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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Manny Machado rips MLB Network talking heads over double standards

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Manny Machado has had his fair share of controversies. There was the stuff about his lack of hustle last fall. He’s thrown bats and ran into and over guys and has argued with umpires and all of that stuff. Is he well-liked? Not really. Is he a dirty player? Some say so. But even if you don’t say so, he’s been involved in some dirty plays and he’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. We chronicled much of that last fall.

But he’s certainly not the only guy who has done that sort of thing before. Others have and, I think it’s fair to say, others have not caught as much flak for it as he has. There are reasons for that too, of course. Part of it is that a couple of Machado’s transgressions came in very high-profile situations like last year’s playoffs. Part of it is that he’s a big star who makes a lot of money and guys like that tend to get more attention and heat than others. Part of it is that a lot people simply don’t like Machado for whatever reason.

Machado talked at length about that last night when he took to Instagram to mock MLB Network analysts Eric Byrnes and Dan Plesac, who were going on about the Jake Marisnick plunking and his barreling into Jonathan Lucroy that led to it. Byrnes and Plesac were defending Marisnick. Machado noted that he would never have gotten that kind of defense had it been him doing the barreling instead of Marisnick.

Watch (warning: NSFW language):

 

I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Again, some of it would be justified in that Machado does have a reputation and when you have a reputation you don’t get as much benefit of the doubt. But it’s also the case that Machado was not getting much benefit of the doubt — including from these guys in particular — well before that reputation was established.

Over at the Big Lead, they found examples of Byrnes going after Machado way back in 2014. Machado’s transgressions have, from the beginning, been cast as a those of a dirty, hotheaded player who lacks class. Other players who have done exactly what Machado has done often get excused for showing “passion” and “competitiveness” or for “playing hard” instead of “playing dirty” even when there isn’t all that much actual difference between the acts in question.

Machado says it’s attributable, at least in part, to him being Latino. I think people can reasonably disagree on the question of whether Machado, personally, has been unfairly judged. But I think it’s pretty indisputable that, generally, Latino players get way, way, way less benefit of the doubt for “hard play” vs. “dirty play” and for being “hotheaded” as opposed to being “competitors” than non-Latinos get. Those stereotypes are well-established. Academic research has been conducted on that stuff, confirming such inherent bias on the part of white commentators. Some of Machado’s peers in the game have said the same thing, both in general, and about Machado’s treatment personally.

Which is to say, whether or not Machado has earned the treatment he gets, he has a point here.