Jarrod Washburn’s Still An Idiot

Dave · June 28, 2008 at 7:13 am · Filed Under Mariners 

After last night’s game, Jarrod Washburn continued to give credit for his recent drop in ERA to a mechanical tweak made by his pitching coach a few weeks ago. The local media continues to repeat his claim that he’s pitching better since then like its the gospel.

Apparently, we’re the only ones around willing to actually do any kind of fact checking. I wrote this post a few days ago, and it still stands as true. Let me quote the relevant parts:

Pitchers do this all the time – they struggle, they make some minor change, and the struggles end, so therefore, the minor change fixed the problem. Unfortunately, it’s almost never true. Here’s Washburn’s performance up to the phone call and since, broken down by metrics that actually judge pitching effectiveness, rather than a useless measure such as ERA.

April 4th – May 21st: 47 2/3 IP, 1.89 BB/9, 5.67 K/9, 11% HR/FB, 4.75 FIP, 4.93 xFIP
May 25th – June 21st: 29 IP, 4.97 BB/9, 6.21 K/9, 4% HR/FB, 3.92 FIP, 4.98 xFIP

If we were going to evaluate the usefulness of Washburn’s mechanical tweak based on a ridiculously small sample, we’d be forced to conclude that it destroyed his ability to throw strikes and was otherwise pretty useless. The uptick in strikeout rate is basically meaningless (it’s two strikeouts total over five starts), and the decrease in allowing runs is due to one very obvious unsustainable performance – the home run per fly rate.

If we update that second line to include last night’s start, his new ratios since “The Tweak” are 4.18 BB/9, 5.41 K/9, and a 5.1% HR/FB.

His command – not better. His stuff – not better. His pitching – not better.

His opponents in his last four starts: Toronto (4.12 R/G, 3rd worst offense in AL), Atlanta (4.56 R/G, but Chipper didn’t start that game, so hack off a quarter of a run), Washington (3.65 R/G, 2nd worst in baseball), and San Diego (3.58 R/G, worst in baseball). Yea, I have no idea why his results are better. It’s not like he’s had a run of starts against terrible teams that can’t hit, including a couple where he got to face the pitcher hitting instead of the DH.

Results based analysis is stupid and wrong. Jarrod Washburn isn’t pitching any better now than he was at the start of the season. Learn from your mistakes, people – ERA is useless. Stop using it to draw conclusions.


25 Responses to “Jarrod Washburn’s Still An Idiot”

  1. Christopher Michael on June 28th, 2008 7:26 am

    I wouldn’t mind if a different team’s GM bought into it and traded for him.

  2. shemberry on June 28th, 2008 8:20 am

    Hopefully some NL GM believes in him and takes him off our hands.

  3. Karen on June 28th, 2008 8:24 am

    All the teams who are contending and who might need an “innings-eating pitcher” probably have GMs who are smarter than the one we just got rid of…

  4. cdowley on June 28th, 2008 8:29 am

    Wow… I’d thought his command looked worse watching the games, I guess I didn’t realize just how much worse…

  5. JMHawkins on June 28th, 2008 8:34 am

    I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations a while back and estimated that facing a lineup that includes the opposing pitcher is worth about +0.5 K/9 (I think I was doing this as part of a “why HoRam was a bad idea” bout of misery). So, he should have a slight uptick in K/9 (though it’s all small sample size, so, meh).

    I wouldn’t mind if a different team’s GM bought into it and traded for him.

    The problem is, our GM is probably as likely or more than any other to buy into it and decide he’s part of the solution. Until we get a front office that understands the sort of evaluation Dave did above, we’re still at the mercy of random luck.

  6. theraven on June 28th, 2008 8:41 am

    I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with the title of the entry though. I guess you could say he’s an “idiot” because he isn’t aware that the tweak hasn’t actually helped him, but then you’d have to say that everyone else is an idiot, too (which you do somewhat in the article, but still). And hey, maybe his thinking that it has helped him will be a mental help somewhat, too. If so, I’d rather him keep being an “idiot” than get the Chuck Knoblauch struggle going on because he constantly thinks something is wrong (or the Sexson struggle, etc.). Some players wear gold thongs, others make “tweaks,” whatever helps them mentally is a good thing (as long as it’s our players).

    By the way, if people are interested, it’s fun to look at what the meanings of “idiot,” “moron,” and “imbecile” originally meant. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be called a “moron” than an “idiot.” 😉

  7. theraven on June 28th, 2008 8:50 am

    JMHawkins, I’m sure as a whole that is probably true, but I find one pitcher’s performance this year somewhat interesting – Randy Johnson. I think we’d all agree that Randy Johnson is no longer the pitcher he once was (I still root for him though and hope he gets to 300 wins), but here’s what’s interesting:
    #4 – .195
    #9 – .300

    That’s the BAA by batting position against Randy this year. And yes, they’re small sample sizes (41 ABs for #4, and 30 ABs for #9), but it’s still interesting to see that the #4 batters in the order are hitting far worse than the pitchers. I’m sure that a few of those hits in the #9 position are by pinch hitters, but most of them are actually by the pitcher (from the games I’ve watched at least). Other spots in the batting order hit better and worse than #9, but it’s still interesting. If you were to look at OPS or BA you’d have to assume that the #9 spot is actually the 5th or 6th hitter’s spot against Randy.

    As far as Ks, the #9 spot would be toward the top, but #6 and #7 would actually beat it out at this point.

  8. msb on June 28th, 2008 9:05 am

    ’m not sure if I necessarily agree with the title of the entry though. I guess you could say he’s an “idiot” because he isn’t aware that the tweak hasn’t actually helped him

    Jarrod Washburn is still blinkered?

    Jarrod Washburn is still self-deluding?

  9. jzalman on June 28th, 2008 9:24 am

    If we don’t get Antonetti, DePodesta, Ng, etc. as a GM…Dave, will you be the GM? Please?

  10. theraven on June 28th, 2008 9:25 am

    MSB – Not a bad start. 😉 Extra points for “blinkered.”

  11. jzalman on June 28th, 2008 9:25 am

    I know that seems off topic, but I plead because just the fact that you are aware that results based analysis is flawed shows you’re more capable than our entire FO. See? Not off topic.

  12. Rusty on June 28th, 2008 9:30 am

    Official Washburn response:
    “Dave, dude, you’re harshing my buzz!”

  13. shortbus on June 28th, 2008 10:00 am

    Ahem, if you’re an NL GM desparately in need of pitching you should know Dave’s totally just messing around. He’s such a kidder. When he says “His command – not better. His stuff – not better. His pitching – not better,” what he means is that Washburn’s really turned the corner this season after tweaking his delivery. And when Dave starts talking HR/FB rates and xFIP (blah, blah, blah…am I right?) he really means Washburn is the kind of veteran clubhouse leader that truly knows how to win. He’d be a great addition to any team for the stretch drive what with all that experience and winningness. Plus he can store a lot of stuff in his chipmunk cheeks…so he’s got that going for him. You should totally call Lee Pelekoudas and see if he’d be willing to accept your top corner outfield prospect for him!

  14. Klatz on June 28th, 2008 10:51 am

    I know what you mean by “results based” analysis, and your preference for “skills based” analysis, or at least metrics that are more dependent on the pitcher’s ability and less on luck and team defense.

    But really you should pick a different name than “results based” analysis. It sounds unscientific, any data analysis uses results. How can you analyze non-results data? K% and BB% are results, just more reflective of the pitcher’s talent.

  15. JerBear on June 28th, 2008 11:00 am

    Hear, hear Dave. All the announcers could talk about last night was how great Wash has been pitching lately. They just went on and on, talking as though it was some justification for sucking his whole career. “See! Ignore everything else – this is the real Jarrod Washburn! He’s been outstanding in his last four starts!”

    Over and over and over…

    It was nauseating.

  16. north on June 28th, 2008 12:41 pm

    I know what you mean by “results based” analysis, and your preference for “skills based” analysis, or at least metrics that are more dependent on the pitcher’s ability and less on luck and team defense.

    Thanks for that comment. I was also quite confused by the term “results based” analysis, for the same reasons you give.

    I offer an alternative:
    “Butterfly wing flapping analysis.”

  17. Doc Baseball on June 28th, 2008 1:21 pm

    I guess you could say he’s an “idiot”…but…

    Did you all see the quotation attributed to Washburn? He figured out that on the days over the last several weeks when he has volunteered to go down to the bullpen during the games and be available as a potential reliever that day, the M’s are 5-1. He is very proud of himself.

    He’s an idiot. And still the same old pitcher.

  18. theraven on June 28th, 2008 2:12 pm

    #16 So he’s superstitious, most athletes are in some way. Felix Hernandez won’t step on the foul line (at least, I’ve seen him noticeably avoid it a few times by hopping over it), but I’m not going to call him an idiot. Edgar Martinez used to weigh every bat to make sure they were the same weight. While that may make a slight (very very slight) difference, it would still fall under superstition. And if Washburn thinks volunteering in the bullpen is a help, and the M’s continue to win when he does, then so be it.

  19. Doc Baseball on June 28th, 2008 3:14 pm

    The problem is that, although this particular thing is of course much closer to superstition than to legitimately-held results-based thinking, it is nonetheless reflective of an underlying truth: that Wash really is a results-based thinker — and as such is similar to almost the entire team’s thinking: we have no idea why we are doing well, we have no idea why we are doing poorly — we throw stuff against the wall and if we win, we attribute the winning to that, and if we lose, we attribute the losing to that and then throw something else against the wall. So, the big problem with accepting the “if the M’s continue to win when Wash visits the pen, then so be it” kind of thinking is that it allows or supports the M’s in never facing the reality that their thinking is bad — and thus the only hope they have of winning a championship is of the monkeys-typing-shakespeare type.

  20. kevlar on June 28th, 2008 3:16 pm

    avoiding the foul line when running back to or from the dugout is a very common superstition in baseball

  21. theraven on June 28th, 2008 3:28 pm

    #18 Now that response I like. The Mariners this year remind me of the current Marketing team where I work. Throw a bunch of mud, see what sticks, and we’ll go from there. Knock down the price of your product 50%, which allows you to achieve 15% more sales than you would’ve otherwise and it’s deemed a success (of course, you would’ve had to more than double your sales to achieve the same monetary value). The long story short? You’re right. Previously I was commenting more on the mental thinking (and superstitions) of a single player, but we’ve had the problem all year from the top down (“we won a game with Cairo at first, so let’s keep him there for a few games since we won;” it doesn’t matter that he didn’t perform well when he did play, the fact is he DID play and the team won).

  22. msb on June 28th, 2008 4:12 pm

    FWIW, Drayer has the transcription of her talk with Washburn re: Joh up on her blog

  23. Typical Idiot Fan on June 28th, 2008 6:01 pm

    I hate Washburn:

    “Yeah very much. When Roger (Hansen) was brought in and spoke to Joh and I think everyone was working hard at that time and we knew that communication was an issue and that guys not being on the same page was starting to come up, it was something. I don’t know if everyone has done it, but I know Joh and I have done a lot of work behind the scenes together to try and get on the same page, which we had done to that point but Roger must have said something to him that clicked because we are communicating a lot better and we are working together a lot better. Like I said before, I love Joh. He is a great guy and he works real hard, there were just times when we weren’t clicking in ball games, but yeah, lately we are getting better and better and I feel comfortable with him.”

    “Me? Change? No. They whipped that other guy into shape to conform to me.”

    Of course, it could be just the “success” making things “better” between them instead of Washburn getting demolished and needing to feed the bus.

  24. nathaniel dawson on June 28th, 2008 7:26 pm

    Yeah, what #14 said.

    You say that result-based analysis is doomed (and, we must assume, because it’s flawed), yet what you’re doing is result-based analysis as well. You’re just using different results on which to base your analysis.

    So……what exactly do you mean?

  25. Wells on June 29th, 2008 5:54 pm

    Because something is far less useful than other things does not make that thing “useless”. You could stand to not make such blanket statements.

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