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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Posnanski: The need – the need for speed

When the Detroit Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals back in December for a a middling left-handed pitching prospect and some change, it was, well, baffling… There were explanations at the time… Now, with a a few months of clarity added to the picture, none of [them] makes sense.

1. [Making room for Drew] Smyly? No. The Tigers have already traded away Smyly to get David Price and make a desperate run for the playoffs with a wounded and uneven team.

2. An underappreciation of [Robbie] Ray? Too early to tell but early signs say: No. Ray has struggled in his early starts which doesn’t mean much, but I still haven’t talked to a scout who loves him.

3. Money? No. When [Tigers GM Dave] Dombrowski realized that his team was short pitching, he went out and got David Price who is making twice as much as Fister and will make more next year.

So … why?

Nobody is saying why, but I have a guess. It’s a guess that directly relates to something I see all around baseball, even at some of the more enlightened places. I have invented a word for it: Fistrust.

FISTRUST (pronounced FIS-truh-st, noun): A deep suspicion and profound lack of confidence in pitchers who cannot throw 90 mph.

Wasn’t that also Chip Caray’s catchphrase?

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:27 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: doug fister, drew smyly, nationals, robbie ray, tigers, trades

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   1. Greg K Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:47 PM (#4775060)
For what it's worth (probably nothing) on the Jays broadcast while in Detroit a couple weeks ago Buck Martinez mentioned that he was talking to Dave Dombrowski and upon asking how he evaluates pitches Dombrowski immediately said "long, lean guys who throw hard". I guess Fister is awfully long and lean...

I guess it's revisiting a lengthy off-season discussion, but even if Dombrowski figured Fister wasn't a very good bet to continue doing well and decided to sell high on him, he didn't seem to get much value for him.
   2. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: August 19, 2014 at 10:54 PM (#4775061)
I feel like the general point that teams are undervaluing soft tossers is probably true. I would love to see a study of elbow/shoulder injuries broken down by how hard the pitcher throws, too.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:30 PM (#4775077)
I don't think there's anything to revisit yet here. Almost everyone had the same stance on the trade, and so far, it looks like almost everyone was right.
   4. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 20, 2014 at 01:15 AM (#4775107)
I don't think there's anything to revisit yet here. Almost everyone had the same stance on the trade, and so far, it looks like almost everyone was right.

It's true. I don't recall anyone thinking this was a good deal for the Tigers. As a Tiger fan, I was willing to give DD the benefit of the doubt because he's been very good at trading, but even I was scratching my head a bit.

On the plus side, Robbie Ray has made it to the majors at 22, and he has performed adequately enough (3.64 FIP). He's a lefty who can throw 94 mph, and the Tigers have been pretty good at developing starting pitchers lately. He might turn out OK.

You could also argue that by being able to "showcase" Smyly as a starter, they were able to get Price. (He wouldn't have had the same trade value as a reliever.) I highly doubt that was part of the plan though.

   5. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 20, 2014 at 02:02 AM (#4775116)
but even I was scratching my head a bit.


As I Tigers fan you should have been somewhere between perplexed and furious. The return for Fister was pennies on the dollar. I see in your post that you've tried to be kind and soften the blow, but the Tigers got rorted on this.
   6. The Ghost is getting a Woody Posted: August 20, 2014 at 02:04 AM (#4775118)
Pardon me if this is a dumb question, but if the Tigers didn't trust Fister, then why did they trade for him in the first place?
   7. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 20, 2014 at 02:43 AM (#4775122)
As I Tigers fan you should have been somewhere between perplexed and furious. The return for Fister was pennies on the dollar. I see in your post that you've tried to be kind and soften the blow, but the Tigers got rorted on this.

As an OPTIMISTIC Tiger fan, I was willing to give DD the benefit of the doubt... :-)

There's so much negativity in sports fanbases -- I have been trying to set an example for my fellow Tiger fans, who don't seem to realize that this is probably the best 10-year stretch in the team's history. (Or at least since WWII.)

   8. TerpNats Posted: August 20, 2014 at 02:46 AM (#4775124)
Instead of viewing it as stupidity on Dombrowski's part, why not look at it as Rizzo pulling off highway robbery?
   9. Cooper Nielson Posted: August 20, 2014 at 02:57 AM (#4775128)
1. [Making room for Drew] Smyly? No. The Tigers have already traded away Smyly to get David Price and make a desperate run for the playoffs with a wounded and uneven team.

Incidentally, this is a disingenuous interpretation. When the Tigers traded for Price (mid-game July 31), they had a seemingly safe 5-game lead on the Royals, and Sanchez and Verlander were still healthy. Verlander had made 5 quality starts in his last 7, and pitched OK in the other 2. He seemed to be getting "back on track."

This was in no way a desperation move. It was more of an attempt to one-up the A's as the prohibitive World Series favorite with a "5 aces" rotation.
   10. Greg K Posted: August 20, 2014 at 08:51 AM (#4775179)
This was in no way a desperation move. It was more of an attempt to one-up the A's as the prohibitive World Series favorite with a "5 aces" rotation.

Yeah I remember the immediate reaction was "this sets up an amazing Oak-Det ALCS!"

And now neither of those teams hold their division, and could face each other in the wild card game (if Detroit gets their #### together).
   11. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: August 20, 2014 at 08:56 AM (#4775182)
Steve Allen once recorded a song called "How's Your Sister?", which included the immortal lyric, "Hi there, mister, how's your sister? Does she still go SHMOCK SHMOCK!?"

So now whenever I see or read about Doug Fister, i think, "Hi, Doug Fister, how's your sister...?"

What can I say? That damned Steve Allen is a bad influence!
   12. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:18 AM (#4775195)
Pardon me if this is a dumb question, but if the Tigers didn't trust Fister, then why did they trade for him in the first place?


Probably because they thought they could make some mechanical changes and improve his velocity.
   13. BDC Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:37 AM (#4775208)
<a >TR Sullivan</a> put it this way in a recent mlb.com recap of the Rangers' Godawful pitching year:

Baseball as an industry is overly obsessed with velocity, {and in Neftali} Feliz's case, it has reached hysterical proportions.


It's a rare case where sabermetrics and received wisdom form a kind of echo chamber. MPH is the magic indicator for both crowds.
   14. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:39 AM (#4775209)
I wonder if there's the sentiment that soft tossers have to "fool" hitters more than hard throwers, and that they can't stay too long in the same division/league or they will be exposed. I don't personally think that's the case.
   15. BDC Posted: August 20, 2014 at 09:52 AM (#4775223)
Messed up the link above & now can't edit, but google Sullivan Rangers 36 Pitchers - it's a good piece.
   16. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 20, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4775270)

Instead of viewing it as stupidity on Dombrowski's part, why not look at it as Rizzo pulling off highway robbery?



I suspect it's the sense that virtually every GM would have gladly taken Doug Fister off DD's hands for the low, low price of their own version of Hannah Montana's father.

   17. fra paolo Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM (#4775289)
I believe the Tigers traded for Price because they no longer believe they can sign Scherzer to a contract Mr Ilich can afford to pay (having spent his money elsewhere). Presumably they think they can sign Price to a less-extravagant extension. But we shall see.

While I was puzzled by the Fister trade, it's also worth remembering the Tigers got him for not very much at all. In fact, the two deals are rather similar in terms of the return on Fister. I've never heard that Fister was an awkward character, but when something like that happens twice, then I'm not sure anyone is foolish or clever. Either that's the market price for Fister, in which case the market undervalues him because sometimes markets are stupid, or there's something about Fister not widely known that means teams view him as a risky proposition. It could be as simple as they don't trust his stuff.
   18. The District Attorney Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4775295)
It could be as simple as they don't trust his stuff.
That's... what this article says.
   19. Ron J2 Posted: August 20, 2014 at 11:57 AM (#4775360)
#13 Told this story before, but I found it a fascinating indicator of the way baseball loves the fastball.

Was at a AAA game (with another RSB alum -- Harold Brooks). We got really good seats, as it happens right behind a scout with a radar gun.

The scout didn't bother with the gun on the starter -- John Stephens. Stephens was 23, in his 3rd year at AAA but never impressed radar guns and thus was never seen by the Orioles as being any kind of real prospect. (And the scout wasn't any more impressed by the fact that on this night Stephens took a no-hitter into the 6th)

As soon as Darwin Cubillan got into the game the scout had the gun on him. We could see that Cubillan was consistently hitting the high 90s. Not that he was hitting the strike zone all that often, but you can't have everything.
   20. Ron J2 Posted: August 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4775363)
#14 That was the major reason the Mets were able to get Sid Fernandez. Well that and the fact that his work habits were questioned.
   21. BDC Posted: August 20, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4775589)
I'd love to see Fister win another 200 games for nine different teams, none of which trust him :)
   22. Ron J2 Posted: August 20, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4775620)
#21 1800+ career wins is mighty tough to imagine. Even if he hires Julio Franco as a lifestyle coach he might have problems making it.

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