#23 - JARROD WASHBURN, P
He threw the very first pitch of the 2002 season (after the ceremonial pitch via the jumbotron from then-president Bush) at Angel Stadium and was the ace of the staff on a downright average pitching staff in the year they won it all - he had picked a great year to have his best season. But Jarrod Washburn was a lot more than that. He was an Angels pitcher who went thru the entire transformation of the team from the Winged-logo uniform and pre-Mo Vaughn days thru the world champion wild card club and into an era where division championships were expected of a team that had changed its geographical affiliation without ever leaving Anaheim.
Washburn was a lefty whose repertoire featured an average curveball and an average fastball but was predicated on the best change up of the era. His ability to throw that pitch to any batter at any point in the count made hitters dizzy when he was on. Batting is guessing game and when the hitters did guess right, perhaps it was one of the 150 times that Jarrod gave up a home run to an Angels opponent.
In his third season of ups and downs to the minors he impressed enough to become a starter for the 2001 Angels. In 2002 he drew the opening day assignment and never looked back. In the most important season in Halo history he put up 206 innings with a 141 ERA+, 4.5 Wins Above Replacement and fourth place in the AL Cy Young vote. In the playoffs he pitched fine against the Yankees in a losing cause in game one of the ALDS and held them close until the floodgates opened in game five, becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to win the clinching game of a postseason series.
His 2003 and 2004 were less stellar but the role he played in the 2004 ALDS would be comedy gold if it hadn't been so tragic. The Angels were down two games to none in the best of five LADS. Game 3 at Fenway Park had seen them choke up an early lead and then claw their way back to tie the game. Frankie Rodriguez had pitched two scoreless innings when he gave up a single. The runner was bunted to 2B and then Manny Ramirez struck out. Savid ORtiz came to the palte. During the 2004 season Mike Scioscia had kept his bullpen to such rigidly-defined roles that he hadn't once ordered a lefty-lefty match up. Troy Percival was ready to enter the game. Scioscia called for Washburn instead. Ortiz hit a two-run homer and everyone in Angel land was left scratching their heads.
2005 was a contract year and Jarrod had his second great season to make Scott Boras happy. He started 29 games and had an ERA+ of 133 with 4.5 WAR in 177 innings. It was a great sendoff. He wanted to stay with the Angels but GM Bill Stoneman demurred. It was a good call, statistically but Washburn was great Angel nonetheless, leading the pitching staff during the beginning of its golden era as he did. He was a vocal leader in the clubhouse, once even mocking the Rally Monkey when the media paid it so much attention and ignored his teammates scoring actually doing the rallying. His fierceness on the mound was belied by a dopey farm boy grin that made him look a little like Dennis the Menace - and he was a menace to the society of opposing batters for five full seasons as an Angels starter and eight total years in a Halo uniform.