Saturday, February 12, 2011

About That Depth in the Rotation...

You may remember that Andy Oliver debuted for the Tigers last year. You may remember it because he didn't fare especially well, particularly after his first two starts, when things got a little ugly. You may now be cringing when people talk about him being called upon if someone in the rotation falters.

It's a good time to remind ourselves that Oliver was drafted in 2009. Last year was his first year as a professional. He made 14 starts in Erie before being promoted to Toledo. After only 9 starts there, wham!, he's tasting the bigs. He's 23 years old. His fastball is "firm" (to bring a Rod Allen-ism playfully/painfully to life) in the mid 90s. He sometimes lacked command of it last year. According to Baseball Reference, Oliver had a 1.28 combined WHIP in the minors last year, struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings, while walking 3.5. While sipping a cup of coffee with the Tigers over five starts, again courtesy Baseball Reference, Oliver's WHIP ballooned to 1.77. He struck out 7.4 per nine, but walked 5.3.

In an interview with Freep writer John Lowe, Dave Dombrowski admits "we kind of threw him to the wolves." Kind of? I would like to upgrade and expand that phrase to "we sacrificed this kid on a spit, shredded his flesh and pacified some menacing cannibals with it." I mean, he had only 23 starts in the rearview mirror before he is standing on the mound, surrounded by 30,000+ crowd, with the Tigers in the playoff chase (his starts were between June 25 and July), facing veteran ball-crushers like Jim Thome. It's not that I think minor leaguers can't come up and be confident and successful. But a little seasoning, a natural progression...these things work, they make sense.

I realize that when Oliver was brought up, Porcello had to be sent down to Toledo to work on his own issues. But that just points to the larger organizational problem--a lack of spot starters.

All of this has been to say that I hope Oliver gets a nice long stint with the Hens this year before any need arises for him to come up and put on the Old English D. Let's not have any throwing to wolves this year, 'K, Dave?

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