Jake Westbrook's Command Isn't Back Yet

I know this is a day late, but the Indians haven't played another game yet so I suppose this is still a timely post. While most of the hubbub about the ChiSox's 6-0 shutout of Cleveland was based around Mark Buehrle's fantastic performance (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R) and the opening game of Alex Rios (1-for-3 with a home run, a walk, and a very impressive catch in center to finish the game), I wanted to take a closer look at the Opening Day start of supposed Cleveland ace Jake Westbrook.

Westbrook, 32, pitched just 44.1 innings between the majors and minors last season while trying to return from Tommy John surgery, but with the club's pitching sorely lacking, he managed to land the Opening Day start. I'm sure part of that is because of his $11M salary and the fact that he averaged 3.6 WAR per year with the team from 2004 through 2007, but coming into the season the projections were particularly kind to him. They had his FIP and ERA in the mid-4's, a far cry from the 3.88-4.04 marks he posted during his prime as one of the game's best groundball pitchers.

But here he was, the Indians' starter on Opening Day. A common thing said among scouts is that the last thing that pitchers get back after having Tommy John surgery is their command. In Westbrook's case, this appears to be quite true. Westbrook's always had pretty decent command, with a 2.78 career walk rate. But his line in Chicago from Monday made it seem like he's pretty far from being that kind of pitcher right now.

4 IP, 1 strikeout, 5 earned runs allowed, 1 home run allowed, 4 walks, 2 hit batters, and 4 wild pitches.

To put those numbers into perspective, there are only three other pitchers that have hit 2 batters so far this year, and only 13 batters have been hit total this year.

More shockingly, Westbrook threw four wild pitches on Monday. The rest of the league has thrown just seven. He's thrown 36% of the wild pitches in the majors so far this year.

If the Indians have any interest in contending, they'll need Westbrook, Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson to make up for a solid 1-2-3. If Monday's game was any indication, and there's a good chance that it wasn't, then Cleveland probably doesn't have the starting pitching to be a contender.

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