Brandon Webb: The Forgotten Ace

Throughout the 2000s, there were a lot of up and coming aces around the league. Johan Santana and Tim Lincecum were some of the recognizable names and right fully so. However, one name goes under the radar of being an ace pitcher. Only Diamondbacks fan throughout the valley recognized him as a great, and his name is Brandon Webb. The 3x allstar mainly spent his career in Arizona before the dreaded injury bug derailed him, and after multiple failed comebacks, retired in 2013. Here’s a tweet of when the once CY Young cooked baseball to the tune of 42 scoreless innings.

The Fall?

Webb attended Paul G. Blazer High School in 1997 where he received a scholarship and went on to dominate at the University of Kentucky. Playing for the Wildcats, he broke the single-season record for strikeouts at 123. He’d later be inducted into the UK athletics Hall-Of-Fame in 2009. He was taken in the 8th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000, before making his first start in 2003. In a game against the then Montreal Expos he pitched one scoreless inning out of the pen. He would finish the season with a 10-9 record, finishing 3rd in NL Rookie of The Year Honors. He quickly became the team’s number 2 starter after the team dealt away Curt Schlling. Then something odd happened, Webb struggled, and he struggled badly. He lead the NL in 3 categories, but not ones in which you want to lead. He lead in losses, walks, and wild pitches that season where he’d have a hard time finding the zone. His worst start came on May 24th, where he gave up seven earned against the Marlins in a 13-5 loss, but as he says:

“I didn’t grow up hunting whitetail, but I would stalk tuna and white sea bass and yellowtail.”

-Brandon Webb (not the baseball one)-
“Mets tangled in Brandon’s Webb”

The Rise

In 2005, the first cracks of a breakout began to show. Webb lead all Dbacks starters in ERA and posted a winning record. He still had trouble during the year with 14 wild pitches. He was given a four-year deal that offseason, and boy did he not disappoint. He started the season 8-0 and only suffered his first loss at the hands of the Mets in June. He made his first ever all-star game, and although he dealt with injuries in the second half, went home with his first, and unfortunately only CY Young award. This began his three-year stretch of dominance. Over his next 2 years, he went 40-17 with an ERA of 3.16, and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 3.26. He finished 2nd in CY Young voting both years, losing both races to Jake Peavy, and the guy mentioned earlier Tim Lincecum. Other than 2008, he didn’t allow higher than a .300 OBP. There was one thing that caught my eye. The amount of groundballs he allowed over this timeframe was over 60% each year, while both fly balls and line drives were below 20%. He also accumulated a 19 war (Wins Above Replacement) over this point, for reference, better than any 3 year stretch Tim Lincecum has ever had. To be fair, Tim suffered from injuries which derailed a would-be hall-of-fame career, however, so did Webb. Webb never necessarily had heat pitches, more of a mix where he’d have a fastball as fast as his slider and curve. He had a variety of pitches. All near the same speed throwing off hitters. Now this is where most would go into the injury history that shortened a what would’ve been amazing career, but I think players like this should be celebrated for their time. Let’s talk about it.

Celebration Time!

Brandon Webb, a man who led the NL in wins in 2006 and 2008. A man with a career 3.27 ERA. A man who carried a Dbacks pitching staff for four years, had a short, but amazing time in the bigs. During that 4 year stretch between 2005-2008, no single pitcher had more wins than he accumulated. I know wins aren’t the be all end all, but it’s still incredibly impressive. Webb was never a strikeout magnet, in fact, he never had a 200 strikeout season, but that didn’t matter. Webb consistently was able to pitch late into starts without much problems. A lot of it due to his mentality

“I feel like I can go out there and win every ballgame with three runs. So I try to keep it down below one to two runs for seven or eight innings, and I’ve been able to do that.”

-Brandon Webb-

A lot of this attributes to the groundball rate I talked about earlier, he went for efficiency over strikeouts and that was able to keep him in games for long amounts of time. Another feat I’d like to delve into is Webb’s 42 coreless innings in a row, a dbacks record. Along with three straight shutouts. Notable games in this stretch were a 2 hit shutout against Atlanta, and a 5-hit, 10 strikeout performance against the Nats. However, he was relieved for this to finally be over. From the Seattle Times Staff: β€œI was feeling it a little earlier in the day with all the attention,” said Webb, the reigning National League Cy Young winner. β€œIt was fun while it lasted. I just hope we start a new one.” The man had no ego, and didn’t care much for the spotlight. He only ever pitched two postseason games in his career, his best being against the Cubs, playing 7 innings and only allowing 4 hits and one run. People forget about Webb, but he’s a pitcher to be celebrated, not looked into as a “what-if”. He went from the kid who couldn’t find the zone, a kid who crumbled under pressure, to one that won a CY Young and had a four-year stretch of dominance, leading a Diamondbacks staff for several years, but one that avoided controversy the best he could.

Thanks to these websites for helping in the making of this article

Baseball-Reference

Baseball-Almanac

Quotio

2 thoughts on “Brandon Webb: The Forgotten Ace”

  1. awesome article man, keep up the great work. hope you continue posting these great articles.

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