Even with last night’s loss, is Brandon Webb the best pitcher in baseball?
Coming off last season’s surprising success, the Diamondbacks started the 2008 MLB season on a tear mounting the best record in the league and a 4.5 game lead in the N.L. West.
Their pitching staff has been very sharp, led by Brandon Webb, who has started the season winning his first nine starts with a 2.56 ERA, and 49 strikeouts.
Webb is only the second pitcher in 90 years to win his first nine starts. Andy Hawkins went 10-0 in his first ten starts on his way to an 18-8 record in 1985.
Webb, who won the Cy Young in 2006 when he went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA, is known as a sinkerballer. His sinker is his best pitch, a pitch he can always rely on.
However, this season, he added a pitch called the "comebacker," to his pitching repertoire, which is a fastball that looks like it’s coming inside against a lefty before running back across the plate.
The comebacker has worked really well against left-hand hitters, which he always had problems with in previous seasons.
Webb also has a decent fastball, which he can throw by most hitters, and a good curveball as well as a changeup.
In Webb’s nine starts, he has gotten plenty of run support, a little over six runs per game, which is something that simply was not there last season.
Last season, due to lack of run support, Webb did not collect his ninth win until July 25th. He finished the season with a record of 18-10 and a 3.01 ERA.
Another huge strength of Webb’s, is his durability. This season, with one complete game, he’s tied for the league lead, while ranking fifth in innings pitched.
In both 2006 and 2007, Webb ranked second in the league in innings pitched, and was tied for second in complete games, with five in ’06, and four in ‘07.
Webb’s growth has been nothing short of amazing.
After being drafted in 2000 in the eighth round by the Diamondbacks, he spent three years in the minors before being called up.
With Randy Johnson leaving for the Yankees, and Schilling being injured, Webb was the best pitcher that Arizona had on their staff.
Webb was a much different ace than the D’Backs were used to having. While Randy Johnson and Schilling would just overpower hitters with their fastballs, Webb was a ground ball pitcher using his pitches to trick hitters.
Although Webb had a strong rookie year, his sophomore season was dreadful. Since he is a pitcher who relies on hitters hitting ground balls, he needs a good in-field defense. He did not have that in 2004, where the defense was horrible.
In 2004, the D’backs finished 51-111, while Webb finished 7-16, tying for the NL in losses, and walking a league high, 119.
In 2005, Webb cut down his walks from 119 to 29, on his way to finishing 14-12.
In 2006, he won the Cy Young, it was his first year as being the number one starter.
Maybe best of all, Webb is a bargain.
He signed a contract in 2006 for four years, $19.5 million, with a 2010 club option.
Behind Randy Johnson, and Doug Davis, Webb is only the third highest paid pitcher on his own team.