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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Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.