Who is Marcus Walden?


Heading into the 2019 season, the Boston Red Sox bullpen was their biggest question mark.  After Boston lost Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly to free agency, their bullpen seemed very thin.  Out of nowhere came number 64, Marcus Walden, and he has been fantastic.  You may be asking yourself…Who is Marcus Walden?  To be honest, I didn’t know who he was either.  Well, that was until his performances on the mound became too good to ignore.  I think it is safe to say that the 30 year old rookie has forced himself into the spotlight of the Boston Red Sox bullpen early in the season. 

Photo courtesy of masslive.com
Marcus Walden made his major league debut on April 1st of last year.  He pitched well in his extremely short stint in Boston.  He even grabbed a three inning save early in the 2018 season for the Sox.  But unfortunately for Mr. Walden, he was sent back down to the minors in May, and that is where he remained the rest of the year. 

Shop the 2019 Father's Day Collection at MLBshop.comThat was an experience Walden was very familiar with having bounced around a few different organizations’ minors since he was drafted by Toronto in 2007.  Early in his career Walden dealt with a few different injuries, including getting Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.  In 2014 the Blue Jays even called him up but sent him back down before he ever threw a pitch.  That is why his debut did not come until years later.  Other than the Jays, Marcus Walden spent time with the Oakland A’s, Cincinnati Reds, and the Minnesota Twins’ minor league teams.  His summers mostly consisted of long bus rides and mediocre hotels as he continued to work towards making the big leagues. 

Walden even pitched in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.  If you have never heard of such a league don’t worry.  That is an independent baseball league completely separate from Major League Baseball.  He pitched for the Lancaster Barnstormers after he was released from the Reds’ organization.  Walden made the most of his time in the Independent League because he was signed by Minnesota in 2016.  That is when Walden began to get noticed around the league.  He posted a 2.40 ERA in AA and AAA, not too shabby for a pitcher who was in the ALPB just a season ago.  After that year the Sox decided to take a flyer on Walden.  And as they say…the rest is history.

No one expected Marcus Walden to be as good as he has been in 2019, but boy are the Sox lucky to have him on their roster.  Walden is currently the team leader in wins with six.  Most people will tell you that wins are an irrelevant stat for relief pitchers, and that loses really depict if a reliever is getting his job done.  Well, Walden is certainty getting his job done.  His six wins come with zero losses.  Walden’s ERA is currently sitting at 1.37 and he is striking out more than a batter an inning.  The journeyman relief pitcher has been dominant so far this season. 

I know this may seem like I am speaking in hyperbole, and perhaps I am, but when you look at his numbers I may be speaking very realistically.  Marcus Walden could be an “Andrew Miller”-esque weapon for the Boston bullpen.  Since May 1st he has pitched two or more innings four times.  No one, not even the Red Sox brass, knew what kind of weapon they would have in Marcus Walden this year.

The secret ingredient to Walden’s success is the use of his slider.  This season, Marcus is throwing his slider over 40% of the time.  His “knuckle slider” has been his bread and butter and it was a pitch that he learned from former teammates in the Boston system.  Chandler Shepherd showed him the grip and Kimbrel helped him refine it.  Now it is a weapon that is propelling this breakout season.  Walden mentioned in an interview with David Laurila of Fangraphs.com that he stopped throwing a slider after his Tommy John surgery.  I’m glad that he reintroduced the slider back into his arsenal, and I imagine the Boston Red Sox are feeling the same way.

Who knows how the season will unravel for Walden.  But if he keeps this up he may end up being one of the best weapons for the team to deploy out of their bullpen.  Given the recent struggles of Ryan Brasier I think now is the time to give Walden the higher leverage situations.  Boston can use him for one or more innings, and the way he is pitching he will probably shut it down.  Marcus Walden could fill the “fireman” role for the Red Sox.  That is the guy that they bring in the put out any fire at any point in the game.  Me personally, I hope he continues to get the job done.  Everyone loves to root for the player that wouldn’t give up and eventually breaks out right?

Follow Matt on Twitter @Matty_wests1de

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Who is Marcus Walden?
Who is Marcus Walden?
Boston Sports Syndicate
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