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. Here we are a few months later, and it’s no longer baffling. Yes, it’s self-destructive. It’s ruinous. It’s loony. It might be the trade that changed the entire face of baseball for 2014. Baffling just isn’t nearly a big enough word now.

Let’s do a quick review:

Washington

Last year: The Nationals were sixth in the National League in runs allowed, gave a struggling Dan Haren 30 starts and finished second in the National League East and out of the playoffs.

This year: The Nationals lead the NL in ERA (more than a half run lower than last year), they are six games up in the in the National League East, and Fister is their best pitcher.

Detroit

Last year: The Tigers were third in the American League in ERA, Fister made 32 starts for them (the Tigers went 18-14 in those starts), and the team won 93 games, won the American League Central and reached the ALCS.

This year: The Tigers are 10th in the league in ERA, Fister’s starts were mostly taken up by since traded Drew Smyly (team went 6-12 in his starts) and the player acquired in the deal, Robbie Ray (1-4 in his starts). Detroit finds itself one and a half games behind the Kansas City Royals.

It was a disastrous deal for Detroit, and it was a probably a season-saving one for Washington, and it leads to the question that made little sense at the time and makes no sense at all now: Why in the heck did Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski do it?

There were explanations at the time. One of those explanations was that the Tigers were trying to open up a spot in the rotation for Smyly, a talented left who had pitched very well in relief in 2013. The Tigers talked on and on about how important it was to get Smyly into the rotation—they were supposedly worried that if they gave him another year in the pen, he might never make the transition to starter.

OK. What else? Well, Dombrowski made a point of saying how much he and his staff liked Robbie Ray, the pitching prospect they got in return. On this front, Mike Rizzo concurred – just a couple of weeks ago, when I talked to Rizzo about how good Fister has been, Rizzo quickly said: “Well, we gave up a lot to get him.”

What else? OK, there’s the money. The Tigers have a huge payroll, but even the big payroll teams would like to save money where they can. With Fister entering his later arbitration years (he signed for $7.2 million this year) and Smyly apparently ready to start, Fister was perhaps expensive enough to move.

Now, with a a few months of clarity added to the picture, none of these things makes sense.

1. 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 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 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.

The radar gun has changed baseball in so many ways. It has changed the way scouts rate players. It has changed the way pitchers train. It has changed modern bullpens and changed the types of pitches batters will see in the eighth and ninth innings. It has changed the way people watch the game too – how often do you find yourself at a ballpark or on television, and a pitcher throws a fastball by a hitter, and you think: “How fast was that?” And you’re actually peeved if that information is not immediately available.

One of the ways I think it has changed the game is that the radar gun has sparked a powerful (and often involuntary) mistrust – fistrust – of pitchers who are getting people out when their fastballs top out in the 80s. I see it all over the game – even among some of the smartest and most forward-thinking people in baseball. I had one of the game’s truly great minds tell me, “I KNOW I shouldn’t worry about the radar gun, but dammit, I see a guy getting people out at 87 mph, and I can’t help it.”

Right. They just can’t help it. So much of pitching is a mystery. Nobody REALLY knows how many pitches or innings or days between starts is the right number. The scouting and development of pitchers is so hit and miss. The radar gun is something tangible in that sea of confusion, and so when the reading says 87 mph, the mind simply has a hard time associating that will pitching success.

Doug Fister was a seventh-round pick as a senior at Fresno State – “seventh round pick” and “drafted as a senior” almost always add up to “non-prospect.” Though he stood 6-foot-8, he never did throw very hard – his calling card was impeccable control and a heavy sinking fastball that (in theory) batters would top into the ground.

He meandered for a while with Seattle, pitching way better than his won-loss record (well, his won-loss record was 12-30, so ANYTHING would be better than that) and then he came to Detroit in what seemed a minor deal in 2011 and basically pitched the Tigers to their first division title in almost a quarter century. On August 20, the Tigers were nine games over .500 and leading a lethargic division. The Tigers won Fister’s next seven starts – he allowed one earned run or less in every one of them. Detroit ended up winning the division by 15 games.

Did the Tigers believe? Maybe. Maybe not. Fister did strike out nine Kansas City Royals in a row in 2012 – that’s an American League record – but in general the strikeout wasn’t a big part of his game. His fastball didn’t hit 90, and his success seemed to rely on shaky things like keeping the ball in the ballpark and not walking hitters. I once had a baseball general manager tell me that the one thing a pitcher never wants to be called is a “sinker-slider type pitcher.” The GM explained: “That means he can’t throw hard enough, and doesn’t have an out pitch.” Fister was the very definition of a sinker-slider type pitcher.

He also was very good – good ERA, good Fielding Independent Pitching numbers, good results. He gave up hits, and he didn’t intimidate anybody even at 6-foot-8, but the guy gave you quality starts time and again and for all the griping about quality starts, teams tend to win a high percentage of them.

This leads to my guess: I just don’t think the Tigers trusted Fister coming into the season. They have a pitching staff loaded with dazzling stuff and, against that canvas, Fister’s sinkers and sliders just seemed uninteresting to them. This wasn’t only true for the Tigers, by the way. I don’t think many teams around baseball appreciated Fister. I mean Dombrowski’s a smart guy – you know he shopped Fister around, and it seems the Nationals’ uninspiring offer was the best one made.

Think about that for a minute. You would think that teams would be breaking down doors to get at a pitcher with Doug Fister’s production the last three years. I mean, sheesh the Twins gave Ricky Nolasco $50 million, and the Brewers gave Matt Garza $50 million, and the Orioles gave Ubaldo Jiminez $50 million and the Phillies gave A.J. Burnett $16 million for one year,

But Nolasco, Garza, Jiminez, Burnett, they all throw 90-plus. Doug Fister doesn’t.

Fister is pitching much better than any of those others, something that should not have been that hard to predict. The guy can pitch. Right now he’s pitching about as well as anybody East of Kings Felix and Kershaw. With Stephen Strasburg having a weird year and Gio Gonzalez having a down year, Fister has been at the heart of a Nationals team that is a real World Series threat.

Meanwhile, the Tigers pitching staff is a mess – Anibal Sanchez is hurt, Justin Verlander can’t get anyone out, Max Scherzer is a a few weeks away from becoming baseball’s most sought-after free agent pitcher. They sure could use a solid sinker-slider pitcher who doesn’t walk anybody and has a 1.89 ERA since the middle of May. Then again, who couldn’t use that guy?

58 thoughts on “The need – the need for speed

  1. Blake

    Great post. You will be able to write the same thing about the A’s giving up Tommy Milone. Since I like the A’s, I hope you won’t be able to write it until 2015. But it’s not looking that way right now.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Doug Fister Traded to the Nationals - Page 32

    1. KHAZAD

      1) The only thing worst than saying first is saying it when it is not the case.
      2) Anyone who knows anything about the Royals know that they love soft tossers.

      Reply
  3. Ian

    I think his history of injuries has something to do with the trade as well. Fister has only gone over 175 innings pitched twice in his career and he won’t reach that this year.

    Reply
  4. Richard Aronson

    I seem to recall a guy named Maddux who wasn’t a burner but did pretty well. And a guy named Glavine. Kershaw does pass 90, but rarely tops 95; it’s his curve and slider that make him so tough. I’m surprised Billy Beane wasn’t at the front of the Fister line.

    Reply
  5. andrewg

    Voros McCracken taught us that of the 3 true outcomes for pitchers (HR, BB, Ks) if can do 2 out of 3, you can be successful. A pitcher like Fister, who doesn’t walk anybody and doesn’t let up homers, can be just as successful as anyone. But baseball people don’t get it. They value Ks more than anything. Chien Mien-Wang was another example of the successful low BBs, low HR type, before he got hurt running the bases. My advice to GMs – grab these guys, they are way undervalued.

    Reply
    1. Patrick Bohn

      Wang was a perfect example of the stupidity of having pitchers hit. A promising career derailed because a pitcher was running the bases after reaching base on a sacrifice bunt attempt/fielder’s choice.

      Reply
  6. bushay44

    Lots of arm chair quarterbacks and back seat drivers these days. Good lord. Do you REALLY believe we are in desperation mode right now? You’re going to point out ONE trade that has not come to fruition but ignore the ones that got them in this position. Good grief.

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      No one’s ragging on Dombrowski, or the Tigers. He’s a really good GM and Detroit is by no means out of it. But you have to admit this trade was kind of a clunker, and plenty of folks thought so at the time.

      Reply
        1. Karyn

          There’s the other end of it–has Fister made the difference for Washington? That’s a story. And there’s Pos’s overall point, which is that it’s possible that we get obsessed with speed or power, and overlook pitchers who are effective in other ways. That’s certainly not exclusive to the Tigers organization.

          Reply
    2. Andrew

      Those armchair quarterbacks saw this coming a long time ago. A Detroit guy named Jeff Moss runs an outlaw sports blog and lambasted this trade way back in December as “The Doug Fister Trade Abomination.” Check it out and you’ll see that the logic was utterly on the side of keeping Fister, all along.

      Reply
  7. Michael Green

    Going back even further than Maddux, the Yankees had a pitcher named Eddie Lopat, known as a “junk” pitcher. One day, on the CBS Game of the Week, Dizzy Dean began the broadcast by saying that Lopat doesn’t have much speed, but you watch him for the first inning and see if you can figure out how he does it, and then Ol’ Diz will tell you. At the end of the inning, Dean, who could mangle the language with the best of them, said, “Have you figured it out? He’s got testicular fortitude.” I guess he meant intestinal, but maybe he didn’t.

    One of the great legendary baseball stories is of how the Philadelphia A’s and Connie Mack, in the first game of the 1929 World Series against the Cubs, started Howard Ehmke instead of legendary fireballer Lefty Grove or George Earnshaw, who was very fast, in hopes of throwing them off. Joe McCarthy, who managed the Cubs, had told a friend who had asked about the A’s that he didn’t worry as much about Grove or Earnshaw as he did about Ehmke because he threw junk–McCarthy didn’t use that word–and that would throw off the hitters. It did. Now, the three guys who understood this (and throw in Casey Stengel, who used Lopat) all went to the Hall of Fame, and you’d think others would realize they knew something?

    Reply
  8. frightwig

    In Seattle, Fister really was a “pitch to contact” guy whose ERA and xFIP were acceptable but not really so inspiring in 2009-10. When he was traded in Summer 2011, he had a 3.33 ERA, but just a 4.03 xFIP and 5.49 K/9 on the season. I think even the M’s fans who liked him because “he’s better than his record” tended to feel that the club was selling high on him. (As it turned out, of course, the only player in the return who has amounted to anything is Charlie Furbush, and he’s just a decent reliever.) But one of the odd things about Fister is that his strikeout rate actually jumped up to a respectable 7.2 K/9 in Detroit. He wasn’t overpowering hitters, but that’ll do just fine.

    Reply
    1. Scott

      I was a big Fister fan when he played for the Mariners because (while his record sucked) his ERA went down every single year and he was under team control for quite a while longer. I never expected him to be a number 1 starter but I saw him as a number 2/3 guy who would be worth keeping around. Then the Mariners traded him (like always) for a bunch of junk.

      Reply
  9. Dave

    How about the Spaceman? Yes, Bill Lee “only” won around 120 games, but that’s a lot more than almost all pitchers do who even make it to the show. He often didn’t top 85 (even when young) and had years when he averaged less than 4 K’s per 9 innings. He was a joy to watch (and more so to listen to).

    Reply
  10. MattSchlichting (@MattSchlichting)

    I feel like Mike Minor is the flip side of this story for 2014. Not a fireballer (though he can scratch 92) and had a breakthrough season last year. This year, he throws as hard but can’t locate the fastball, and things fell apart.

    Sidenote: I wonder how often the “breakout” year turns out to be a mirage.

    Reply
  11. Anon

    Somebody has to point out that Fister has a FIP of 3.55 which means he has basically been the same pitcher he has always been but has just been. . . .wait for it. . . .lucky this year. Not to say Detroit shouldn’t have kept him but he isn’t King Felix or Kershaw (who needs a nickname BTW, I mean besides the stupid “The Claw” on b-ref).

    Of course it probably doesn’t hurt to go from pitching in front of the disaster that was the Detroit defense the last couple seasons to pitching in front of a decent defense in Washington.

    Oh and those posting Maddux as a soft-tosser, he was in the low 90s early in his career. He never had the big arm but he wasn’t the soft tosser everyone wants to make him out to be, Granted he didn’t have it later in his career, but he also wasn’t the great pitcher later in his career that he was earlier in his career.

    Reply
    1. Karyn

      At a quick guess, I’d say his BABIP against and his strand rate explain the difference between his FIP and ERA. And unless he improved his pickoff move, or Wilson Ramos guns everyone down, the strand rate is an outlier.

      Reply
    2. KHAZAD

      Maddux won 168 games, pitched 34 starts and 228 IP per year, and had a 139 ERA+ in his 30s. Perhaps that doesn’t compare to the 4 consecutive Cy Young years, but I think it qualifies as great.

      Maddux’ career ERA+ was below that because he had about 200 innings of subpar pitching at the outset of his career and 600 innings in his 40s. But the number of pitchers with more than 340 starts and a 139 ERA+ in their career is pretty darn small: Pedro, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Roger Clemens.

      Reply
  12. UrbanShocker

    I’m from Detroit. One theory is as follows: Owner Mike Illitch was very ill at the time and his son, Chris, was making the decisions for the family. It has been assumed that if(when) he eventually takes over he would cut payroll. Well, Mr. Illitch seems to have recovered somewhat, as he has been spotted at games the last month or so and would seem to be calling the shots again as all the moves made the last few months, like the Price deal, are typical of the way things usually go around here. This scenario would explain a lot, as the Fister deal was very un-Dombrowski like.

    Reply
  13. KHAZAD

    I enjoy the stories about pitchers of the distant past from the commenters, but I think they miss the point. Yes, pitchers that throw hard have always been valued, but in the last 20+ years, the amount of reliance that scouts have on the speed tool has been a major change in baseball and overall, I think, not for the better. There used to be alot of pitchers who carved out good careers without being able to throw 90+. (Yes, the great ones do tend to have the speed tool, but there are plenty of guys throwing – not really pitching- in the upper 90s getting lit up as well) The ones who can’t now tend to all be guys that could when they were scouted or signed. The ones who never touch 90 today can have pinpoint control and wicked breaking stuff and changeups, but still either go unsigned or get no signing bonuses and have to spend two or three times as long proving it in the minors before getting a shot. They are usually moved to relief even if they are successful somewhere along that road to add a couple of MPH with shorter stints at higher effort.

    The reliance on the radar gun has completely changed the way pitchers pitch in their developmental years. It is all about speed now, because that is what gets the money, and that is what gets them their shot. The pitching injuries that seem more prevalent today (IMO) come from the constant need to keep the speed up on every pitch from an early age. You can monitor pitch counts all you like, there is still more wear and tear on the arm, especially in the developmental years and that leads to more injuries.

    The other day I saw a story on ESPN about the girl who threw a shutout in the little league world series. The title was “Mo’ne throws heat” with a picture of her releasing what was clearly a curveball. Perhaps she is fast, (I was watching in a place without sound on the TV) but the mini highlight reel showed alot of 13 year olds flailing at a pretty wicked curve. I wonder if they talked about the speed of her fastball more than the excellent curve. I think they probably did. It is all about the number today.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Her 70 mph fastball is nice, but is pretty common at that age. And if you throw “only” 70 without command or a good second pitch, LL hitters these days will light you up. So, I’m guessing the curveball and command make her a very good, if not not lights out dominant LL pitcher.

      As a side note, my son pitched in LL and was 12-0 with a sub 1.00 ERA. His team won the championship behind him throwing a full six inning shutout in the championship game. (pre pitch count LL). But, he threw more like 60 mph. So even though he dominated the league with a late moving two seam fastball, a dominant change up, pinpoint control and the ability to go up in the zone with a 4 seamer, the All Star coach refused to believe he could get AS players out and wouldn’t pitch him. The crazy part was that he dominated the AS coaches team 3 times during the season, and he still thought it was some kind of mirage. So, the need for speed infiltrated even youth ball, and this was 8 years ago.

      Reply
  14. George

    Joe wrote: 1. 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.

    Just to play devil’s advocate on this point, is it possible that Dombrowski was correct that Smyly needed to be in the rotation to establish value, and his value has manifested itself in him being a centerpiece to acquire David Price?

    Reply
  15. Jeff

    So your argument is that the Tigers, with a rotation of Price, Scherzer, Sanchez, Verlander, and Porcello, need another starting pitcher. Yeah, that makes sense. I guess they were also wrong to trade Fielder, since they only have Martinez and Cabrera to fill the 1B/DH slots.

    Reply
  16. Jeff

    “This leads to my guess: I just don’t think the Tigers trusted Fister coming into the season. They have a pitching staff loaded with dazzling stuff and, against that canvas, Fister’s sinkers and sliders just seemed uninteresting to them. ”

    This statement is not only stupid (no player in the history of the game has been traded because he’s “uninteresting”), it’s patently false if you listened to anything that Tigers’ management said after the trade. They were high on Ray as a prospect, they wanted to move Smyly to the rotation, and they had a surplus of starting pitching. Fister is scheduled for arbitration next year and will probably get north of $10M a year. Ray has a league-minimum contract ($500K / yr) through at least 2017. Finally, small sample size, but Ray’s FIP of 3.63 is almost identical to Fister’s FIP of 3.55.

    Reply
    1. Paul Zummo

      “They were high on Ray as a prospect, they wanted to move Smyly to the rotation, and they had a surplus of starting pitching.”

      Thanks for that clarification Jeff. If only Joe had bothered to mentioned this in the article.

      Oh. Wait.

      Reply
  17. Anon21

    “I don’t think many teams around baseball appreciated Fister. I mean Dombrowski’s a smart guy – you know he shopped Fister around, and it seems the Nationals’ uninspiring offer was the best one made.”

    Dombrowski is a smart guy, but I don’t actually know that he shopped Fister around. That contradicts a fair amount of contemporaneous reporting that the trade came as a big surprise to most other teams, and that many GMs said afterwards that they could have and would have beat the Nationals’ offer. I think Dombrowski simply got snookered… that or he had just put down a large bet on the Nationals winning the pennant.

    Reply
    1. KHAZAD

      I agree that the trade was a pretty big surprise around baseball. The reaction around my team was that they wished they had known Fister was even available, especially at such a low price,although my team is in the same division and might not have had a chance at him.
      I do have an Uncle who is good friends with someone in pretty high in a National league team’s front office and I know they wish they had the chance to make an offer before the trade.

      Reply
  18. Jeff

    “3. Money? No. When 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.”

    Look, I know I’m kinda ragging on you now, but you can’t link the Fister trade to the Price signing. The Fister trade gave the Tigers payroll flexibility (pretty soon afterwards, they made the extension offer to Scherzer, if you remember). Could they have traded for Price if they hadn’t saved $8M – $10M a year by trading Fister (and also, by the way, dumped Jackson’s contract in the process)? Maybe, maybe not. But teams do not have unlimited payrolls, so you can’t say “Trading for Price proves they could have paid Fister”. It’s simply not true.

    Reply
  19. Jeff

    My point is that Joe’s rebuttal of the reasons for the Fister trade aren’t logically sound. The fact that they were high on Smyly isn’t disproven by their willingness to trade him for one of the best pitchers in baseball. The fact they were high on Ray isn’t disproven by Ray’s “struggles” (FIP of 3.63) in his first few big league starts, and I address the Money comment below. To say that Fister was traded because the Tigers found his stuff “uninspiring
    is ludicrous. And to say that the trade was a disaster is, at best, premature, and may ultimately prove to be incorrect.

    Reply
  20. Jeff

    …or he saw value in trading a 31-yr old SP with an injury history for a cost-controller 23-yr old pitcher that his scouts really liked, which allowed him to save $10M a year for the next 4 years.

    Reply
  21. mmaattw

    So…this is not just an MLB thing. My son is 12 and fits the mold of a young Doug Fister. On his team, there were a few harder throwers and they got the majority of the time on the mound. They would generally walk or hit two or three batters each inning which leads to a lot of scoring for the other team. Because of strict pitch counts, they usually could only pitch one or two innings and the coach would find another hard thrower to repeat the process. We didn’t win many games.

    Anyway, on the last game of the season, the coach reluctantly gives my boy the ball and he throws four innings of 1 run ball. The genius coach said, “Wow, he pitched great. Maybe I should have had him pitch more this season”.

    Reply
    1. Matt Schlichting

      I once pitched the last inning of a season after asking the coach to pitch all year long. Only then did he put me on the mound, and I struck out the side. I was around the same age.

      After multiple coaches with that kind of thinking — I didn’t “look” fast or I didn’t “look” slick in the field and I didn’t throw “hard enough” even though I struck people out — I started playing basketball.

      Reply
  22. Mark Daniel

    I thought the Fister trade was for money – i.e. they were gearing up to sign Scherzer. It did make little sense to me, but a lot of what the Tigers do makes no sense.
    For example, signing Prince Fielder, a slow, defensively challenged 1st baseman, to a massive long term contract when their best player was already a slow, defensively challenged first baseman who was in the middle of a massive long term contract. At the same time, they failed to find a 2nd baseman who could play at the professional level.

    Another example was when Jose Valverde turned into a batting practice machine in the 2012 playoffs, leading the Tigers to turn to Phil Coke to be the closer. In the offseason, they paid almost no attention to the bullpen.

    And then there’s Don Kelly, a below average defender with a career OPS+ of 70 who continues to get 200 or so PA’s per season, and is often seen striding to the plate late in games in key situations with men on base…

    Reply
  23. Artie

    In an oddly related story, Bill Barnwell over at Grantland just published a piece about speed in the NFL–40 yard dash times, that is. The five fastest teams in football according to his metric are Tennessee, Washington, NY Jets, Buffalo, and Cleveland. The five slowest are Denver, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and New England. Anyone notice any patterns?

    http://grantland.com/features/fastest-teams-nfl/

    Reply
  24. Jeff

    Old, slow QBs win games in the NFL.

    Weighting your QB’s 40-time the same as your #1WR and your best CB seemed foolish to me. Also couldn’t figure out why he excluded LB.

    Reply
  25. Jeff

    Mark’s 100% right. It was about money. Or as Dombrowski put it at the time, “payroll flexibility”. They $40-$50M saved on Fister, they saved $40-$50M on the Fielder-Kinsler trade, and they offered Scherzer $144M.

    The Fielder signing made sense at the time. V-Mart had just gotten hurt and Cabrera had no protection in the lineup. Cabrera volunteered to move to 3B, so you plug Fielder in at 1st, and put V-Mart at DH when he comes back. The plan was to let V-Mart walk after 2 years, then have Fielder/Cabrera man 1B/DH for the next 5 years. Not a bad 3-4 in the lineup. But Fielder aged faster than hoped, then wore out his welcome in Detroit, so DD (brilliantly) flipped him to Texas for an All-Star 2B and $50M in payroll flexibility.

    Reply
    1. NevadaMark

      Cabrera needed PROTECTION in the lineup? The best hitter in baseball? I thought that canard had been discarded years ago.

      Reply
  26. Grant

    Nats fan here. Getting Fister was nice, but it wasn’t a “season-saving trade.” Fister has been worth 1.5 WAR this year. His SIERA is 3.82. His K/9 has declined for 2 straight years at a time when batters are striking out more than ever.

    I like Fister, but the Nats don’t want him to be their best pitcher in October.

    Reply
    1. Mark

      fWAR is 1.5, as it is based on FIP. rWAR is 3.7. He’s been very valuable. We can debate if it’s likely to continue…

      Reply
  27. Ian

    The Twins had some nice success with control/command guys who didn’t always throw hard. Radke was easily the best (really underrated pitcher) but they got some good seasons out of guys like Carlos Silva (who got a 48m FA deal), Blackburn (two 2+ WAR years), Slowey, and old Pavano.

    Reply
  28. btilghman

    I remember hearing that Earl Weaver, who introduced radar guns into baseball, was less interested in how hard someone through than in the differentials. More evidence that the man was years ahead of his time.

    Reply
  29. hardy

    A Fister-style pitcher is particularly effective after a Verlander or a Strasberg – really throws the hitters’ timing off. (Think Randy Johnson/Jamie Moyer.) Just as you don’t want all right-handers, you don’t want all fast-ball pitchers in your rotation. Seems like an obvious point, but a lot of teams don’t seem to get it.

    Reply
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  31. Moeball

    The Astros used to throw hitters off by having Ryan and Niekro next to each other in the rotation. Would drive batters nutz.

    Reply
  32. Up2Drew

    I recently had the opportunity to attend three major league games featuring six different teams in a week. I was struck by the parade of relievers the teams used and how similar they were. One after the other – right-hander, 93-98 mph, with a cutter or slider. I almost wondered why they bothered changing pitchers – it was just the same guy over and over again. A left-hander would make an occasional appearance but he was only trusted to face the opposition’s left-handed hitter in a game situation. I really think these hard throwers are the only guys MLB orgs sign and promote anymore. It’s amazing Fister made it up to the major league level.

    Reply
  33. Carlton Howard III

    What’s the number one reason hitters don’t make the majors? Can’t hit the breaking ball(s).

    So what’s the number one thing scouts/teams/coaches are looking for? A pitcher with a fastball in the mid to high 90s!!!

    Money quote (from Porcello as he as stumping for the vote to make the All Star roster):

    “Hitters up here can time a bullet. You won’t have success without movement.”

    Reply
  34. Janice Rathmann

    I think the Price trade was ill advised. Smyly is already a pretty good pitcher so the upgrade to Price *this year* may not be that significant. Trading away Austin Jackson was a huge mistake. He was one of their best offensive players over the previous month plus. But it was NOT a desperate trade. The trade was made as much or more for next season. Scherzer turned down a huge amount of money to be able to enter free agency after this season. With the likelihood that Scherzer is gone after this season, David Price will fill a huge void… and the Tigers have a large pot of money to try entice Price to stay after next year (and they’ll also have to find a 5th starter somewhere).

    Reply
  35. Brent

    I would point out that Fister’s handedness also plays a part in this. A lefty with fair to middling speed is much more likely to command respect as a quality pitcher than a righty.

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