Purgatory Online

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

One of the more remarkable aspects of last night's 5-0 victory over the Mariners was the performance turned in by Jarrod Washburn. Oh, it's not especially remarkable that he had a good game - after all, Wash has had occasional flashes of greatness for years - but rather his uncharacteristic tendency to induce ground balls. Washburn has a career 0.72 grounder:flyball ratio, making him one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in the American League. Last night, however, Washburn got the Mariners to hit the ball on the ground 13 times against just four flies.

Obviously, the more ground balls you get, the fewer home runs you give up, and the round-tripper has long been one of Washburn's weak spots. Interestingly, however, last night's performance seems to be part of a season-long trend. Coming into the game, Washburn's ratio had been 49:44 - not as extreme as last night, but certainly a huge difference from his career numbers. Some hint of why this might be could be in the ESPN writeup of the game:

"I feel real good on the mound," he said. "My fastball definitely has lost a little velocity over the years, but I've learned how to pitch a lot more. I've got that split-finger now that's a real big weapon for me and my changeup just keeps getting better. And I can throw my slider to both sides of the plate and I've got a sinker to go along with the four-seamer I used to always throw."
Washburn has traditionally relied upon his fastball quite a bit. If he's truly mixing in more splitters, sliders, and sinkers - pitches that all break down to some extent - he's definitely going to be getting more grounders, which should take advantage of the fact that the Angels have a better-than-average infield defense. Certainly, Washburn's 2.72 ERA thus far has been a nice surprise; hopefully this marks a maturity to his approach that will continue into the future.

I should also note that the infield defense really did shine last night, making several plays that might not make SportsCenter but were still pretty nice. Although Adam Kennedy did look a bit like he's still getting his sea legs (he DH'ed during his rehab stint), he saved a run on the last play of the game with a nice diving stop. And Dallas McPherson made no less than three good plays, in particular doing an excellent job of picking a Bret Boone bouncer off his shoetops in the seventh; McP nabbed it on the short hop and made a strong, accurate throw on the run. He's looking more comfortable both at the plate and on the field, which is very good news indeed.

Meanwhile, Garret Anderson cut the number of total bases he needs to catch Tim Salmon on the all-time Angels career list in half with a homer in the fifth, and very nearly homered again in the seventh until Ichiro made a fantastic catch, climbing the right field wall and backhanding a sure homer out of the air. If you haven't seen the highlight, I'd advise you to get over to the Mariners web site and check out their video highlights.

One final piece of good news: Steve Finley, who escaped April with a batting average of .149, went two for three with a home run. Finley traditionally has slow Aprils (but not that slow) and good Mays, so hopefully he's getting on track.