Detroit Trade a Solid Doug Fister: Is There more to come?

On packing day, for many non-tendered players, the Detroit Tigers took the headlines again by trading Doug Fister for 2 LHPs and a utility infielder type to the Nationals. Those lefties: 22-year old (10/91) Robbie Ray and 22-year old (5/91) Ian Krol packed off with 25-year old (9/88) 2B Steve Lombardozzi. The soon-to-be 30-year old (2/84) Fister has been an elite pitcher, by productivity alone, in the last three years as Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs points out in his useful table of other starters:

Name IP BB% K% HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA- FIP- xFIP- WAR RA9-WAR
Clayton Kershaw 697 6% 26% 0.54 0.260 79% 60 70 78 18.5 22.8
Justin Verlander 707 7% 25% 0.79 0.275 77% 68 74 83 19.1 20.6
Cliff Lee 666 4% 25% 0.89 0.295 79% 72 73 74 16.5 18.0
Jered Weaver 578 6% 20% 0.89 0.252 80% 71 91 100 11.1 17.3
James Shields 705 7% 23% 0.91 0.283 77% 80 88 84 12.9 16.4
Felix Hernandez 670 6% 24% 0.64 0.309 74% 83 74 74 16.6 14.6
Cole Hamels 651 6% 23% 0.88 0.280 76% 82 83 84 13.2 14.5
David Price 622 6% 23% 0.78 0.288 75% 81 81 80 13.4 14.1
Hiroki Kuroda 623 6% 19% 1.00 0.283 78% 81 94 91 9.7 13.8
Chris Sale 477 6% 26% 0.91 0.287 79% 72 76 76 11.1 13.3
Gio Gonzalez 597 10% 24% 0.65 0.280 76% 81 85 91 11.4 12.7
Jordan Zimmermann 570 5% 19% 0.77 0.283 76% 82 88 95 10.2 12.4
Doug Fister 586 5% 18% 0.61 0.300 73% 82 80 86 13.3 12.4
R.A. Dickey 667 7% 20% 1.04 0.273 76% 88 100 97 8.6 12.0
Max Scherzer 597 7% 26% 1.06 0.301 75% 88 81 83 13.6 12.0
Kyle Lohse 598 5% 16% 0.92 0.269 76% 85 99 104 7.5 11.5
Anibal Sanchez 574 7% 24% 0.77 0.309 74% 85 78 83 13.5 11.4
Matt Cain 625 7% 21% 0.76 0.260 74% 88 94 99 9.6 11.2
CC Sabathia 648 6% 22% 0.93 0.306 72% 89 82 82 13.9 11.1
Zack Greinke 561 6% 24% 0.80 0.300 75% 87 81 80 11.3 11.1
Madison Bumgarner 614 6% 23% 0.73 0.285 74% 86 85 86 11.2 10.7
C.J. Wilson 638 9% 21% 0.71 0.290 72% 84 90 94 10.9 10.6
Bartolo Colon 507 4% 16% 0.92 0.295 76% 82 90 96 9.1 10.5
Mat Latos 614 7% 22% 0.81 0.283 74% 90 89 94 10.5 10.3
Jon Lester 610 8% 20% 0.94 0.300 73% 95 91 93 10.9 9.9

But it doesn’t take rocket science to say, “Wow, great pitcher gets moved for two goodish prospects and utility infielder, in a day when top-of-the-rotation arms are hard to come by?” And it’s true enough, Fister would, or should, plausibly net a guy like Taijuan Walker, for example, and probably one other very serviceable piece, based on his WAR value alone.

So what gives on Dombrowski? Why you selling so low on Fister?

No one can be 100% certain, but Dombrowski’s overstock of starting pitching seems to have made him more of a risk taker. Or maybe as Cameron alludes to, “Maybe it’s the fact that Fister’s fastball sits at 89, or that he was a non-prospect for most of his days in the minor leagues, but barring an unknown injury that is about to wreck his value, it seems like 29 MLB teams are missing the boat on Doug Fister.” Maybe too, in his last game in Detroit, Fister’s (labeled) “cutter” velocity seems suspect, but he did pitch 6 very good innings getting the win against Boston on 10/16.

 Fister is a sinkerballer with excellent groundball rates as this Fangraphs table shows:

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% tERA SIERA xFIP- xFIP
2009 Mariners 1.06 19.90% 41.30% 38.80% 5.28 4.53 100 4.43
2010 Mariners 1.36 18.20% 47.10% 34.70% 3.57 4.27 98 4.1
2011 2 Teams 1.48 20.40% 47.50% 32.10% 3.35 3.67 89 3.61
2012 Tigers 1.91 22.30% 51.00% 26.70% 4.15 3.43 82 3.39
2013 Tigers 2.23 21.30% 54.30% 24.40% 3.99 3.49 86 3.42
Total – – – 1.63 20.40% 49.30% 30.30% 3.86 3.77 90 3.68

So that secondary pitch velocity blip aside, on Fister, you have to reiterate his fastball is at 89-90 MPH. Which is considerably less than either of the 22-year old lefties in the deal. Fister’s ground ball rate has climbed; is a regression to 45-48% likely? As he’s had a healthy ground ball rate, his flyball rate could too go back up, and add .5 runs/game. Plus, he doesn’t strike out guys (18%) versus most on that first list are at the 23-26% category. In the end, results count; but stuff at some point has to be evaluated and seen against other background data. (Fister threw the slowest of any Tiger in 2013. While his slider to fastball differential is only 3 MPH. His peers, on that starting staff, are at 7 MPH. )

Ian Krol has all ready traveled coast to coast (Oakland to Washington now back to the Midwest haunts), but he has middle relief specialist stuff today. Might develop into a solid set-up guy. On July 31, 2013 he faced the Tigers, posting the pitch speeds at (above) in a 20-pitch outing:

This wouldn’t be a big deal. Many guys throw hard in the MLB. But finding lefties with any talent at pumping gas is typically hard. As Ian’s on the young side, and did pitch as a starter in the minors, had successful K/9 and BB/9 ratios, the Tigers pitching gurus must think he’s got something. Krol, while not a character guy, has found work and been included in deals for being able to throw hard. If he develops a good 3rd offering – a cutter or perfects a nasty change – he might be valuable 2 years from now.

Meanwhile, Robbie Ray is a AA prospect that got threw some control issues.  His biography on his stuff is this:

According to Teddy Cahill of MLB.com, Ray has a power arm with an average fastball of 93 miles per hour, but notes that he can fire it up to the mid-90s at times as well. Cahill said Ray needs to work on harnessing his slider, which he uses with a changeup as his main secondary pitches off of his fastball.

Again, a power arm as a lefty. harnessing secondary offerings. Changeup is used often by Detroit pitching. Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez all employ it substantially apart of their repertoire. In fact, among the starting pitching qualifiers last season of 79 total, Detroit had all of their arms in the top 30.

Change Up Usage Rk Name FB% FBv SL% SLv CT% CTv CB% CBv CH% CHv
5 Anibal Sanchez 47.30% 93 21.40% 86.2 7.10% 79.1 24.10% 85.5
14 Max Scherzer 56.00% 93.3 15.20% 85.1 7.80% 77.9 20.90% 84.7
21 Justin Verlander 56.00% 93.3 13.20% 86 13.90% 79 16.90% 84
27 Rick Porcello 61.70% 91.2 6.30% 84.8 16.60% 77.9 15.50% 82.4
30 Doug Fister 50.70% 88.8 14.40% 85.6 20.20% 73.5 14.80% 80.2

So, while some project Drew Smyly to the rotation, it may not happen (he relies quite a bit on a cutter). Notice: none of the 2013 Tigers starting staff threw cutters (So: Fister’s pitches are hard to identify from two different websites). But another move could be on the way. Looking at the Tigers, they have young pitching pool, with only Phil Coke and Verlander now as the senior citizens at 32 and 31, respectively. They have six left hand options, not including Robbie Ray. Obviously, getting lefties were a thought.

Lastly, Steve Lombardozzi. As he can play various positions (2B,SS,3B, LF), maybe none too well, he is also switch hitter. Still only 25, but with limited upside. Nevertheless, Dombrowski may have wanted some versatility with Miguel Cabrera moving to 1st and 21-year old Nick Castellanos slotted for a try 3B. Lombardozzi backs up Kinsler. In short, he is a super-utility for the raining day injury.

Washington may very well win this trade overall. 2 years of Fister could be Washington’s ticket back to the playoffs. But Dombrowski has been through the wars many years, and has gotten the Tigers close.

Maybe one more big move does it

This entry was posted in Chicago Cubs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s