Jacob Cauthen Westbrook
Pitcher, 2001-2008, 2010
Acquired: Trade, 6-29-2000:
Left Via: Trade, 7-31-2010:
Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Cleveland Indians to the St. Louis Cardinals:
Cleveland received: RHP Corey Kluber (from SDP)
San Diego received: OF Ryan Ludwick (from STL)
St. Louis received: RHP Jake Westbrook (from CLE) and LHP Nick Greenwood (from SDP)
The first few years of Jake Westbrook's career were marked by trades; in his first five professional seasons, he was traded three times, often the key prospect in a deal for a major-league player. Westbrook was always ranked highly in the prospect ratings, and was sought after, but wasn't thought of highly enough to be off-limits. After all, he was a sinkerball pitcher, though he had a very good sinker, and didn't have the upside of a pitcher with similar stuff who also missed bats.
A quick overview of the two trades that brought him to the Yankee organization, and where our story will begin in earnest:
11-18-1997: Traded to the Montreal Expos (with two others) for 2B Mike Lansing
The Expos by this time were unloading the talent-laden roster that probably would have got them to the playoffs had the 1994 strike not happened, and Mike Lansing was over 30 (not to mention that Montreal had a young Jose Vidro ready to start). The Rockies were a couple of years removed from their Wild Card appearance, but they still had many of their core players in place for another run, and needed a second baseman, as they had dealt Eric Young at the July trade deadline and had used Neifi Perez(!) in his place the rest of the season. Westbrook at this point had just finished a complete season in Low-A as a 19-year-old, with decent numbers considering his age. You would think Colorado of all clubs would want to hold onto a sinkerball pitcher, especially given that they had selected him in the first round just the previous year, but they figured that he was at least 2 years away, and their position player core wasn't getting any younger.
In retrospect this looks like one of the dumbest trades of the past 20 years. Lilly and Westbrook would go on to each have long productive (and still active) major-league careers, and Irabu would, well, hop his way out of the majors in just a couple more seasons. And what the heck was Montreal at this time doing trading prospects to the Yankees? By this time Westbrook had made it to AA after a season in the Florida State League. His peripherals were still not what you'd expect out of a good pitching prospect, but because of his stuff and durability (1999 marked the third straight year he'd thrown over 170 innings), he still profiled as a major-league starter.
Westbrook would go to AAA in 2000, and would appear briefly with the Yankees in mid-June, making three appearances (including two starts), but he got knocked around pretty good, and it looked like he wouldn't of much help to the Yankees that season. So when the Yankees started talking to the Indians about David Justice (which we will get into when Justice is profiled), he was deemed expendable. So when the trade happened, Westbrook's name was on a list of players they could choose from. Ricky Ledee was the only player announced on June 29, the day the trade was made, with the Indians needing to select two more players by August 1st. Buster Olney mentioned Jake Westbrook and Ryan Bradley as among the players on the list, and he would turn out to half-right; the Indians selected Westbrook and Zach Day from among the players.
Ledee was the headliner of the deal, but he would be traded less than a month later for a couple months of David Segui (which turned out pretty good, as he hit .332/.384/.498 for the Indians down the stretch). But one of the main reasons the Indians dealt Justice was to improve their organizational pitching depth, hence the acquisitions of the two pitching prospects. At the time of the deal, Westbrook was in AAA Columbus, while Day was pitching with High-A Tampa, so Westbrook was the closer of the two pitchers to helping at the major-league level. Jake would not pitch with in the Indians organization that season, as he suffered a season-ending injury to ribs, but came into spring training the following season in the mix to win a spot on the 25-man roster.
2001 started a three-year period in which Westbrook was shuffling back and forth between the Cleveland bullpen and the Buffalo rotation and fighting injuries. He would appear in 23 games with the Indians in 2001, and made 6 starts while Chuck Finley was on the DL. He would go back to Buffalo after Finley was activated, but would return when Charles Nagy went back on the DL. He would finish the season with the major-league club, but did not make the ALDS roster.
With several spots in the rotation open in 2002, it seemed that Westbrook would be poised to move full-time to the rotation, but injuries limited him to 21 innings in the minors and 41.2 in the majors. Most of his appearances this year were again out of the bullpen; after Chuck Finley was traded, he would get some starts, but would finish the year on the DL again with elbow inflammation. 2003 saw Westbrook again moved between the bullpen and the rotation, although this year he would spend much more time (22 starts) in the rotation than in the bullpen (12 appearances).
But in 2004, Westbrook started the season back in the bullpen, as the Indians went with Jason Stanford as the fifth starter over Westbrook, but because Jake was out of options, the Indians kept him in the bullpen as the longman. Westbrook was now 26 years old, and was running out of opportunities. Just a couple weeks into the season, a golden opportunity came his way, and he took full advantage of it. On April 19th Jeff D'Amico allowed four runs in the first inning without retiring a batter, but then the rains came, and after a lengthy rain delay, Westbrook was called upon to eat at least a couple innings. Instead, he threw seven perfect innings before being pulled because he had reached his pitch count (see here for more details). Jason Stanford shortly thereafter would go on the DL, and Westbrook was inserted into the rotation to take his place. Westbrook, in his next start (also against Detroit) Westbrook retired the first six batters in order, giving him nine consecutive perfect innings, or a "hidden perfect game." That game would cement Westbrook's spot in the rotation, and since then he hasn't made a regular-season bullpen appearance.
2004 would mark Jake's one and only All-Star appearance, despite starting the season in the bullpen. Westbrook's emergence as a starter, along with Cliff Lee's first full season as a starter would help propel the Indians into at least transitory contention, as they would get within a game of Minnesota in mid-August before falling off after that. 2004 would be Westbrook's finest season of his career to date; he led the league in complete games (5) and finished third in the AL in ERA (3.38). He would not, however, receive a single vote for the AL Cy Young.
Westbrook had a down year in 2005, posting a 93 ERA+, but the rest of the staff picked up the slack, and the Indians finished with their best record since 1999. Jake bounced back somewhat in 2006, and was an integral part of the rotation of the AL Central champions in 2007. That fall he made 3 postseason starts; his first, against the Yankees, was a bad one, as he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings to take the loss (LGT recap). But Westbrook more than made for the poor ALDS start with excellent starts in the ALCS. In Game 3, after CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were both torched in the first two games. Westbrook went 6.2 innings, and helped give the Indians a 2-1 series lead (LGT recap). And in Game 7 in Fenway Park, Westbrook kept the Indians in the game, going 6 innings and allowing 3 runs, only to have Rafael Betancourt let the game get out of hand (LGT recap).
Jake Westbrook at his best was an innings eater; he worked quickly, fielded his position well, and induced ground balls at one of the highest rates in the league. Sometimes the grounders found holes, and he lost games due to 7 or 8 groundball singles. But he almost always gave the Indians 6 or more innings, which saved the bullpen.
Westbrook had signed a contract extension in the spring of 2007, which essentially meant the Indians had given up trying to extend CC Sabathia past the 2008 season. So the Indians would deal Sabathia to Milwaukee after they fell out of contention. By the time Sabathia was dealt, Westbrook had already undergone Tommy John surgery; he would miss the rest of 2008 and all of 2009. By the time he returned in 2010, he was in the last year of his contract, and the Indians were in the midst of a second rebuilding project. After a couple shaky starts to begin the season, he pitched better, and the Indians were able to deal him at the deadline to the St. Louis Cardinals in a deal that brought them Corey Kluber.
Westbrook would re-sign with the Cardinals after the 2010 season, and although he would not pitch in the 2011 NLDS and NLCS, he was on the Cardinals' World Series roster, and would be the winning pitcher in Game 6, one of the best World Series games in recent history.
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (9 yrs)||69||69||4.29||218||179||10||13||3||1191.1||1269||624||568||107||368||25||655||101||9.6||0.8||2.8||4.9||1.78|
Cleveland Indians Career Leader:
- 30th Wins (69)
- t-26th Walks/9 Innings (2.78)
- 37th Strikeouts/9 Innings (4.948)
- 37th Games Played (218)
- 26th Innings Pitched (1191.1)
- 26th Strikeouts (655)
- 16th Games Started (179)
- 30th Strikeouts/Walks (1.78)
- 25th Batters Faced (5079)
AL All-Star: 2004
AL Earned Run Average: 3rd, 2004
AL WHIP: 7th, 2004
AL Complete Games: 1st, 2004; 10th, 2005; 3rd, 2006
AL Shutouts: 4th, 2004; 1st, 2006
AL Adjusted ERA+: 4th, 2004
AL Putouts as Pitcher: 1st, 2004; 1st, 2005; 1st, 2006