State of the Washburn, Offspeed Dept.

Funny thread at Mariner Central on "flipper" the curve ball.  Who knew that Jarrod Washburn was going to wheel out a David Wells hook in his old age.  :- )


Q.  What in the WORLD is Jarrod Washburn doing differently?!  Come ON!

A.  First of all, understand this:  if you say any of the following things, you're (pretty much) saying all the other things.


"Jarrod Washburn is doing X differently now"

"I predict that Jarrod Washburn will continue to pitch about this well"

"Jarrod Washburn has evolved from 'Mediocre' to 'Excellent' "

"His being LH in Safeco, and his being so durable, the M's should re-sign Jarrod Washburn"


So D-O-V is very careful about committing to Washburn doing this or that differently.  I smell a rat here, and am having a tough time buying into the idea that the lad is this good.

I mean, he just fired a GORGEOUS one-hit SHUTOUT .la;ldkjfa;sldkfuja;sdo9v8u089jpai [Dr. D collapsing onto keyboard] and yet... he fanned only 3, count them, 3 batters.

I'm not saying he didn't pitch great.  He pitched verrrrrry well.  But is anybody shocked if the clock strikes midnight and the bullpen cart turns into a pumpkin... NEXT GAME?


Q.  IS he doing anything differently?

A.  I remember seeing some LL post, by Matthew or Graham I think, in which they cut his pitches up like a TV huckster chopping up a radish with a $19 plastic cup.  They found virtually nothing different -- not velocity, not location, not movement.  (Correct me if I'm wrong.)  

As we know, Washburn is devastating LH batters, but in terms of pitch action, speed, and break, he's throwing about the same stuff, they thought.

That is what it looks like to me, too.  He's got just a foot or so more on his FB, sometimes.  And his curve does break a little better, sometimes.

He is NOT throwing more offspeed stuff, per fangraphs.


Q. So it's just defense?

A.  Nada.  Washburn's K/BB is way up, about 50% up.

Did YOU see any diving catches in the OF last night?  As usual, it was a bunch of cans of corn that the OF's camped under.

One or two balls to the warning track.  The usual easy Washburn catches in the OF. 


Q.  Is his FB better?

A.  It's up by 0.5, 1.0 mph over the last couple years -- back to where it was in 2003-06.

I have NEVER understood why Washburn's fastball doesn't get hit harder than it does.  Still don't.  He does pitch up, which can help, and he does move the ball around.  But Washburn might throw twenty 88 fastballs in a row and the ball never get really blasted.


Q.  Why are his line drives up?

A.  In case you hadn't noticed, Washburn is giving up far MORE line drives this year -- he's up from his previous 18% to now 22%.

His groundballs are up a lot.  He used to give up 8 grounders per fly; now it's even.

So, batters are getting on top of his pitches this year.  Outfield defense?  Washburn is using his OF a lot *less.*  (Granted, the OF is a lot better this year, of course.)


Q.  So what's going on?

A.  That leaves only one thing:  deception.

A pitcher with a fatigued arm tends not to "sell" the offspeed stuff with as much elan, because it hurts a little bit to do so.'s like asking a tired NBA defender to slide-step with 100% explosion.  It's just hard.

Washburn DOES look like his arm is fresher, and (we've slo-mo'ed it carefully) it DOES look like he is "selling" his curve and change with a big snap of the arm across the body.

This would explain the fact that he is getting tons of swings-and-misses outside the strike zone.  Hitters just aren't reading the ball as early.   And it would explain the trouble LH's have, since they have less time anyway.

It is VERY tough to take a magnifying glass to Washburn and figure out what he's doing right, but we're pretty sure this is it.  Washburn is selling his offspeed stuff very well this year, and in effect that gives the hitters less time.

Whatever the plots say, Washburn's fresher arm is also giving him better command -- and Johnson will tell you that.

Washburn's FB's are a barrage of (1) short-arm, well-hidden 89 mph'ers that are (2) up and (3) on the black, (4) unpredictable.  That's why you see the "trying to swat mosquitoes" syndrome up there.

Good for him.  Washburn's effectiveness, it says here, is mostly legit.


glmuskie's picture

Wash's post-game comments about his success (paraphrasing here)
'It's all about the sink I'm getting on the two seamer.  In spring training we tried changing how I finished that pitch so that it would get more sink, and it's been working really well.  It's a pitch I didn't have before this year, and I don't see why I can't continue to throw it effectively for the rest of my career'.
This is what SABRMatt was talking about, how looking at his stats and pitch F/X data doesn't really paint the whole picture.
But count me in the highly skeptical camp on Wash.  I think your prognosis of continued success through '09, with a dropoff in '10, is the most likely scenario.  Can anyone think of a good comp for this situation?  Mediocre journeyman pitcher tweaks his arsenal about age 30 and becomes a top-20 pitcher in the league for an extended period of time?


And Washburn's report of increased sink, that is very easily seen in his stats.  As y'know, his groundballs and line drives are up, and his flyballs down.
I'm not 100% sure that the sink itself is inherently a good thing, if it means you're now giving up fly balls and sharp grounders as opposed to skied fly balls in Safeco...
But Washburn says it looks to him like it's the reason he's pitching so well.  He's got a closer view than we do :- )


...when your chief problem as a pitcher is too many home runs, reducing the flball rate is good.  Even if it means your BABIP goes up a bit.  Trading HRs for singles and GIDPs is a good thing.


I've seen Washburn quoted two or three times this year talking about the new release point, the sinker, the changeup, now the loopy curveball...every time he's said something to the effect (paraphrasing) "the hitters aren't used to seeing this from me".
One of the reasons he hated pitching to Joh was that if were up to Wash (prior to this year), he would throw 90% fastballs. 88mph fastballs, up in the zone, with movement. Over and over and over. The league had him booked. If his control was on, he would beat you; if it was off, you would get him but the batter pretty much knew what the game plan is. Now all of a sudden, he's changing things up on them. Sometimes he's low in the zone, sometimes he's up; sometime he'll throw the change and sometimes it's that loopy curve ball. It'll be interesting to see him face some teams that scout well for a second time and see if the hitters approach him differently.
It's fun to watch a guy execute the Bosio game plan. I wouldn't extend him but it wouldn't surprise me to see him go to St Louis or Philly or Atlanta and pitch well for another three years.


Warrior mentality, mediocre FB, nothing special but masters a deceptive pitch at age 30 and goes on to win 250 games?
The name you're searching for is Jamie Moyer.


For three years he griped that he wasn't throwing enough fastballs, and boom, here he's crediting all his success to his offspeed game.
Imagine how Johjima feels listening to that.


If Jamie Moyer physically LOOKED like Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling, he'd go down as the toughest hombre since Ares.


Washburn took longer if indeed he mastered deception and finally learned the joy of pulling the string on hitters, but he could pitch effectively for a few more years if he's found his old-man groove like Jamie did.

EA's picture

One of Rob Johnson's many talents must include hypnosis.  It would also explain how he manages to get into the lineup so much!
*You're getting sleeeepy Don.  Veeeery sleeeeepy*


Well if he can do that to the opposing team night after night...I'm golden. :)


And he's throwing another shutout Thursday, from behind the plate.

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