According to Ryan Divish of the News Tribune (a Washington-based paper), a slew of scouts, including “representatives” from the Yankees, were on hand yesterday to watch Jarrod Washburn take on the Tigers in Detroit. Washburn didn’t disappoint, either, as he tossed 7 strong innings of 2-hit baseball and gave up 0 ER (with 2 BB, 3 K). At 34, he’s having one of the best years of his career, if not the best, and he attributes his success thus far to a mechanical adjustment, which he thanks ex-Yankee and Mariner BP coach, John Wetteland for, that has allowed his 2-seamer to be more effective (he claims it never sunk before). He also claims that the adjustment is helping his other pitches—specifically the curveball—as well.
However, while J-Wash has certainly done a good job this year, his ’09 season is a bit more complex than an improved 2-seamer, although that’s certainly part of it. Mike over at RAB explains the situation pretty well, discussing Washburn’s individual contributions to his stellar season while simultaneously outlining other factors involved (e.g., luck, team defense) which may be benefiting him.
While he has done a swell job against southpaws in his career, righthanders have hit Washburn up for a .265-.323-.758 batting line. Those problems against righties were exacerbated last year when they pounded him to the tune of .299-.361-.504. The two-seamer has allowed Washburn to neutralize righties better than he has in some time (.252-.307-.382 this year), and he’s been death to lefties (.175-.211-.278). It’s a new pitch hitters haven’t seen before, and they’ve yet to adjust to it. His strikeout rate is up a tick, his walk rate is down nearly a full walk per nine innings, and his BABIP is touch low but not outrageous. The big difference between Washburn’s ERA and FIP can be explained by Seattle’s insanely good defense, particularly in the outfield since he’s a flyball pitcher.
Now, I wouldn’t say that Washburn is throwing an entirely new pitch by using his revamped 2-seamer, rather, as Washburn himself notes, he has merely tweaked a pitch that he has always had. Beyond that, Mike’s assessment is spot-on, as the shift in mechanics is truly helping him in his battles against righties and it appears as though his other pitches have been helped, as well, contributing to his overall effectiveness (i.e., increased K/9, etc.). However, if the Yankees were to trade for Washburn—and, given Chien-Ming Wang’s impending conference with Dr. Andrews and Joba Chamberlain’s innings cap, such a trade seems even more probable—I would expect a significant regression as the Yankees simply do not have the defensive ability seen in Seattle’s OF (which Mike also notes via Washburn’s FIP). Plus, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Washburn’s BABIP is “a touch low,” rather it is particularly low when compared to his career number. In addition, one can’t ignore Washburn’s slightly higher than normal strand rate, either. Basically, all signs point to a regression, but the 2-seamer should help in keeping him fairly effective, especially when compared to previous seasons where the 2-seamer’s movement wasn’t as good.
In the end, I’m assuming the Yankees were scouting the Mariners-Detroit game for a reason and that reason is, without a doubt, Jarrod Washburn, who they have been interested in since last year. I think he’ll definitely end up on their to-do list unless a better and cheaper option comes along (which I doubt). He would be a solid starter for them, though, and would definitely help in fattening up a somewhat slim rotation (I’m assuming the Mariners sell like they’re from Pittsburgh).
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