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Numbers Game: Nationals acquire Fister from Tigers

Scott Cullen
12/2/2013 10:30:28 PM
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The Detroit Tigers traded a high-quality starting pitcher for a mediocre package of players and prospects from the Washington Nationals.

Numbers Game looks at the Nationals' acquisition of Doug Fister.

The Nationals Get: RHP Doug Fister.

Fister, 29, has been a highly-effective, if underrated, pitcher for the last three seasons. While his record in that span is merely 35-32, Fister has a 3.30 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

Early in his career, Fister wasn't much of a strikeout pitcher, relying on his sinker to generate groundball outs, striking out 5.0 per nine innings over his first two seasons. However, Fister got much better as a strikeout pitcher upon arriving in Detroit, throwing significantly more breaking balls. For example, in his second major league season, with Seattle, Fister threw either a slider or curve on 18.7% of his pitches.

Over the last three years, that has increased from 32.6% to 33.6% to 34.6% last season. So, even with lacklustre velocity, including a fastball that averages 88.6 MPH, Fister has seen his strikeout numbers climb. In 70 games with the Tigers, Fister has whiffed 7.2 batters per nine innings, which isn't dominant, but is dramatically better than his first couple of seasons with the Mariners.

All told, Fister has a fWAR of 13.3 over the last three seasons, which ranks ninth among starting pitchers in that span. Seriously, ninth! What we're indicating here is that, while he may not have the name recognition, Doug Fister is a very good starting pitcher.

Fister hasn't faced a lot of National League competition, making five career Inter-League starts, but has a 2.23 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings, an indication (in a very small sample) that the move to the NL shouldn't pose a problem.

Fister, who made $4-million in 2013, is arbitration-eligible for the next couple seasons, but is ultimately very affordable for a starting pitcher is of his calibre. Joining a Washington Nationals rotation that already includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez makes it easy for Fister to come in and perform, without any pressure to be the staff ace.

There's a whole lot to like about this deal for the Nationals. It's the kind of trade that could put them over the top as contenders next season.

The Tigers Get: INF Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Robbie Ray and LHP Ian Krol.

Lombardozzi is a 25-year-old utility player who has played at least 20 games at second base, third base and left field in the course of his two-plus major league seasons. He doesn't hit for power (.342 career slugging percentage) and doesn't get on base (.297 career on-base percentage) so, without notable offensive improvement, he's no more than a fill-in at the major league level.

Ray, a 22-year-old southpaw, was a 12th-round pick of the Nationals in 2010. Splitting the 2013 season between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, Ray was 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, striking out 160 in 142 innings. He could develop into a major league starting pitcher, but he's not there yet and that means there is risk in his projection.

Krol, 22, is a lefthanded reliever who pitched 32 games for the Nationals last season, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 27 1/3 innings, striking out 22 and walking eight. Those are respectable enough numbers and, given his age, it's fair to expect improvement, but lefthanded relievers have a limited impact on the game as a whole.

Krol's presence should allow Drew Smyly to move into the Tigers' rotation, taking Fister's place. Smyly was excellent in relief last season, posting a 2.39 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, with 81 strikeouts in 76 innings. Even if Smyly is a wonderful addition to the Tigers' starting rotation, that won't justify the relative pittance that Detroit received in return for Fister.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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