Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tigers Set to Acquire Fister from Mariners in Six-Player Deal

According to multiple national reports, the Tigers are apparently set to acquire starting pitcher Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from the Mariners for lefty Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells third baseman Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later.  The centerpiece of the deal for the Tigers is Fister who will join the starting rotation.  The Tigers are giving up a lot in return, but will be able to hold onto prized prospects pitcher Jacob Turner and third baseman Nick Castellanos.

The right-handed Fister has a 3.33 ERA and 89/32 K/BB ratio with just 7 homers allowed in 146 innings for the Mariners this year.  Although he is a giant at six-foot-eight, Fister does not strike out a lot of batters - just 5.2 per nine innings for his career.  He has thrived by avoiding walks (1.9 per 9 IP) and home runs (0.7 per 9 IP).

The biggest red flag with Fister is his home/road split.  He has a 3.42 career ERA at Safeco versus 4.40 on the road.  Still, I keep going back to his low walk rate which is something that will play well in any park.  

One statistic you can ignore even more than usual is Fister's won/loss record.  How does a pitcher go 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA?  Is it because he doesn't know how to win?  It probably has more to do with the fact the Mariners have scored two runs or fewer in 16 of his 21 starts.  He can expect a lot better run support with the Tigers. 

Pauley has made a successful conversion from starter to reliever in 2011 posting a 2.15 ERA in 39 appearances.  The soft-tossing right-hander is not as stellar as his ERA indicates.  He has a decent 34/16 K/BB ratio, but has probably been somewhat fortunate in limiting hits and homers.

He has allowed just 23% of batted balls in play to land safely this year compared to 29% for his career.  He also has had just 4% of his fly balls go for homers versus 10% for his career.  He is not likely to keep up either of those 2011 rates.

Despite their limitations, both Fister and Pauley should be solid additions to the Tigers staff.  Fister should be a clear upgrade over others who have pitched in the fifth slot this year.  That's not to say he is a "fifth starter".  Ideally, he will be their fourth best pitcher but he's replacing the other fifth starters. Pauley should be a capable middle reliever which is something the Tigers desperately need.  

It's a risky deal no doubt.  The biggest fear is that the 20-year-old Martinez could blossom into a star.  He has a long way to go though and chances are it will never happen.  The Tigers trying to win now and you need to give up something to get useful pitchers.  So, I think it's a fair deal for both sides.

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