After a disappointing performance by Robert Stephenson on August 20, Delino DeShields, called his young pitcher out in a public and personal way. Some people were big fans of the public humiliation, others weren’t.
Fast forward twelve days and two Stephenson starts and writers are rushing to announce that DeShields statement “worked” because Stephenson has thrown two “gems” or pick your synonym for gem.
That would make for a happy narrative. If it were accurate.
Set aside the small sample size of two games. Forget that just about any start would feel worlds better than what Stephenson offered on August 20.
The entire concern for Stephenson is his control. He walks too many batters. Has for years. That’s what triggered DeShields’ statement. On August 20, Stephenson had walked four batters in 2 innings.
In the two games since the public criticism, Stephenson walked 6 batters in 13 innings. That’s a 4.15 BB/9.
In the four August games prior to the Courier-Journal article, including August 20, Stephenson had walked 8 batters in 20 innings. That’s a BB/9 of 3.6. Is that too small of a sample for you? How about his entire career. Stephenson’s BB/9 in 5 years of minor league pitching is 4.19.
Yes, there’s more to evaluating pitching than walk rates. Yes, Stephenson and his coaches should be concerned about his control – and its lack of improvement. Of course we’re all pulling for him to get better and fulfill his promise as a top-of-the-rotation type of pitcher for the Reds.
The narrative-busting point: Stephenson hasn’t shown control improvement in the last two games.