As the Curve Turns: Porcello the cure to Detroit's Washburn

By Ted Cahill

It was supposed to be Detroit’s answer to Jake Peavy; instead the Tigers may wish Jarrod Washburn hadn’t pitched at all during August.

Since a deadline deal landed the AL Central leaders the best available left-hander the low price of Luke French and Mauricio Robles, Washburn has been off his game.

At the time of the deal, Washburn was 8-6 with a 2.64 ERA. Since then, the 34-year old is 1-2 with a 6.81 ERA. The Tigers have been able to survive his awful stretch and maintain a seven-game lead on Minnesota. A lot of that can be attributed to the collapse of Chicago who never got the boost they expected from Peavy or outfielder Alex Rios. Some is from the resurgence of Rick Porcello (see below).

But the Tigers still need to get their big acquisition straightened out before the playoffs start. Washburn has not been the victim of a high BABIP; rather it’s been even lower than his season average of .249. His strikeout rate is down and he’s allowed 11 home runs in 37 innings.

It’s possible the return of a knee injury that forced Washburn to miss a start in Seattle has been the source of the problems. The Tigers skipped his spot in the rotation Sunday at Tampa Bay, probably not a bad idea since he had just gotten rocked by the Rays earlier in the week.

Washburn said that when the Mariners skipped him the pain in his knee became tolerable. Detroit is hoping for the same reaction this time. But if you own Washburn this isn’t the time to be messing around. Be sure that he’s healthy before throwing him out so late in the season.

Momentum boost:
In a lot of hockey video games you get a some kind of momentum boost from winning a fight. It appears the same thing has happened to Rick Porcello.

Since flipping Kevin Youklis and earning my Rookie of the Year vote for now, Porcello is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA. He had struggled since the end of June, with a 2-3 record and a 6.12 ERA since June 29 leading up to the Fight in Fenway.

More likely is that Porcello has merely made the adjustment he had needed to make for some time since the league figured him out. Either way, the 20-year old is pitching much better.

Home runs remain a bit of a concern, as he’s given up four in 23 2/3 innings, but his control has been a plus. Porcello has stuck out 15 compared with only four walks. Combined with a .233 opponents’ batting average, Porcello has returned to his spot as the third best Tiger’s starter. If he can continue to pitch well at Comerica Park, Porcello will be worth a look down the stretch.

Pretty Penny:
The National League West welcomed Brad Penny back with open arms last week.

After flaming out in Boston, Penny returned to the West Coast and gave San Francisco eight shutout innings and a victory. He’s the latest failed AL convert to return to the comforts of the NL and blow the league away. It’s just one start, but like I said about John Smoltz, if he’d given the Red Sox eight shutout innings every fifth day, he’d still be pitching in Fenway.

More impressively he did it to Philadelphia, who has the best offense in the senior circuit. I really like Penny now that he’s pitching in a great pitcher’s park and in such a poor division offensively. He gives the Giants even more rotational depth and will be worth a spot start for fantasy owners throughout September.

Pitcher Pickup of the Week: Scott Feldman, Rangers

Just call him the road warrior. He’s won 11 times away from the Ballpark at Arlington, which ties a club record. He’ll go for the mark this week in Cleveland. His last start in Cleveland resulted in a win of course; he’s only lost once on the road this year. He allowed just one run on seven hits in six innings at Progressive Field on Aug. 13. He also struck out six.

Feldman’s splits are worth a trip to Baseball Reference. He’s 11-1 with a 2.80 ERA on the road. Feldman drops two tenths of a point on his WHIP and opponents only hit .231 off him. Texas is known as a hitter’s park, but to see home/road splits like this is still amazing. If Feldman has a great September he can make a run at 20 wins and Cy Young votes, as long as he only pitches on the road.