Jarrod Washburn Is Really Different

Here's a chart showing all of Washburn's most relevant statistics as compared to his 2006-2008 average:

Stat 2006-2008 2009
Strike% 62.1% 61.9%
StCalled% 17.0% 17.6%
StSwinging% 6.0% 7.3%
StFoul% 18.4% 16.3%
StInPlay% 20.3% 20.5%
GB% 37.2% 38.6%
FB% 40.8% 38.6%
LD% 20.1% 21.8%
HR/BIA% 6.1% 4.1%
PA% vs. LHB 23.3% 27.8%
tRA+ 91 109

You'll notice that there's been no change in Washburn's tendency to throw strikes, nor has there been a change in his ball in play distribution. What there has been is an increase in swinging strikes, an increase in lefties faced, and a decrease in the number of fly balls clearing the fence.

You should immediately recognize that two of those things are out of Washburn's control. There's no reason why he should be seeing more lefties now than he has over the rest of his career, and I don't think we need to go down the whole home-runs-and-fly-balls beaten path again. These things are anomalous, and going forward we should expect them to regress.

So that leaves us with the swinging strikes. I suppose you could see this as either a major or a minor change, depending on your perspective. It's true - most 34 year olds don't suddenly start missing bats like they did in their 20s. Washburn has generated 72 whiffs on the year, as opposed to the 61 we'd get from applying his '06-'08 average, and that may be statistically significant. But even if it does represent a step forward in terms of performance - and let it be said that I'm open to this possibility - that doesn't explain his sizeable hike in strikeouts and drop in walks. Washburn's K/BB has jumped from a three-year average of 1.8 to this year's 2.6, and I don't think you can make total sense of that with only a moderate increase in swinging strikes.

Jarrod Washburn has pitched pretty well this year through two months of work. His pitches have seemed a little sharper than usual, and in large part due to his dominance of lefties, he's riding a low ERA into the middle third of the season. However, while he may very well be a better pitcher now than he was during his first three years as a Mariner, there's little about his performance to date that makes me think it's going to keep up at this level. If and when the Mariners finally decide to sell, Erik Bedard's going to get a lot of attention, but Washburn'll be right there as a veteran with experience and an expiring contract, and Zduriencik should look into moving him quickly. Though his stock may not be as variable as Bedard's, its value may never be higher.

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