Not the Washburn the Tigers were looking for

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washburn_jarrod_090831.jpgThe Detroit Tigers must feel like the Mariners pulled some sort of elaborate switcheroo, sending them Jared Fogle, not Jarrod Washburn, in that deadline deal back in July.

The veteran left-hander, who used an improved Mariners outfield defense, a spacious park, and the heavy Seattle air to put together an amazing first half, has simply been a different player since heading to Detroit. Check out the difference:

In Seattle: 8-6, 2.64 ERA, 1.068 WHIP, 79 strikeouts and 33 walks in 133 innnings.
In Detroit: 1-2, 6.81 ERA, 1.405 WHIP, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 31.1 innings.

On Monday against Tampa Bay, Washburn allowed the first six batters to reach base in what became an 11-7 defeat. He left the mound to boos from Tigers fans after allowing eight runs in 5 2/3 innings.

“He certainly didn’t have very good success today,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.

“Some of it by his own doing and some of it was that’s just the way it is sometimes.
“Sometimes it just isn’t your day.”

So what happened to Washburn?

Seattle’s defense is exceptional, leading baseball in UZR (ultimate zone rating). At times, one got the sense Washburn was just throwing the ball in there and letting Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez chase down everything. And his 21.4 percent line drive rate and 42.5 percent fly ball rate while with Seattle give that theory some credence.

But Detroit’s defense is not bad by any means. In fact, it’s quite good, rated No. 6 in all of baseball in UZR.

And when you consider that Washburn’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is actually lower in Detroit (.241 vs. .248), it seems unlikely that the Tigers’ defense is the main culprit.

So if it’s not the defense, is Washburn simply regressing to the mean? After all, his career numbers don’t (107-107, 4.05 ERA), hint at a rather average pitcher who has had a couple of exceptional seasons. Or is it, as Leyland says, “just the way it is sometimes.”

Perhaps a little bit of both. But either way, Tigers fans must feel like they got hoodwinked.

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Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”