> Jake Westbrook threw 108 pitches in relief on three days’ rest on August 7. Michael Wacha was then given a start that weekend in order to give him some rest as well as set the rotation up for the Pittsburgh series. Westbrook then made his first actual start in two weeks against the Chicago Cubs last Friday, walking five including his first three batters of the game and giving up six earned runs in six and two thirds innings.
Wacha had given up two over five innings against the same Cubs in his spot start, but Westbrook kept his rotation spot and Wacha was moved to the bullpen. Originally I thought this was a bad move because A) Westbrook is no longer a starter caliber pitcher and B) Michael Wacha, while not truly successful in his starts, is the more talented of the two. But since he didn’t get the job, I tried to find out why.
I’ve touched on this before, but after looking over his stats, I’ve come across a few red flags, the most glaring being his pitch usage. He’s thrown 72 pitches in relief already, 43 of which were fastballs. The other 29 were all changeups. Nothing else. (Here’s his pitch sequence in last night’s three-run inning.)
This has got to be why he wasn’t slotted into the bullpen. You can’t go through a pro lineup three times and survive with only two effective pitches. Wacha’s sort of gotten by doing that so far as a starter, but only barely. And he can’t be going out there with just two pitches for long before teams finally adapt and start hammering away.
Well, technically he has a third: A curveball. That curveball though has only been used 25 times this year. It’s resulted in a strike six times and been swung at four times; leaving 19 balls (76%) that didn’t fool anyone. The one time all year someone’s actually put it in play resulted in a line drive.
Again, for now all this is is a red flag, a thing Wacha needs to work on. But make no mistake, he needs to work on it. I don’t know how plausible it is that someone can just develop a somewhat effective breaking ball, but if he doesn’t, his best career outlook is as a reliever.