Washburn Throws Kitchen Sink For Strikes

Dave · April 22, 2009 at 7:40 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Want to know why Jarrod Washburn was able to run up nine strikeouts last night?

wash01

If you look at a Pitch F/x chart for most pitchers, you’ll see three or four clusters that represent the different pitch types. The fastballs will all be grouped together in the not much movement/higher velocity area. The off speed pitches will be lumped together in lower velocity/higher movement areas. And there will be significant separation between the two.

Washburn, though, throws so many variations of all of his pitches that clusters are nowhere to be found. He threw a 91 MPH fastball with hardly any movement at all (upper right corner), he threw an 89 MPH fastball that rivaled Brandon Webb’s sinker for movement, and he threw everything in between. There’s so much variation in velocity and movement that the pitch description algorithm kind of threw it’s hands up in the air and went on strike.

Just on his fastball, we’ve got a lot of four seamers, a few sinkers, a couple of cutters, a pair of splitters, and a few that are just generically labeled fastball because they don’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. That doesn’t even include the change-up, some of which are probably actually sinkers, and move like his fastball just with less velocity.

Oh, and he also threw two distinctly different breaking balls, just for good measure.

Washburn threw everything but the knuckleball last night. When we beg Felix to mix his pitches and avoid patterns, this is what we’re talking about. Washburn’s stuff is not that much better than what you’ll see when you go to a Triple-A game, but he really knows how to keep hitters off balance. There’s no guessing right when you’re facing Washburn, because he might not throw you the same pitch twice all game. With so many variations of his fastball, plus an improved change-up/sinker, and two breaking balls with significantly different movements, good luck figuring out what you’re going to get on any given pitch.

No, this isn’t “for real”, in the sense that he’s going to finish the year with an ERA below 2.00 or a FIP below 3.00. He’s going to get whacked around some this year, and it’s a good bet that he’ll finish the year with something close to his typical 2.5 BB/5 K/1.1 HR profile, but on nights where he carves up a pretty good line-up by giving a display on how to pitch, I’ll tip my cap to him. That was fun to watch.

Comments

44 Responses to “Washburn Throws Kitchen Sink For Strikes”

  1. Go Felix on April 22nd, 2009 7:51 am

    He’s awesome, he’s great, and available for trade! We’ll throw in a Silva and a Yuni! What’s a Yuni? Make a trade and find out!

  2. tkight on April 22nd, 2009 7:59 am

    I apologize for being so green on this, but these pitch charts confuse me. When Dave writes that the fastball with no movement is in the upper right corner, doesn’t that mean it shows that dot corresponding with the 13-14 on the Y axis. Why wouldn’t it be closer to the 0?

    I’m sure I’m just missing something.

  3. Dave on April 22nd, 2009 8:01 am

    A lower number means more movement.

    Understanding Pitch F/x.

  4. Steve Nelson on April 22nd, 2009 8:15 am

    This is in the same vein as Dave’s post last September charting pitch-by-pitch velocities for Feierabend and Washburn. Feierabend threw everything in two distinct velocity bands (either 85-90 mph or 75-80 mph), whereas Washburn covered the entire spectrum from 70-90 mph, with few if any gaps.

    *****

    Washburn does occasionally have outings such as last night, when he’s in total command, with opponents flailing at pitches, making poor contact, and taking pitches because they’re totally fooled. He doesn’t sustain it from start to start, but it’s fun to watch when it happens.

  5. UpOrDownMsFan on April 22nd, 2009 8:19 am

    As a longtime Washburn watcher, what really stood out too was his location too, which when you consider he had good movement going on, I think translates to a serious case of “being ‘on’”. I’ve never seen him hit so many corners, while keeping the ball at the knees. It was like pitching on the good ol’ Xbox. When a pro player finds his zone, it’s really fun to watch. I think for guys like Washburn, this late in his career, the fact that he’s actually playing for something right now, and enjoying his teammates, can’t be underestimated in his performance. We all know the adage “he’s a professional, he should be bringing his best game every night” but when you’ve pitched a few hundred games, and aren’t performing at the same level you’d really like, the reality is that it’s not always easy to flip that extra switch of emotion and adrenaline and get to 110%. I for one was psyched to see him pumping his fist after strikes, and walking off the field ranting like a 24 year old NBA star after a big strike out. Keep it up, Jarrod! (This is gonna be a fun year– everyone’s “engaged”.)

  6. UpOrDownMsFan on April 22nd, 2009 8:21 am

    (DEL one too many “too”s in that first sentence, this coffee isn’t kicking in yet…)

  7. awolfgang on April 22nd, 2009 8:36 am

    Even Fangraphs.com is confused they have his unknown pitch type at 36%.

    What I’ve enjoyed most about these first 3 starts, is not having to watch that 85mph “cutter” being thrown on the inside corner to RHB, that pitch was not a major league pitch, hopefully he never throws it again.

  8. floydr on April 22nd, 2009 9:13 am

    Watching from our seats near 1st base, it seemed like Washburn was really taking advantage of the strikezone given by the ump. Low stuff, especially inside, was causing the Rays’ hitters fits. The ump appeared to be consistent, at least.

  9. beef on April 22nd, 2009 9:13 am

    my only question – i didn;t realize that a “long time washburn watcher” existed. :)

  10. Gump on April 22nd, 2009 9:17 am

    Dare we say All Star Game starter….. lol. I am going to die if he actually makes the ASG this year! Nice to see a good start out of him this year.

  11. Jeff Nye on April 22nd, 2009 9:21 am

    my only question – i didn;t realize that a “long time washburn watcher” existed.

    Hey, it’s not my thing, but some people are into it.

  12. jro on April 22nd, 2009 9:21 am

    Looking back at the Pitch F/X charts for Washburn’s two previous starts (@Twins, 4/9, Angels, 4/15), it appears that he’s getting better at the kitchen-sink strategy.

    The 4/9 Twins game is much more clustered in the way Dave describes how this chart typically occurs. In the 4/15 Angels game, you can see the clustering loosen up and stretch out. Finally, in last night’s game, you see it that much further.

    He’s really pitching like Jamie Moyer (go check out any of his charts), but with more movement and a much higher end of the speed range. I’m super impressed with this strategy, and hope he can sustain it.

  13. discorax on April 22nd, 2009 9:34 am

    Washburn was really taking advantage of the strikezone given by the ump

    I agree. The strike zone last night was consistent but it also was optimum for Washburn’s pitching style. Had the ump been giving a tighter strike zone a lot of those fringe pitches would be balls and the Rays could have sat back and been a little more patient with the off-speed stuff and wait on the 87-90 mph fastball.

    I also want to point out the skill of Rob Johnson. For a young catcher, he sure calls a good game. I’d be interested to see what a location/pitch type chart looks like when he’s behind the dish.

    Overall, it was a great game to watch. Thanks for the great blog!

  14. Steve Nelson on April 22nd, 2009 10:04 am

    discorax on April 22nd, 2009 9:34 am

    For a young catcher, he sure calls a good game. I’d be interested to see what a location/pitch type chart looks like when he’s behind the dish.

    Good idea. Why don’t you put one together?

  15. jsa on April 22nd, 2009 10:09 am

    Isn’t it about here where the old “Regression to the Mean” is trotted out?

    If Wash can keep this going maybe his mean will move toward HIM. The league might figure him out eventually, but with this much variation in his pitches there is a far less risk of that than the league figuring out Morrow or Felix.

    (Regression to the mean is a statistical cop-out anyway. As each game in the books becomes part of the mean, the mean changes.)

  16. Dave on April 22nd, 2009 10:15 am

    You’re right, we just totally forget that and don’t make any adjustments at all for any kind of recent performance. We’re just blind sheep following where our calculators take us. Thank you for shedding the light on this subject, where so many of us have gone so astray for so long.

    Statistical cop out. Man, sometimes you guys are irritating.

  17. jsa on April 22nd, 2009 10:15 am

    “Washburn has reinvented himself,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s throwing entirely different, a completely different variety of pitches.”

  18. wabbles on April 22nd, 2009 10:40 am

    So the question this raises for me is, “Is he available, for a reasonable price, to a team seeking a good middle of the rotation starter for that playoff run?” (Please say “YES!”)

  19. Mike Snow on April 22nd, 2009 10:41 am

    I don’t know if it’s a regression, but some of our commenters are definitely changing the mean value of each comment’s contribution to the discussion.

  20. Anna11 on April 22nd, 2009 10:46 am

    What impressed me about Washburn last night was his confidence in his ability to get outs when he needed them. He got into trouble a couple of times, and was able to pitch his way out of it.

    We were in the upper deck on the 1st base side, and at our angle, it was hard to see the strike zone.

    I hope he keeps it up. His first three starts have been phenomenal. It’s like watching a completely different pitcher.

  21. Gump on April 22nd, 2009 10:51 am

    It’s nice to see Washburn look like he wants to pitch here instead of having one foot out the door to play for another team. This team seems to be playing with ALOT more passion to win and is exicting.

  22. joser on April 22nd, 2009 11:01 am

    Here’s the dilemma, though; say it’s July and the M’s still lead the AL West by a game or two, or they’re tied, or even just a game or two out of first. Do you trade Washburn then? (Remember, you will get draft picks if you offer him arbitration and he walks). Obviously if the phone rings and it’s Cashman with various Steinbrenners sitting on his chest, offering (say) a three-way deal that nets some nice pieces (or takes Silva along with Washburn) you probably jump on it. But more likely the deals on offer at that point will be just as uncertain as the chances the M’s continue to play themselves into the postseason (particularly as the Angels start getting guys back from the DL).

    Trading Washburn this year is just not the obvious move it was last year. And the reaction is going to be unpleasant if a first year GM is seen to be “throwing in the towel” on the first season that seems winnable in several years (and in Griffey’s victory lap to boot).

    (Regression to the mean is a statistical cop-out anyway. As each game in the books becomes part of the mean, the mean changes.)

    If you’re Washburn, with 287 games and 1700+ IP in the books, one outing isn’t going to change it much.

  23. gwangung on April 22nd, 2009 11:06 am

    Looking back at the Pitch F/X charts for Washburn’s two previous starts (@Twins, 4/9, Angels, 4/15), it appears that he’s getting better at the kitchen-sink strategy.

    The 4/9 Twins game is much more clustered in the way Dave describes how this chart typically occurs. In the 4/15 Angels game, you can see the clustering loosen up and stretch out. Finally, in last night’s game, you see it that much further.

    He’s really pitching like Jamie Moyer (go check out any of his charts), but with more movement and a much higher end of the speed range. I’m super impressed with this strategy, and hope he can sustain it.

    Hm. Let me ask…I know that pitchers generally don’t change that much, and they run into streaks of luck (both good and bad). Generally, we infer “real” changes when something physical happens, like adding 4 mph to a fast ball (see Sean White).

    What about changes in pitching strategy? Are they as real as physical changes? When a pitcher can “smear out” his pitches like he did last night (as opposed to the usual cluster), is that a real change that leads to continued success?

  24. Steve Nelson on April 22nd, 2009 11:07 am

    Regression to the mean is a statistical cop-out anyway. As each game in the books becomes part of the mean, the mean changes.

    As I’ve noted previously with regard to Bob Melvin, you can lead a man to data but you can’t make him think.

  25. CMC_Stags on April 22nd, 2009 11:26 am

    Here’s the dilemma, though; say it’s July and the M’s still lead the AL West by a game or two, or they’re tied, or even just a game or two out of first. Do you trade Washburn then?

    If the team could package Washburn and either prospects the team has soured (Wlad/Clement) on or veteran contracts that would be nice to dump (Yuni/Batista/Joh/Silva/etc) for other players, they I say sure.

    As Dave pointed out in a previous post, there is nothing to keep the M’s from improving in a trade.

    Let’s say the M’s are able to trade Yuni, Wlad, and Washburn to a NL team for a 2+ WAR SS, a quality LH RP, and a couple reasonable SP prospects. I think that’s a trade that the team can sell to the fan base. The M’s improve at SS, slot in RRS or Jakubauskas (whoever isn’t currently the 5th starter) into the rotation if they are both still pitching well for a slight downgrade from Washburn and pick up some young SP candidates for a couple years down the road.

    Z can come out and say that while the team hated to trade away Washburn, you have to give up something of value to get something of value back in return and look at this new starting SS we picked up.

  26. UpOrDownMsFan on April 22nd, 2009 11:33 am

    < Yes, I’m a longtime Washburn watcher… (But not by choice, and I swear I haven’t enjoyed it!) *laughs*

  27. WTF_Ms on April 22nd, 2009 11:40 am

    On the Rob Johnson part, I think I’ve heard several TV/Radio comments about how good he is. With Joh on the DL, does this increase the chance that RJ will platoon now instead of be a back-up?

    Whatever it is, it’s working.

  28. Kazinski on April 22nd, 2009 11:48 am

    I went back and looked at one of Washburn’s starts last April for a comparison, and the main difference seems to be that he is throwing a different mix of offspeed pitches than he used to. Last year (4/24) the curve(17) and split(7) were his primary offspeed pitches, barely throwing his slider(5) or his change(3). Yesterday he threw 21 sliders, and 10 change-ups, and only 7 curves and 2 spliters.

    Of course that’s only one game from each season, and the results were pretty similar between the two starts, but that is still a pretty striking difference for the slider and curve pitch counts. That increased use of the slider looks like it accounts for most of the smearing effect Dave points out in the graph.

  29. gwangung on April 22nd, 2009 12:21 pm

    Of course that’s only one game from each season, and the results were pretty similar between the two starts, but that is still a pretty striking difference for the slider and curve pitch counts. That increased use of the slider looks like it accounts for most of the smearing effect Dave points out in the graph.

    To answer my own question, that looks repeatable (at least to some extent).

  30. joser on April 22nd, 2009 12:56 pm

    Let’s say the M’s are able to trade Yuni, Wlad, and Washburn to a NL team for a 2+ WAR SS, a quality LH RP, and a couple reasonable SP prospects.

    Short of Bavasi showing up as GM of an NL team, who makes that trade with the M’s? They trade a good SS for a mediocre one, a quality reliever for a half-year rental starter, and a couple of prospects for a AAAA 4th OF with holes in his swing? Ok, maybe if Washburn pitches like this all season and looks world-beating, it’ll be enough to tempt some NL team on the postseason bubble or a division leader hit with an injured starter. But as Dave notes he’s probably not going to look quite as shiny by July, when more flyballs are carrying to places even the M’s fantastic OF gloves can’t go and simple bad luck has had its way with him.

    I read and agree with Dave’s post — it certainly is possible to get better this year while also building for later years, and other teams have done it. But I don’t think you can get that much better. You’d probably have to toss in Clement rather than Wlad, and/or one of the many RH bullpen fireballers. The M’s have a lot of relief reclamation projects underway, so I don’t know that getting back more relief pitching is a priority (though Zduriencik certainly seems to like it). And Clement, unfortunately, seems to have nowhere left to go in the organization. But I don’t want to turn this into Yet Another Clement thread, or even another trade thread. You move Washburn at the deadline, you’re saving $5M and, depending on who else is in the deal, you get some interesting pieces back. But barring other moves, you’re also signing up for a half season of RRS and Jakubauskas (plus Silva). All I can say is — those other pieces better be pretty interesting.

    Anyway, getting back to Washburn’s stuff — he did say he’d been working on his changeup (and presumably his other offspeed pitches). It may be that he has more confidence in those pitches now, which is why he’s throwing them more. And success breeds more confidence, so perhaps this virtuous circle will continue. It certainly would be interesting to know how much of this was pre-game strategy by Washburn, how much was pitch calling by Johnson, and how much was established in conjunction with the coaching staff back in Spring Training.

  31. wabbles on April 22nd, 2009 2:04 pm

    I think this post has answered for me an age-old question I’ve had: Which is more impressive: That a pitcher can throw a baseball at 85-100 mph from 60.5 feet away and consistently hit a target that’s 17 inches wide and probably not three feet high? OR That if that’s ALL a pitcher does, the batters tee off on him like they’re playing sandlot ball.

  32. Graham on April 22nd, 2009 2:13 pm

    The use of rational, real numbers is a complete mathematical cop-out in this discussion. Stop being so closed-minded or you’ll never bring anything new or interesting to the table.

  33. JMHawkins on April 22nd, 2009 2:34 pm

    As far as trading Washburn, I’m leaning on the no side of that. The M’s don’t really have a lot of depth at SP, so if they trade Washburn, they’d need to get another MLB-ready SP back which would be sort of wierd for a mid-season trade. Of course they could try for some wacky three-way deal, or trade Wash to Team A for a SS and Yuni to Team B for a SP, but I think the odds would be against them improving that way.

    Also, wouldn’t it be unlikely for Washburn to be offered arbitration? Hasn’t the FA market changed enough that he’d be more likely to make $5-$6 Mil on the market, and would get at least $2M more than that in arbitration? Or am I off?

  34. diderot on April 22nd, 2009 3:13 pm

    Short of Bavasi showing up as GM of an NL team, who makes that trade with the M’s?

    Joser, thank you for this. To me, the most tedious posts on this site are those that presume that players who have minimal value to us will magically have much higher perceived value to someone else. And at this point, I’m not sure even Bavasi would trade a bag of balls for Silva if he were a GM somewhere else.

  35. Logger on April 22nd, 2009 3:15 pm

    Extend the guy already!

  36. Jeff Nye on April 22nd, 2009 3:17 pm

    I’m not sure why this turned into a trade speculation discussion, anyway.

  37. diderot on April 22nd, 2009 3:20 pm

    I’m not sure why this turned into a trade speculation discussion, anyway.

    Because most of them do?

  38. AuburnM on April 22nd, 2009 3:29 pm

    1. Dave’s analsis of Washburn’s success is brilliant.

    2. If the Ms keep winning, and Washburn keeps pitching well, of course you don’t trade him. The objective is to make the playoffs. You only “build for the future” if the present sucks.

  39. Breadbaker on April 22nd, 2009 4:08 pm

    I appreciate the win. He pitched well. But as has been noted many times, any major league caliber pitcher (and Washburn is certainly one) will have some excellent starts, just as Hall of Famers will have lousy ones. The problem for any of them is not so much replicating the pattern, as the mental process they went through to get there. Some (Maddux) can do this intellectually; others do it by instinct and are worse when they think too much.

    As I said in the game thread, Jarrod did a good job last night of not losing his cool when Endy misplayed the ball off the wall in the first inning and adjusted himself to the ump’s rather interesting strike zone. Can he continue? Therein lies the real mystery. If he can pitch consistently well for a month, that’s a lot of valuable innings in the bank, even if he falters later. Last night’s win doesn’t go away regardless of what he does the rest of the year, just as it doesn’t mean he “turned the corner.”

  40. Patrick517 on April 22nd, 2009 4:30 pm

    Extend the guy already!

    You must be smoking some pretty powerful stuff. Have you been paying attention for the past three years?

  41. Logger on April 22nd, 2009 4:40 pm

    My goodness, I assumed most would sense my sarcasm.

  42. Patrick517 on April 22nd, 2009 4:54 pm

    :woosh:

    Sorry. I’d never read anything by you before.

  43. JMHawkins on April 22nd, 2009 5:00 pm

    Extend the guy already!
    You must be smoking some pretty powerful stuff. Have you been paying attention for the past three years?

    You laugh, but it’s not like the M’s have a logjam of guys in Tacoma waiting to bust into the rotation. Morrow to the pen and the Aumont fiasco-in-the-making means maybe the M’s could use Washburn for another year or two. Not at $9 or $10M a year, but if he’d sign for half that…

    Not sure he would, but the FA market has been correcting against guys like Washburn. He’s not going to get another deal like his last one.

  44. Breadbaker on April 22nd, 2009 5:29 pm

    My goodness, I assumed most would sense my sarcasm.

    Fwiw, I got the sarcasm loud and clear.

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