Results of Washburn's 'Flipper' pitch on the year, assuming I have isolated it properly in the PITCHfx numbers (of which I am confident):
Washburn hasn't thrown a whole lot of them for strikes, but that's to be expected for three reasons:
(1) It's not a pitch with which he has much experience
(2) Curveballs tend to be thrown for balls more often than other pitches
(3) Batters haven't swung at it
It's that last point that's the key. On average, about 60% of curveballs are taken, and about 11% of curveballs go for called strikes. With the Flipper, though, 78% have been taken, and 31% have gone for called strikes. Pitchers talk all the time about how something they throw is intended to mess with the hitters' timing, but Washburn's actually done it. With acknowledgement of the sample size, a called strike rate of 31% is extraordinary.
Jarrod Washburn isn't very good. He's just not, and too many people continue to let themselves get tricked by ERA. However, just because he's nothing special doesn't mean he hasn't improved, and one of the reasons he's been able to get better has been his embracing of the slow curve. Make no mistake. It's no Mr. Snappy, and its name is kind of stupid, but Jarrod's Flipper does appear to be a weapon.