The 2015 Detroit Tigers starting pitching experiment has not gone to plan. Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene came out of the gates firing strikes and generally pitching extremely effectively. The results since have been awful.
Even with his one-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers, Simon’s ERA over his last 13 starts is 7.83. 7.83!
Greene’s ERA over his last 15 appearances isn’t much better. In fact, it’s worse. The former Yankee’s ERA is 9.35 over that span.
Going on those nuggets of information, it makes sense that the Tigers will target starting pitching this offseason.
One starting pitcher the team should target is former Tiger Doug Fister.
Fister has had a rough go of things in the capital this season, posting a 4.45 ERA in 21 appearances. The Nationals have shuttled him to the bullpen, where he’s made six appearances and allowed eight runs in 11 innings.
It’s safe to say he probably won’t be back in with the Nats com next year.
The Tigers should sign him.
Not only is Fister a known commodity to the Tigers, but he also won’t be too expensive. The former Mariner would likely be out of the Tigers’ price range if he put up his usual excellent numbers this year, but he’s struggled, so here we sit.
Justin Verlander and Daniel Norris are the only real locks for the Tigers to be in the rotation next season. Matt Boyd has showed flashes of potential so far in his rookie season, and could start again next season. Another incumbent who could return (should he decide to stave off retirement) is the ageless-wonder Randy Wolf. The other two members of the Tigers’ current staff (Alfredo Simon and Anibal Sanchez) could move on. Like Fister, Simon is a free agent at season’s end and will likely depart. Sanchez’ salary could be flipped for another big contract if Detroit needs to vacate a spot in the rotation for a new arrival.
Fister makes all the sense in the world for Detroit, especially given his success at Comerica Park. The right-hander has posted a 3.18 ERA in 232 innings at the Tigers’ home stadium. Over those 232 innings he’s made 35 starts, striking out 180 batters and allowing opponents to hit only .255 against him.
The potential situation makes even more sense when you consider that the Tigers don’t want to rush any of their prospects making their way through the minors. Adding Fister on a short-term contract to act as a place-holder for young arms such as Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. The move would also allow Fister to rebuild his value in search of a bigger contract.
Detroit needs starters and, barring a change of events, Doug Fister will likely be available on the free agent market this coming offseason. Given the likely high cost of other starters, the Tigers should jump at the chance to bring the comparatively-cheaper Fister back into the fold. It would benefit all parties.
Not only would it benefit all parties, but it would allow new Tigers general manager Al Avila to (in a way) make up for one of his predecessor’s biggest mistakes.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Ben is on Twitter. He promises that he doesn’t always refer to himself in the third person.
Here’s the Detroit Tigers lineup as the team gets ready to start a series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
#Tigers lineup at TOR: Davis LF Kinsler 2B Cabrera 1B V. Martinez DH J. Martinez RF Castellanos 3B McCann C Iglesias SS Gose CF Boyd P
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) August 28, 2015
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Jack Zduriencik’s tenure in Seattle wasn’t the most successful. While he was able to sign Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and managed to hang on to Felix Hernandez¸ he never guided the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs.
A lot of this—well, most of it—has to do with personnel changes. Zduriencik made few trades where he was considered the outright winner. In that vein, he lost a number of trades. Here are some of his best (and mostly) worst trades.
We’ll start with the good news before delving into the bad.
Best—Acquiring Cliff Lee
Zduriencik did extremely well to bring in Lee to pair with Hernandez at the top of the rotation. In fact, he was very Dombrowski-esque with his fleecing of the Phillies. He unloaded three prospects (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez) who failed to make much of an impact in Philadelphia and are no longer with the team. Aumont posted a 3.42 FIP in his first two seasons (40 appearances) with the Phils, but then posted an ugly 11.71 FIP in his next seven appearances. Those seven appearances spanned last season and this season. He’s with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate. Gillies never hit well in the minors and was out of the organization before he could reach the majors. He’s currently with the Padres Double-A team. Ramirez has actually made a positive impact in Major League Baseball this season—with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He owns a 4.11 ERA in 12 relief appearances. See folks, something positive did come out of this.
Lee was exceptional during his short stay in Seattle, earning All Star honors while going 8-3 with a 2.34 and an even more generous 2.16 FIP. He posted a 14.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. No, that isn’t a typo. Lee was later traded, which will be touched on later.
Best—Trading Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales
Very rarely do division rivals make trades magnitude, but that’s what Zduriencik did with the Angels. He flipped Vargas, who was a serviceable, middle/ back-end of the rotation starter in Seattle, to Anaheim for Morales.
Vargas posted a respectable 4.09 ERA/4.36 FIP in 702.2 innings for the M’s, but only managed a 36-42 record over that span due to poor run support. He was never a prolific strikeout pitcher (5.7 Ks per nine innings as a Mariner), but he did post a cumulative 6.6 WAR during his time in Seattle. As dependable as he was, Zduriencik needed a bat, so he acquired Morales.
In his first season in Seattle, Morales drove in 80 runs, hit 23 home runs and hit .277. He also smacked 34 doubles over 156 games. Exactly what the M’s needed, however the team failed to make the playoffs, finishing 71-91.
Now for the bad trades…
Worst—Reacquiring Morales and Russell Branyan
The Mariners traded for Morales (from the Minnesota Twins) and Branyan (from the Cleveland Indians) less than a season after letting each walk in free agency. At the end of the day, the team lost Stephen Pryor, Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz in the deals. While none of the three have gone on to become world-beaters, it still begs the question, why didn’t you just re-sign Morales and Branyan in the first place?
To make matters worse, Morales only hit .207 in his second go-around with Seattle while Branyan managed a paltry .215 batting average.
Worst– Dealing Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans
Morse hit .300 in 107 games for Seattle from 2005 to 2008, but was never given much of a consistent opportunity. Seattle flipped him for Langerhans, a man who hit exactly .200 in 117 games for the M’s from 2009 to 2011.
From 2009 to 2011, Morse hit .295 with 49 home runs and a .889 OPS for the Washington Nationals, posting a 5.1 WAR. Langerhans’ WAR over that span? 0.8.
There goes four-plus wins.
Worst—Trading Cliff Lee to Texas
While Zduriencik pulled off a heist in acquiring Lee, he fumbled mightily when trading the ace.
For a half season of Lee, the M’s brought in Matt Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak.
Behold, the disappointment.
Lawson never made it past Double-A with the Mariners and was dealt to Cleveland. He last played for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013.
The second prospect acquired in the trade, Beavan, was passable as a back-of-the-rotation arm in 2012, posting an 11-11 record with a 4.43 ERA. In 152.1 innings. However, in 2013 he put up a 6.13 earned run average in 12 appearances and was transitioned to the bullpen. Beavan made a spot start in 2014, but never pitched for the Mariners again.
Lueke posted a 6.06 ERA in 25 innings while wearing an M’s jersey, before being flipped to the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso. Jaso was fantastic in his only season in the Emerald City, hitting .276, driving in 50 runs and posting a 3.4 WAR. However, he too was dealt—this time for Morse, who had regressed from the home-run crushing Goliath form he displayed in Washington D.C. to more of a bench bat.
Justin Smoak’s time in Seattle can probably be summed up in one stat.
The current Blue Jay has accumulated a 0.9 WAR in five years with the Mariners. This season, his WAR with Toronto is 0.7. Smoak never quite developed into the middle-of-the-order masher the M’s envisioned.
Worst—Giving Away Doug Fister
This trade may be the worst of all.
Zduriencik dealt away Fister (and David Pauley) for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.
Furbush has been about the only dependable (if at all consistent) player the M’s acquired. He owns a 3.53 FIP as a Mariner and has been worth a 1.2 WAR since touching down in Seattle. After that it gets sketchy.
Martinez struggled in the M’s minor league system before actually returning to the Detroit organization where he currently plays in the low minors. Wells has also returned to Detroit since the trade, but the outfielder has now become a bit of a journeyman. He played for three different teams in 2013 and hasn’t seen action in the majors since.
Ruffin threw 23.2 innings for the Mariners before abruptly retiring. He struck out 30, but also allowed 16 runs.
To make matters worse, Fister excelled in Detroit. He piled up 32 wins in three seasons in Motown while posting a sparkling 3.20 FIP while becoming a dependable/effective postseason pitcher. His WAR in three seasons in Detroit was 9.9.
Just to compare, the players traded for Fister collectively own a career 4.3 WAR.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
It’s safe to say that two of Serie A’s historically successful teams aren’t performing to their usual standards. Both finished last season outside of European qualifying places in the standings with Inter coming in eighth and Milan placing tenth.
Even before last season, things weren’t working in Northern Italy. In addition to focusing more on youth, both Milanese teams adopted a similar approach to rebuilding their rosters—sign castoffs from Europe’s elite.
Inter haven’t been in the Champions League since the 2011/2012 season. The only European cameos since then have been a pair of Round of 16 appearances. Under relatively new manager Roberto Mancini, the club has made it a point to restock their roster mainly with players from elite European clubs.
Mancini brought in Juan Miranda from Atletico Madrid while also signing Martin Montoya (who wasn’t receiving much playing time behind Dani Alves) on a two-year loan deal from Barcelona F.C. The duo are joined in defense by former Manchester United legend/center back Nemanja Vidic.
In addition to Miranda and Montoya, Mancini also added defensive-minded talent in the midfield, signing Geoffrey Kondogbia from French giant Monaco.
Inter’s other (recent) marquee addition summer transfer window addition was Manchester City forward Stevan Jovetic. Mancini signed the striker on loan from his former employers to replace the outgoing Xherdan Shaqiri (who himself was signed from a major European club—Bayern Munich).
Not to be outdone, Inter have had/currently employ a number of players who once suited up for Europe’s elite.
Defender Alex and attacker Jeremy Menez were both signed from Paris Saint-Germain on free transfers during last season’s summer transfer window. The Rossoneri‘s goalkeeper is also formerly of a major European powerhouse. Diego Lopez was also signed for free, but from Real Madrid.
Milan also employ Alessio Cerci, who is on loan from Atletico. He joined Milan in a loan-swap deal with Atleti in which Fernando Torres (who was signed from Chelsea) went the other way.
Mario Balotelli recently rejoined the Milanese club on loan from Liverpool after Milan sold him to the Premier League club. However, before he was sold to Liverpool, Milan bought him from Manchester City.
Yet another forward/striker on the frontline to play for Milan is Alessandro Matri. Matri was bought from Juventus after failing to establish himself in Turin. So far during his tenure in Milan he’s been loaned out to Fiorentina, Genoa and Juve. He’s made 18 appearances for Milan since signing in 2013.
While not with the team anymore (he’s signed with Panathinaikos) Michael Essien was signed from Chelsea and also suited up for Real Madrid.
Both Milan clubs have yet to return to the peak of European football, where they spent so many years. However, the teams’ brass and fan bases will be hoping that these castoffs from Europe’s elite will propel the Milan teams back to the top of the mountain.
Detroit Tigers 2016: Pitching Staff Locks, Maybes and Likely Departures
After Monday’s bullpen implosion, the Detroit Tigers pitching issues were once again brought to light. Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny, Neftali Feliz and Guido Knudson’s collective time on the mound saw a Tigers win turn into a blowout loss.
Sadly, this is nothing new. Maybe not allowing 10 runs in an inning, but certainly allowing enough runs to lose the game. Only three teams have allowed more runs than the Tigers, while Detroit is tied for the league in number of home runs allowed with 144.
This year’s staff has been predominantly ineffective. That means changes in the offseason—lots of changes. With that in mind, here’s a look at what pitchers are locks to stay, which pitchers are uncertainties and which pitchers are likely departures.
Verlander isn’t going anywhere, not with his contract. This makes him the biggest lock (pitcher-wise) on the team. It doesn’t hurt that he’s regained his old form. The ace owns a 1.67 ERA and a 40/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 43 innings. He’s back ladies and gentleman—and barring a massive addition, will open 2016 as the Tigers’ ace.
Verlander may be the team’s ace of the present, but Norris looks like a candidate to be the staff’s leader in the future. The centerpiece of the David Price trade, Norris has the look of a future front-line starter. He could start realizing that potential sooner rather than later.
While still in Double-A, Fulmer may make his debut this season as a September call up. If he does, look for him to stick in the rotation in 2016. Acquired from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer has been dominant in the minors. In 20 starts in the minors the pitcher has struck out 113 batters in 115.2 innings while only walking 28. He’s 9-3 with a 1.95 ERA as well as touting a mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider and an improving changeup.
Another pitcher acquired in the Price deal, Boyd looks the part of a dependable rotation arm moving forward. He’ll constantly live up in the zone, but that’s ok given he’ll start half of his ballgames in Comerica Park.
The Washington-native owned an ugly 14.85 ERA with the Toronto Blue Jays, but has posted a much better 4.88 ERA (4.37 FIP) with the Tigers.
Bruce Rondon had a tough start to the season, which is much of the reason why his ERA is 5.66. However, recent form suggests a promising future. The flamethrower has struck out 19 batters over his last 13 innings while holding opponents to a .159 batting average. His ERA over that span is 2.77. Rondon’s FIP is a sparkling 2.98, suggesting that he’s been much better than advertised. Unless he implodes down the stretch (we’re talking volcanic implosion folks) and implodes again during Spring Training, Rondon will be on the Tigers Opening Day roster in 2016.
In a season devoid of too many positives, Alex Wilson may be the Tigers’ MVP—at least on the mound. Wilson has done just about everything imaginable for Detroit.
Save a game(s)—check.
Start a game—check.
Pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen—check.
In case you need any more convincing on Wilson, here are his numbers: 60.1 innings pitched, 47 appearances, two saves, one game started, 1.79 ERA.
Where the Tigers would be without Wilson, no one is sure. Barring the unforeseen, he’s playing an integral part on the team next year.
Blaine Hardy has officially proven that last season was no fluke. The former Royals farmhand is the proud owner of a 2.68 ERA (his FIP is only 2.73) over 53.2 innings. He’s struck out 47 batters over that span and is just about as much of a lock as Wilson is.
For as much as the Tigers’ bullpen has struggled/been lambasted, Al Alburquerque has developed into some of an “old-reliable” type. The reliever has posted a career ERA of 2.99 and his FIP has never eclipsed four. He’ll be back.
Anibal Sanchez may be having a down year—or he may be regressing, it’s hard to tell. If anything, he’s certainly not the pitcher he was in 2013 when he led the American League in ERA, FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.4 to be exact). Sanchez ERA this year is an unsightly 4.99 while he’s allowed a Majors-leading 29 home runs. His FIP? 4.72.
With a contract that calls for $48 million over the next three seasons, Detroit could trade him for another bad contract to fill a different need. The Tigers obviously are thin in the starting pitching department, but if Sanchez continues to allow home runs at the rate he’s at, the team may as well let someone like Fulmer loose than continue trot out Sanchez every fifth day.
Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has a world of potential, but has been inexplicably awful for the Tigers. In 16 innings he’s allowed 19 earned runs while posting an ugly 11.93 ERA. Whether he makes the team next year will depend on how much bullpen help is added in the offseason and if the team thinks he can turn it around.
Buck Farmer and Kyle Ryan
If either of these pitchers are in the Tigers’ rotation in 2016 on a consistent basis, it will either be because the team isn’t contending, or because one of the two has turned a corner in their development.
Neither has shown the ability to be a consistent starter in the bigs, with Farmer the owner of a 7.80 ERA and Ryan sporting a 5.94 earned run average. Given the number of young arms near or at the major league level (Norris, Fulmer, Boyd and Luis Cessa), Detroit may be hard-pressed to find a role for either Farmer or Ryan. A year of seasoning in Triple-A wouldn’t hurt either.
Wolf will only be on the Tigers’ roster next season if he doesn’t retire after the season, can be effective down the stretch, and if Detroit wants him back. Given the team’s young arms and the likelihood that they’ll add a starter (or two) in the offseason, Wolf could find his way back to the team as a swingman.
One-time Nationals pitcher Ian Krol is running out of opportunities to stick in Detroit. He’s only 24-years-old, but owns a 5.67 ERA in a Tigers’ uniform. His FIP isn’t much better at 5.30.
Things have only become worse for Krol, whose earned run average this year is 6.75. He’s also walked nearly as many batters as runs allowed. Not a pretty stat when your ERA is close to seven. Like Feliz, he’s not a goner purely based on potential and age.
The Tigers seem to believe in Greene long-term, ergo his place in the “maybes” section. If anything, he may spend the year refining his craft at Triple-A.
His numbers have been all kinds of ugly this year—6.88 (!) ERA, 103 hits allowed in only 83.2 innings, 13 home runs allowed, 5.13 FIP… the list goes on. In fact, if you take out Greene’s phenomenal start, during which he put up an ERA of 0.39, his ERA jumps to 9.35 in 60.2 innings. Opponents hit .351 off him during those games. Here’s hoping he can turn it around.
Lobstein’s injury absence may be one of the least talked about aspects of the Tigers season.
The man who Brad Ausmus once called “Lobber” had a respectable 4.34 ERA to go along with a 3-45 record in eight starts before hitting the disabled list. If Lobstein had absorbed some of Greene/Farmer/Ryan/Alfredo Simon’s rough starts, Detroit would be in a much better place right now. Lobstein may be relegated to a swing-man role next season. He’s in a good spot to make the team next season, but isn’t a lock given the fact that Al Avila will likely sign/trade for two new starters.
Guido Knudson and Drew VerHagen
If the above-mentioned duo make the team next year it will be because they showed well down the stretch and in Spring Training. The rest of the season is their audition.
Despite Simon’s stellar start against the Rangers, he’s struggled too much to be asked back next season. Racking up 11 wins is a positive, but not when your ERA is 5.85 since the start of June. His contract is up, and unless he wants to become a reliever again, he’ll be leaving Detroit.
Another player on an expiring contract, Gorzelanny has also struggled in Motown.
Pick whatever synonym of ugly that you like and that word describes Gorzelanny’s run prevention on the mound this season. His ERA is an atrocious (you win a prize if that was your ugly synonym) 6.21 while he’s walked 19 batters and allowed 21 runs in just 29 innings. The former Pirate simply hasn’t had his best stuff this season.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.