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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Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.