The thing about Jake Westbrook

Opponents know what Jake Westbrook is going to throw at them, how he’s going to try to get them out. Brandon Inge, for one, has known it for years. But on days when he’s on, it doesn’t matter. They hit the sinker into the ground, and Westbrook gets quick outs.

Against a team trying to be aggressive at the plate to get the offense going, it’s perfect. The Tigers didn’t stand much of a chance. Westbrook threw one sinker after another, and they kept hitting them, to the point where Westbrook got through 7 2/3 innings with 106 pitches — not as efficient as Bonderman’s eight innings on 100 pitches, but very good against a much better offense.
“He comes right at you and he gets quick outs with the sinker,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s been around a long time. He knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t normally make a lot of mistakes. You have to try to make him get the ball up a little bit. When a sinkerball is down, it looks like it’s a good pitch to hit and it’s usually a ball you put on the ground at somebody. When he’s sharp, he stays down and he’s got pretty good control.”
Inge didn’t necessarily want to heap on the praise, but he had to.
“He’s always going to have good sink,” Inge said. “What I noticed about him today was, when we did get a pitch that was good, there was nobody on and nobody out, and he would go after you, which you’re supposed to do as a pitcher. Those are the only balls that you could really drive, and some of them, guys would get good wood on them, but maybe popped them up. You can’t knock that, it’s a matter of a couple millimeters.
“When he did get guys in scoring position, when he did get into some sort of a jam with runners on, he didn’t throw you much to hit, and he was really good. He was throwing strikes — quality, down where you had to swing at it. He just didn’t give me anything. So when his back was against the wall, he did a good job.”
With just five hits allowed over 7 2/3 innings, and only one of those hits for extra bases, his back wasn’t against the wall very often.
There was a time when the Tigers absolutely owned Westbrook, when they quietly looked forward to seeing him, but that hasn’t been lately. His career ERA against the Tigers stood at 5.99 entering the night, but most of that damage came in 2005 and 2006. He was pretty effective against them in 2007, before injuries cost him the next two seasons, and he would have two quality starts against them this year if he only could’ve gotten one more out earlier this season.
Again, it’s nothing the Tigers haven’t seen from him before. It’s a different pitching motion, more sidearm now than before, but it’s getting results. So why mention this? Because he’s pitching well lately on an Indians team that’s clearly in rebuilding mode. He has quality starts in three of his last five outings, and has pitched at least seven innings in three of his last four. He has been the source of speculation as the next Indians veteran to go, and if he continues to pitch like this, he’s going to be an interesting name to watch on the market as an alternative to big-name hurlers Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, the names everyone else wants to link to the Tigers.
Westbrook isn’t those guys, and he isn’t Jarrod Washburn. He’s more in the mold of Carl Pavano, a veteran pitcher on a comeback from injuries with enough savvy to work with what he has. Pavano helped win the Twins a division crown last year. He has an $11 million salary this season, the last year of a three-year, $33 million extension he signed before 2008, but no options or anything after that. He actually makes more than Lee, but he likely wouldn’t require the same category of prospects. If you’re a team that already has front-line starters and needs veteran help, it’s just something to think about.

5 Comments

Okay, there’s an interesting take, Westbrook on the trade market. I remember when we used to beat him like he stole something, but those days are in the past. Different lineup, different hitters. As it was, last night Jake took advantage of a team struggling to score runs, and he did a good job of it. He used the hitter’s anxiousness to do something in situations against him. Real Todd Jones style pitching.
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I continue to have my annual dread of the trade deadline, when teams that don’t even need to deal do anyway, just to demonstrate that they did something. The trades for Washburn and Huff last year did as much or more than any other factor to cost us the division.
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As everyone knows, the Tigers have had these team-wide slumps before. They usually happen in the second half of the season and sometimes only end because the season did. In this case, there are four months to go so it’s a matter of how long this goes on. Hopefully we haven’t fallen out of the race before this spell ends. The difficult thing, especially last night, was that you can’t really attempt to create offense when nobody is even getting on base. I found it ironic that JL made noise about blaming himself for this one, while I didn’t see anything he could have done differently. Overall, maybe yes, but for last night’s game, no.
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I agree that you don’t shake up the lineup if that means playing different guys. You can swap Damon and Jackson as we’ve mentioned here, but not much more. Boesch has come down to earth and now it’s a matter of if he can pull out of it and become a steady contributor. Not an offensive blitzkrieg as he was for awhile, but steady. If he can’t, we’ve got a big hole in the lineup.
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Fausto Carmona tonight. This is a guy we have trouble with even when he’s going bad, so it doesn’t bode well. In fact, it looks so gloomy that I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we beat him tonight.
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–Rich

Fausto Carmona. Wasn’t he Cleveland’s closer back in the day? Remember when Pudge hit that walkoff against him on a warm night at the CoPa in ’06. Those were the days!

Boesch has definitely come back to earth and is obviously pressing. If that keeps up, they’ll have to send him down. Too bad we can’t get Danny Boy Worth again, but Carlos has 2nd base definitely tied up and Santiago in the SS slot.
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A couple of other things: Rod mentioned that Austin has changed his batting approach again back to the way it used to be. He’s not lifting his left leg before the pitch reaches him. Now, that was McClendon’s doing and now he’s not doing it. He looked like a stiff statue. The second thing, and I hate bringing this up, but I thought Brandon probably should have gotten some of those balls that got through.

another good outing by Bondo – if we are going to keep tipping our caps to the other pitchers on the opposing teams I need to tip my cap to him.

I hope Boesch finds a bit of his swing again, he was so amazing those first few weeks, you knew it couldn’t keep up but am hoping he is in a mini slump and can get a bit of the magic back.

am thinking Leon “Bull” Durham from the Mud hens needs to be brought to the Tigers, how many players come from the Hens, do great there and start out great at Detroit then fade away? I can’t blame it all on the hitting coach, the players are the ones executing (or not).

what I find hard to watch is realizing we never have that great threat of the guy on the bench to dh at the last minute

Durham would get my vote too though in truth it is hard to quantify what a hitting coach does. mcLendon would be wist o hand out Charli Lau’s “How to hit .300″ to his hitters. Actually all he would need to buy are the English versions of that book!
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Boesch has been swinging at balls and letting fastballs down the middle go by. He just needs a couple of hits to the pull field to get him going again.
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Sizemore is hitting quite well in Toledo.
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How can JL NOT play Avila today?
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How can JL NOT see that the only way to incite this offense is to at least try to switch Damon and AJ?
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Guillen has been really solid at 2nd. You can see he is comfortable and happy. Now let’s translate some of that happiness to hitting some gappers Carlos.
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Might want to be a little more patient today vs Carmona.
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Billy Buckner and Jay Voss. That’s what we got for Dontrelle and Nate. Smooth moves Dombrowski.
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My lineup today:
Damon
AJ
Ordonez
MCab
Guillen
Boesch
Inge
Avila
Santiago

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