The Most Consistent Pitcher of All Time
Lest this thread turns into another “Dave hates the Mariners!” whinefest, let me get this out of the way – I’m glad we won, I’m glad we’re over .500, and I’m looking forward to today’s game. Go M’s.
Now, Jarrod Washburn’s three true outcome stats for each of the last three years:
2005: 2.6 BB/G, 4.9 K/G, 0.98 HR/G
2006: 2.6 BB/G, 4.9 K/G, 1.19 HR/G
2007: 2.6 BB/G, 4.9 K/G, 1.15 HR/G
His walkrate and strikeout rate this season are exactly the same as they were each of the last two years. That’s consistency of a ridiculous nature. Almost every pitcher has some year to year variation in their peripherals, but not Washburn – he’s cemented himself as the 2.6 BB, 4.9 strikeout, 1.1 HR guy. No regression analysis needed here. Of course, his ERA’s have bounced all over the place – 3.20, 4.67, and now 2.88. Why is that? Let me throw some more numbers at you.
2005: 81.8% LOB%, .289 BABIP
2006: 69.6% LOB%, .290 BABIP
2007: 78.9% LOB%, .208 BABIP
As we’ve discussed ad nasuem, Washburn threw up an unsustainable rate of stranding runners in 2005, leading to a superficially low ERA. He wasn’t getting hitters out any more than usual – he was just getting them out with guys on base. Some people called it clutch pitching – we called it an outlier, based on all kinds of historical evidence that there’s not some kind of clutch pitching gene that Washburn has, allowing him to pitch out of jams like he’s Johan Santana. Not surprisingly, his percentage of runners left on base tumbled last year, despite being the exact same guy he was in 2005, and his ERA went up. It turns out that we didn’t irrationally hate Jarrod Washburn – we just recognized that his success was built on a house of cards, and it was going to tumble.
So, now, I guess we get to have this same conversation all over again. Jarrod Washburn is still the exact same guy he was the last three years – seriously, look at those rate stats – but so far, in 2007, hitters are hitting the ball at his defenders and making outs. I shouldn’t have to tell you guys that a .208 batting average on balls in play is unsustainable. When he starts facing hitters who aren’t getting themselves out at every opportunity, his ERA will rise fairly significantly.
I wish Jarrod Washburn was having some kind of breakthrough season where he established himself as a quality #2 starter. He’s just not – he’s establishing himself as the most consistent pitcher of all time, and a walking example of why using ERA to evaluate pitchers is a bad idea.
So, when you read stuff like this quote:
“The big thing now is that he’s got command of all his pitches and he’s hitting his spots,” Hargrove said. “He’s been doing that in all his starts. He’s 2-2 now, and he could very well be 4-0.”
Remember that Mike Hargrove doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Jarrod Washburn is Jarrod Washburn – the outside influences that have a substantial effect on a pitcher’s ERA don’t change that.