posted on August 19, 2013 13:52
I have admittedly been one of those in Cardinal Nation clamoring for Jake Westbrook’s removal from the starting rotation. However, I suggested that he be relegated to the bullpen before the season even started. That may have sounded a bit harsh at the time, but now – after the shit show he has treated us all to over the past month – I’m guessing most of you agree with my original recommendation. Or at least feel he should get the hook now.
Here are some numbers to show you just how bad Westbrook has been. Over his last four starts (all losses by the way), he has allowed 25 runs (24 earned) in his last 21.2 innings pitched. That’s a 9.97 ERA over that span. Not to mention he allowed 29 hits and 15 walks, giving him a gargantuan 2.03 WHIP. Throw in the fact that he imploded against the Pirates, Reds, Dodgers and Cubs and that is a costly 4-game stretch for a team in a neck-and-neck-and-neck pennant race.
And the club’s response to Westbrook repeatedly failing to meet even the most modest of expectations on the mound? Well, leave him in! Manager Mike Matheny announced that the flailing right-hander will retain his spot in the rotation and start against the Brewers on Wednesday in Milwaukee. That begs the question, how bad do things have to get before this guy loses his job? I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but that Cards are not an organization that tends to cut the cord early on struggling players (see: Mark Mulder, Jason Marquis, Ryan Franklin, Jason Isringhausen, Mitchell Boggs, etc.).
And for the record, it’s not as if Westbrook was a shutdown pitcher before this abysmal 4-game stint. He was miraculous in April, posting a 0.98 ERA, but he was pitching over his head and had plenty of luck on his side. Opponents were hitting .247 off of him that month but he had a bloated 1.37 WHIP. Not the kind of numbers that usually coincide with an ERA under 1.00. He also had a start in Pittsburgh where he got absolutely destroyed but a rainout wiped away the stats.
He started to regress in May, posting a 3.18 ERA but had a 1.68 WHIP while opponents hit .333 against him. Things should have been much worse once again for Westbrook, but he emerged somewhat unscathed considering. Then he spent about a month on the DL. Upon his return he posted a 5.32 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP in June, and we all saw the Jake Westbrook we have come to expect since he was given his ridiculous two-year contract extension.
In July he settled down a bit and put up a 3.62 ERA and 1.27 WHIP (still pedestrian but by far his best monthly total), but then August rolled around and you know the story there. No one expected Jake to be that good in April, but I would bet dollars to donuts that plenty of people contemplated that he could really be this bad right now. I know I did.
So what’s the best case scenario for the Cards here? Do you hope Westbrook gets shelled again on Wednesday so that maybe he’ll lose his job? Or do you hope that he tosses a gem and is then pretty much solidified as part of the starting staff for the remainder of the season? Obviously neither are compelling options, but honestly I think I would take one more on the chin and hope the offense can bail him out rather than watch another six weeks of his gut wrenching performances on the mound.
The Cards have options. There are droves of young arms with starting experience that are just waiting around to pitch. Some are in the minors still, but most of them are lingering around in the bullpen hoping to get used. You might not be thrilled about the choices in Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons or John Gast to name a few… but can any of them really be worse than how Westbrook’s been the last month?
Forget about the fact that Westbrook makes a lot more money than those guys. You have to pay him regardless. So let him pick up his check where he can’t hurt the team and let one of the young bucks get back in there for another shot.