Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 3B: Jake Westbrook

For the last few seasons, Mark Shapiro's luck with big contracts has been pretty dismal.

$12 million for 3 years of David Dellucci gave him a batting average hovering around .230, a total of 15 HRs in two seasons, and half of an outfield platoon (along with Jason Michaels) that embodied the thought "if you have two guys playing a position, you have none". All of this from a guy with a SLG of over .500 the previous two years.

$24 million into Travis Hafner's $57 million deal , and he has 29 HRs, an OPS of bairly .800, and a mysterious injured shoulder to show for it.

$6 million for two seasons of "Borowski insurance" from supposed Japanese fireballer Masa Kobayashi bought a 4.52 ERA, 6 saves in 9 chances. He lacked the endurance to make it out of August.

Add once-reliable starter Jake Westbrook onto this list. After putting up 210+ innings for three straight seasons, with a total of 44 wins, Jake was awarded a 3 year, $33 million deal. He then went 6-9 in 152 innings in 2007, an oblique injury taking him out for two months. In 2008, he only pitched 34 innings, contributing 1 win. He missed an early part of the year to an abdominal strain, and then suffered an elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery. In September, he added hip surgery for good measure.

While Carl Pavano is supposedly "keeping the seat warm" for Westbrook, the notion that Jake will return is anything but a sure bet. He's scheduled to begin pitching simulated games in April, putting him on a timetable for a July return. However, returning to MLB form a year after after Tommy John surgery is no sure bet. While the surgery is not quite the kiss of death it once was, pitchers usually require of few months of in-game pitching to get back to form. Look at Francisco Liriano last season. He came back early on, and walked 13 in 10 innings. The Twins sent him down to AAA, and he didn't see the mother club again until August. A 2010 return to form for Jake is a much more realistic scenario.

Of possible benefit to Westbrook's rebound is his pitching style. He just lets his sinker do its thing low in the zone, and trusts his defense. Despite developing a good change that can be an "out" pitch, he has never been a strikeout pitcher. He's a contact pitcher, so as long as he can keep his sinker down, he should be alright. We can be optimistic and assume that he's not going to have the "high in the zone" control issues, like Liriano had, that result in a lot of walks. All of this, however, is being pretty optomistic.

Chubby Indian Says:
65 IP, 3-5, 5.19 ERA, 20K and 20 BBs. The Indians give Jake enough innings to evaluate a 2010 contract. He performs about as well as you could hope.

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