Jarrod Washburn's xFIP - ERA

Mariner Central thread here, discussing whether Washburn even merits a rotation slot in Seattle.

Jarrod Washburn's ERA is 4.10 for his career, compared to a 4.86 xFIP.   That's over the course of 1,873 innings.

  1. 4.10 - Jarrod Washburn's career ERA
  2. 4.46 - AL average, 2009
  3. 4.86 - Jarrod Washburn's career xFIP

Obviously you've got a major problem here; should you go by what the formulas say should have happened, the last 10 years, or do you go by what did happen, the last 10 years?

Go by ERA and Washburn is much better than average.  Go by xFIP and Washburn is much worse than average -- he's a guy you kick to the curb.

After 1,873 innings, it still isn't time to acknowledge the difference in his xFIP-ERA?  When, hypothetically, would it be time, to go by what Washburn did done, rather than what he did done?


=== Comps ===

Acknowledge Washburn's 4.10 lifetime ERA, and he is about the 20th-25th most productive starting pitcher in the American League in any given year.

Last year, a 4.10 starting pitcher would have had the #22 ERA among qualified starters:

  • 19 - A.J. Burnett, 4.04
  • 20 - Brett Anderson, 4.06
  • 21 - Gavin Floyd, 4.06
  • 22 - WASHBURN LIFE, 4.10
  • 23 - James Shields, 4.14
  • 24 - Andy Pettitte, 4.16

I don't think anybody is suggesting any of those other guys pitch in the 5 slot.  Jarrod Washburn isn't a star by any means, but he is providing game production that is the equal of much more appreciated pitchers.

Isn't that the essence of Moneyball, to acquire unappreciated players who give equal production for less salary?


=== xAVG vs AVG ===

Well, maybe we should go by theoretical extrapolations on all players, regardless of whether they've exceeded projections for 5 years, 10 years, or 2,000 years (Bill James' favorite sim range).

Ichiro's "expected batting average" is much lower than his actual AVG.  Per baseballhq.com, here are Ichiro's expected averages (xAVG) the last five years:

  • .296 - 2005
  • .273 - 2006
  • .283 - 2007
  • .282 - 2008
  • .283 - 2009

There you go, amig-O.  Ichiro's lifetime average may be .333, but you're talking about only nine years in the bigs; Washburn's been in the bigs for twelve, and we don't let his ERA fool us there.

As a sabermetrician, I've got a revelation for you.  Ichiro has been batting .333, but he's going to bat .280 next year.  Don't let your eyes fool you.  xAVG trends are highly predictive for 98% of all players, and that's the way the scientific mind bets.


=== Mr. Consistency Dept. ===

If Washburn will sign for $4-5m, even $6-8 million for that matter?, he's just about the safest bet in the majors leagues to provide that much value or more.

Washburn has provided an average of $7.6 million per season in production since 2002, and the lowest has been $4.7 .... here, let me run his last eight years of production from top to bottom:

  • 11.6 million
  • 9.4 (last year)
  • 8.1
  • 7.9
  • 6.9
  • 6.1
  • 6.1
  • 4.7

SSI can safely guarantee you that, at most, 10 pitchers in the American League have provided $5m or more in production for the last eight seasons in a row.  I wouldn't be surprised if only five pitchers can say that.

Washburn's not a star, but he's an average-solid AL pitcher who makes 30 starts a year. 

Being league-average and staying on the field, you're doing a whale of a lot to help the team.  Especially if you're a starting pitcher.

If Washburn wants to pitch here, they should let him.  Unless they're going to trade for Harang or something.


Dr D


Taro's picture

I completely agree.
Many times ERA is more accurate than FIP or xFIP over the course of a "Career" since it catches hittablility, XBHs, the ability to hold runners, GB%, LOB% etc. xFIP is usually more accurate in the short term, but ERA isn't too bad over the course of 5+ years as long as you keep the context in perspective.
Naturally ERA is going to be biased by team defense and park (and Washburn HAS benefitted here). The park and defense aren't going anywhere though, and a SP who nukes LHs, limits BBs, gets FBs without gopheritis is going to be a TREMENDOUS fit.
Washburn is just a great bet for our current situation. We need one more SP, and Washburn at $4-5mil is a very good fit.


You gotta look at all of it.
There are times ERA is telling you something not captured by the xFIP, such as Felix' 2006-07 predictable two-seamers swerving into LH'ers wheelhouses.
In Washburn's case, he's coming at the hitters, not throwing a lot of 2-0 pitches, and his game has just 'worked'... it has the last 12 years...  we pound a square peg into a round hole with him and it's stubbornness, not enlightenment.
what becomes a pet peeve for me, is the tendency to regard the 'theoretical' results as being more important than the real ones.   Sure, Jarrod was 12th in ERA, but who cares about that?


Washburn's career DNRA+ = 107  Washburn's lowest DNRA+ in a season: 93 (2004, injury plagued struggles).  Washburn's highest DNRA+ in a season: 121.
Yeah...I think he's a pretty darned safe bet to run an average line every time.
I don't understand why Zduriencik isn't offering Washburn 4 mil to pitch here.  He won't get that offer from anyone else...don't let the man retire without at least giving him a fair offer.


Here's a question for you Matty.  (Taro, whoever.)
If Zduriencik doesn't want Washburn back under any circumstances, despite having just watched him throw a 2+ ERA for four months here...
Why would that be?
I don't have the first guess, honestly.  Look at the MLB(TM) guy he went and got for 1B. 
It *can't* be that he thinks Washburn is a terrible pitcher.  Why, then?

misterjonez's picture

that being supreme faith in his in-house options like Fister, Snell, Vargas, French and Hill(?).  For a team so dependent on high-level pitching, it does seem like quite a gutsy play, but it's possible that he honestly believes Washburn doesn't provide anything that the assorted "spaghetti" already provides.
We don't have that kind of depth at 1B, and at the time of the Kotchman acquisition, Branyan's price tag was still higher than we were comfortable paying (don't know if that's changed yet) and there were legitimate concerns about his health and production going forward.
JackZ strikes me as the kind of guy who makes his mind up and proceeds, never looking back.  That said, Washburn hasn't sounded the least bit concerned about any of this, and it's enTIREly possible that he'll sit on the sidelines until ST gets underway, at which point maybe JackZ's confidence in his young pitching crumbles and he needs the option.  That actually sounds like what Washburn is expecting, anyways, with his recent comments about how he 'never really liked ST anyways,' and such.


One other variable is that it is VERY rare to trade for a player, then immediately re-sign him the following season.  "Part" of the reason for this, I believe, is that doing this makes the OTHER guy look like a complete moron -- unless that rental worked out EXCEPTIONALLY well.  Clearly, that is not the case with Wash in Detroit.
It's not just the case of potentially losing goodwill with Detroit in the future -- but also losing respect among the other 28 GMs.  Remember, Z is the new kid on the block, and as good as he's been, he's still got to deal with these guys on a daily basis. 
I agree that Z likely has greater faith in his BOR-ghetti than most Seattle fans.  But, Z also has a much keener awareness of the psychological impacts of moves on the entire organization, too.  Not to say that he won't sign Washburn.  But, it makes perfect sense to me that he'd give every other GM every opportunity to help obfuscate the whole -- "we traded two specs to get 8 horrible starts - and then handed the guy back" pie in the face for Detroit.

misterjonez's picture

I'm usually one to consider such factors, but this time around it totally slipped my mind.  Great insight, Sandy.
That would *seem* to make the ST/post-ST signing a lot more palatable, if he waits until it's 'inconvenient' to sign Washburn, he follows protocol to the letter.


The reason players rarely resign with a team that just traded them is because it doesn't make any sense. The whole reason for dumping a guy at the deadline is because he isn't in the teams plans or they can't afford him. If they wanted to keep him and he was willing to accept their offer, then they would extend him instead getting rid of him and hoping they could lock him up after he hits free agency and can sign with anyone.
More likely the reason the M's don't seem to be interested in Wash is because signing Bedard has basically maxed out their budget and they aren't going to spend any more money if it doesn't boost the offense. People have gotten fixated on the $1.5 million base salary and imagine the team still has a lot of wiggle room. That is probably not the case. It is standard practice to count the maximum potential earnings of an incentive-laden deal in a budget, not the minimum. So from Chuck and Howie's perspective, the M's have just taken on an $8 million (or whatever Bedard gets for hitting all the incentives) obligation and that means Z has a lot less money to work with than he did last week. If he has any intention of trading for another hitter at some point (which he certainly does) then he is better off waiting to see what offense he can add with the remaining cash because the pitching staff is already loaded.


Let me clarify that I don't believe the "embarassment factor" is the ONLY reason Z hasn't signed Wash.  But, I do believe it is *A* factor.
That said, it's actually difficult to define why Wash was traded to begin with.  The team was still peripherally in the playoff hunt at the time - Wash really wasn't very expensive, and the team didn't have any "obvious" uber-spec coming up to take his place.  Heck, French was a mandate for the trade BECAUSE the club didn't have faith in its own near-ready pitching.
In many ways, I think Wash was traded to appease an ornery fanbase.  Personally, if the push from the fans and pundits that selling high on Wash was a factor in his decision making, I'd imagine Z is doing some headdesk action these days as the blog-o-sphere goes on about the plusses of bringing him back.  (It's utterly amazing how many people have forgotten how much they dispised Washburn for the better part of 3 seasons).
Personally, I think if there is a "prime" reason for not bringing Wash back -- it's because Z has faith that he can get "league average" performance, (about what Wash brings) from somebody out of the BOR-ghetti box that he's assembled.  But, I think the embarassment angle would make it a LOT more complex for Z personally - if he were to decide that Washburn would genuinely improve the club (at a low cost). 
If there is a variable that the fans overlook in these things -- it is that ALL of these decisions are made with humans dealing with humans.  Over time, you'll see the same pairs of teams make 5, 6, 7 trades with each other - while never dealing with other clubs.  It's not ALL about talent.  A lot of it is about personalities and building up TRUST that your'e dealing with someone who isn't simply trying to rob you blind.  There has to be the BELIEF that a trade is mutually beneficial -- and when it is -- that makes the NEXT deal a lot easier to put together.
Anyone who has played in a fantasy or sim league understands you learn which owners are reasonable, and which are just trying to induce someone into doing something stupid.  And in MLB, GMs have personalities, just like in every other profession.  In many ways it's a Used Car Salesmen Convention.  And when you're the new kid on the block, you need to make sure you don't leave a lastingly bad first impression.

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