respectively. Webster wasn’t far from the league average in terms of vertical movement, either.
Exceptional Movement? Live fastball? Not exactly.
Note: I heard that classifications on PITCHf/x data (made available a few hours ago) are rough right now , and I might not have been to able clearly differentiate between two-seam and four-seam fastballs. I defined fastballs as pitches that hit 90 mph or higher, and found that Webster might actually have more vertical fastball movement than I came up with originally.