So a guy with a 956 OPS was gone, not that I'd ever heard of this statistic... but there was an obscure reliever on that team that I happened to think pitched darn well but was being underused. He started 6 games in 2001 and appeared in 17 more out of the pen. The following season was more of the same, except with even fewer appearances. In 2003, he finally started more games than he relieved, but all that earned him was a spot in the 2004 bullpen.
His third relief outing of 2004 was when everything changed. See, that was the day this guy I really liked proved me right. The enormously esteemed Jeff D'Amico started that day and—well—didn't retire a batter on his way to giving up four runs. Mr. Jake Westbrook came in to relieve him and struck out seven in seven innings.
Oh, yeah— and in those seven innings, he did not allow a hit, nor did he walk or hit a batter. Even with 9 ground ball outs, Casey Blake didn't manage to make an error. Nobody did. Westbrook was on his way to pitching an unofficial perfect game. Hey, I think it should have counted. Anyways, he didn't get that chance because Mr. Moron pulled him for some Betancourt guy who imploded.
Jake would go on to pitch a complete game two-hitter 6 days later and he was in the rotation to stay.
He finished the 04 season with 215.2 innings pitched and was all over the pitching leaderboards when the season ended.
Three seasons later, he would finally get to pitch in the postseason. In the 2007 ALCS, he was a bright spot appearing within an otherwise heartbreaking result. He and some Jhonny fellow almost stopped the slide. That Betancourt fellow wanted no part of the impending WS appearance. Shout out to Fat Jackass and Zombie Perez!
Then Bobby Cox thought he was destined for further greatness. Too bad that sudden ascension may have led to serious injury. Jake would later need Tommy John surgery and not pitch again until 2010.
He was alright this season, but he'll be better next year. Hopefully that's with us, so we can have more 2-hour Westbrook-Buehrle matchups and if we're lucky, an actual Hallabraden.
Which Indians opening day starter gets dealt in 2011? Jake's offseason contract with us needs full no-trade protection. Buhbye, Fausto... you're too good to be on a small market team. Eff you, Bud Selig.
And to think, I initially intended on this being a photoessay...
More pics coming when I get the DVD backup of my family's old PC popped in.