Former Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Brandon Webb is retiring at age 33, according to his agents. Webb hasn't pitched in the majors since starting on Opening Day 2009 for the Diamondbacks. He won the NL Cy Young award with Arizona in 2006, and was the runner-up in both 2007 (won by Jake Peavy) and 2008 (won by Tim Lincecum), making the NL All-Star team in all three of those seasons. Webb also finished third in the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Dontrelle Willis and Scott Podsednik.
Webb's career ends with an 87-62 record and a 3.27 ERA. From his debut in 2003 until his final full season in 2008, Webb was one of the best pitchers in baseball, totaling 33.1 fWAR, good for third in baseball over that six season span behind just Johan Santana and Roy Halladay. Webb's career through age 29 also compares favorably to some of the best pitchers under 30 over the last 25 years. That 33.1 fWAR is 16th since 1988 among all pitchers through their age 29 seasons, ahead of pitchers like Josh Beckett, Tim Hudson, Andy Pettitte, Dan Haren, Tom Glavine, and Tim Lincecum.
But shoulder problems doomed Webb's career after that 2009 Opening Day start. He was placed on the disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder the day after that start, and had season-ending surgery in August. He didn't pitch at all in 2010 while rehabbing the injury, and signed a minor league contract with Rangers going into the 2011 season. Webb made four starts and threw 12 innings for AA Frisco, posting a 9.75 ERA and allowing 27 baserunners. Webb had rotator cuff surgery that August, and never pitched again professionally after that.
On the mound, Webb's calling card was a vicious sinker that led to him getting groundballs by the bucketload. His 64.2% career groundball rate is the best of any starting pitcher since Fangraphs started tracking the stat in 2002. To put that numbers in perspective, only five *relievers* had a groundball rate that high in 2012, and that was Webb's career rate as a starting pitcher. It's sad that Webb's career ended this soon, but at least he's going out on his own terms.
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