Washburn’s Change

Dave · April 9, 2009 at 8:08 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

You know how every year, half the pitching staff shows up to camp and claims they’ve learned a new pitch/improved grip/better motion/magic secret? And you know how, every year, it turns out to be hogwash, and they pitch like the same guy they have always been?

Well, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Just most of the time. However, throughout spring training, Jarrod Washburn kept talking about how he’d worked on his change-up and how he thought it had come a long way. Today, he had a chance to back it up – and he did.

Of the 96 pitches he threw, 20 of them were change-ups, all of them to right-handed batters. He got the following results:

Balls: 6
Called Strikes: 4
Swinging Strikes: 2
Foul: 2
Single: 2
Groundout: 3
Flyout: 1

Just watching on MLB.tv, his change had more movement than I ever remember seeing. He did a good job of keeping it down in the zone, and it was a quality off-speed pitch for him today. The Twins line-up isn’t very good, especially against LHP, so don’t go overboard in extrapolating from this, but so far, he’s provided at least some glimmer of hope that his off-season fix might actually be true.


31 Responses to “Washburn’s Change”

  1. robbbbbb on April 9th, 2009 8:29 pm

    If it’s true, I’ll take it. Let’s wade through a couple more starts and see, first.

  2. coasty141 on April 9th, 2009 8:38 pm

    This could be huge. With the combo of an improved outfield defense and a pitch that can keep RHB at bay (righties vs wash the last 3 years 280/337/459)… Wash could see much better results in 09.

  3. ClaytonMiles on April 9th, 2009 9:10 pm

    This is real nice to see. Today Jack Z’s plan looked like it worked. If Franklin Gutierrez keeps this up Jarrod Washburn needs to buy him a Rolex, at least.

  4. Breadbaker on April 9th, 2009 9:21 pm

    One game doesn’t mean much (other than it’s a win, you can’t take that away from Jarrod or the M’s). If the change is still successful when other teams have had a chance to watch video, pick up patterns on use, etc., then it’ll mean something.

  5. ThundaPC on April 9th, 2009 9:41 pm

    Apparently, Washburn also has a new sinker. I dunno. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if the adjustments he made are for real.

  6. Jeff Sullivan on April 9th, 2009 10:00 pm

    I don’t know if I’m buying that Gameday identified those changeups correctly. In the log, there was nothing thrown between 81-84 – suggesting that everything above 84 was a cutter or sinker – and below that I’m getting ten changeups, four curves, and five sliders.

    The changeup, though, got three swinging strikes and only missed twice, so perhaps that doesn’t really change your point.

  7. Bender on April 9th, 2009 10:09 pm

    Maybe he could teach this pitch to Silva…

  8. Go Felix on April 9th, 2009 10:11 pm

    Good thing he figured this out in the last year of his contract. Funny how that works.

  9. Transient Gadfly on April 9th, 2009 10:46 pm
  10. irish on April 9th, 2009 11:33 pm

    I know that if I was a contending team in need of a pitcher, this information would make me look a lot more seriously at Jarrod Washburn!

  11. Sidi on April 9th, 2009 11:57 pm

    I know that if I was a contending team in need of a pitcher, this information would make me look a lot more seriously at Jarrod Washburn!

    And it would be good to lock him up early, before anyone else realized how valuable he is!

  12. wabbles on April 10th, 2009 12:00 am

    Interesting. OK, but it kinda [THAT IS NOT BEGGING THE QUESTION] “Define changeup.” I’ve heard you gotta have at least 10 mph difference between a fastball and changeup to fool MLB hitters. Soooo, given that Washburn’s “fastballs” are 85-mph meatballs does that mean his new changeup is mid-70s or slower and he is the new Jamie Moyer or has he found more velocity on his fastball or is the difference between his fastball and changeup less than 10 mph?

  13. AuburnM on April 10th, 2009 12:03 am

    Great, open minded post.

    Washburn had a very good outing. Its OK to be happy about this.

  14. lailaihei on April 10th, 2009 12:15 am

    Although there may be something to it, how much can a mediocre change-up really help Washburn? Does it make him a #3 starter instead of the #4 guy he was in 2006-2008? I’m not too sure about that.

  15. joser on April 10th, 2009 1:37 am

    It’s one start, so it’s nothing like the amount of data we need to draw any kind of conclusion — especially when the opposing team may be one of the less potent offenses in the AL. But if we look at his overall numbers, are we seeing anything that suggests he’s a different pitcher than he has been his entire time with the M’s, or indeed his entire career? His K/9 and BB/9 rates were similar, and he was about as flyball-oriented as usual. He’s certainly not going to maintain a 100% strand rate or a .212 BABiP all season.

    It would be great if he learned a new pitch, or learned to make the pitches he has more effective, and something like that is always possible; I certainly hope he has. But that’s got to show up in the other numbers — if your new pitches don’t fool batters any more than your old ones did, they don’t really matter even if they are indeed new and different.

    I’m totally happy about his outing (though if he’d had last year’s defense behind him, it would’ve been another 5-2 loss, or thereabouts). I’m just skeptical about whether he’ll keep having them.

    Regardless, it’s going to be more enjoyable watching games he starts this year vs the past, if only because his flyball tendencies combined with this new defense (plus Safeco field) should make for thrilling catches and hopefully more wins.

  16. Gihyou on April 10th, 2009 4:05 am

    I think it was fun to see the theoretical (obtain a vast improvement in outfield defense in order to maximize performance from flyball pitcher) be borne out in reality. I agree with joser, Washburn starts could be a lot more interesting, what with the chance for amazing catches and range to be on display.

  17. dchappelle on April 10th, 2009 8:25 am

    I don’t know. I think this post is really begging for one of those fancy Fangraphs pitch f/x graphs showing either more change of speed or increased movement of his changeups compared to previous years. Granted, I guess we could be implying it is his control that has improved, hard to prove based on 20 pitches.

    Either way, a great start. Makes me wonder a little about currently non-measured differences in defense. Are there benefits to having a great defense that don’t show up in UZR but do show up in FIP? It seems there would be, more confidence in the defense might allow pitchers to stay out of hitters counts more, have fewer times pitching with men on base, etc.

  18. metz123 on April 10th, 2009 8:57 am

    I’m pleased when a player is willing to be quoted by the media admitting he needs to change his approach. Washburn hoping that developing a sinker might give him more ground balls is a big positive IMO. It shows that he knows that his 85 mph fastball and pretty lousy curve isn’t enough to make him effective. Sure, most of these guys never really develop a “new” pitch after they reach a certain level. I’m happy that he’s even willing to experiment and try to get better.

  19. jwytt on April 10th, 2009 9:10 am

    I don’t think its begging for pitch f/x, comments about small sample size, or claims that Wak adjusted the Metrodome’s outfield heater fans to create a mighty headwind. This is Wash’s first day on the mound, he looked really good, and there are some numbers that prove he wasn’t lying about working on the change. This is the perfect time to take that at face value, be excited that Dr Z’s plan has worked out alright for the first week of the season, and that we’re not totally sucking. How about we save the net skepticism and snark for the end of the 2009 honeymoon phase…or at least till the third week of the season (whichever lasts longer)?

  20. Jeff Nye on April 10th, 2009 9:30 am

    How about we save the telling other people what they should post until…well, never.

  21. jwytt on April 10th, 2009 9:41 am

    who’s telling anyone to do anything? i’m merely suggesting that overskepticism at this point of the year is silly. the afterglow hasn’t even worn off yet but are already critiquing the angle of the dangle. does it hurt to let it ride a bit and just be excited that things are looking promising and that the home opener is just around the corner?

  22. Graham on April 10th, 2009 9:57 am

    Does it hurt to ask questions?

  23. Jeff Nye on April 10th, 2009 10:02 am

    I submit for your perusal (maybe we need to put this in the comment guidelines or orientation):

    New USSM Rule: No One Is The Judge Of Fandom

  24. jwytt on April 10th, 2009 10:10 am

    Fair enough.

  25. Mike Snow on April 10th, 2009 10:26 am

    Glad to see you fixed your shift key.

  26. jwytt on April 10th, 2009 10:37 am

    It’s a long stretch past the ‘relevant’ key to reach it.

  27. GTownHoyas on April 10th, 2009 12:02 pm

    any reason that you have mlb.tv instead of mlb extra innings?

  28. Mike Snow on April 10th, 2009 12:08 pm

    Because he has a computer instead of a television?

  29. Dave on April 10th, 2009 12:09 pm

    More games, portable, significantly cheaper.

  30. RickMirerManiac on April 10th, 2009 1:00 pm

    I think it is possible to credity Washburn’s solid outing to an increase in overall confidence. The much improved defense relieves some of the pressure on Wash to make “perfect” pitches, allowing him to try things that he wouldnt have last year (change ups), and, to throw the ball with a little more authority, rather than trying too hard to aim pitches. I am trying not to over scrutinize a single start, but I am confident that Wash could be a servicable pitcher, possibly inflating his trade value, should Z feel the need to move him.

  31. Jeff Nye on April 10th, 2009 1:25 pm

    Or he could’ve just gotten lucky and gotten a heck of a lot of help from our awesome new outfield defense.

    Dave wouldn’t have mentioned this changeup if he didn’t think it was a factor, but let’s not start reading more into things than is there.

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