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:
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.
|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.
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|
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…
- Nationals acquire Doug Fister (washingtonpost.com)
- Tigers trade Doug Fister to Nationals (clickondetroit.com)
- Reactions to Detroit Tigers’ Trade of Doug Fister to Nationals (thedetroitsportssite.com)
- Doug Fister trade: Tigers bank on potential in return for proven pitcher (sbnation.com)
- Nats acquire SP Fister from Tigers for prospects (tracking.si.com)