I don’t deny the rapport that general managers must build with each other to be successful in this industry. I embrace it. There must be a sense of trust to complete a deal. There must be a sense of equity in a trade. One team doesn’t want to feel ripped off, although it might be in the competition’s interest for that team to get ripped off. For order to be had in the economy of baseball a reputation must be built. Jack Zduriencik is building a good reputation.
It’s not a coincidence that it feels like Mariners players are consistently being traded to the Royals or Tigers. It’s because of the relationship. It’s because they have that rapport. The GMs can call on each other for favors, and hopefully, the end results yield beneficial to both parties.
Roles are important in these types of transactions. Typical roles that usually envelope these trades are the buyer and seller roles. The team with the soon-to-be, highly-sought-after commodity will usually try to trade off that player, and thus occupies the seller role. Much like the roles that GMs play in the front office, there are roles within the pitching staff. The number one pitcher is expected to be the ace of the club, to be the most reliable pitcher on the staff. The number five pitcher is there to eat up innings, and they are usually expected to give up runs. The number five pitcher is a humbling position, because no one wants to be the number five pitcher.
Game one of the American League Division Series was postponed yesterday to be played today. Instead of Justin Verlander being the pitcher than the Detroit Tigers could count on to pitch twice in the series, Doug Fister now occupies that role. He will pitch tonight, and he will pitch again if there is a game five. Doug Fister has gone from being a number five starter, to a number two starter – and because of the role he plays in this series, he could be considered a number one starter.
How Fister does in his start tonight will indirectly influence the way general managers critique Zduriencik’s quality of talent evaluation.
So how about that Doug Fister character? It’s amazing what a little run support can do to a pitcher’s mentality. I guess I can’t actually say for sure that it was the run support that gave Fister more confidence. I’m not actually in his head, so how could I ever know? Maybe he really likes it there, all the cars, the white rappers and whatever else Detroit is known for. Maybe he hates the rain! It makes sense now. He hates the rain. Seattle is not a good place for people who hate rain.
Although uneven in sample size, these are Fister’s lines, both pre-trade and post-trade:
3-12, 146.0 IP, 3.33 ERA, 89 K, 32 BB
8-1, 70.1 IP, 1.79 ERA, 57 K, 5 BB
To further frustrate Fister fans, the Mariners scored one run or less in 10 of the 21 games started by Fister. The Tigers never scored less than two runs while Fister was on the mound.
There’s a multitude of explanations to be extrapolated from this data. One of the things to look at, however, is what teams will think of Zduriencik’s mentality when it comes to moving players. This isn’t the first time Zduriencik has traded a pitcher who had been pitching better than the numbers on the back of his trading card. Jarrod Washburn was having a great year the first half of 2009. However, things didn’t work out so well for Washburn as they did with Fister:
8-6, 133.0 IP, 2.64 ERA, 79 K, 33 BB
1-3, 43.0 IP, 7.33 ERA, 21 K, 16 BB
Fister has been dominant in his tenure at Detroit. This means a couple things for Seattle fans. Firstly, this implies that Zduriencik is willing to trade a quality player. Often times analysts say that one team had won a trade or lost a trade, in regards to the production of those respective players. When J.J. Putz was traded to the Mets, it was thought that it was a win for the Mariners, since Franklin Gutierrez was an instant fit in center field. Fast forward to today: Gutierrez is constantly on the shelf, while Mike Carp is now the prize of the trade, and Putz is the closer of a team in the playoffs. It’s easy to say that the Tigers have won this trade, but we don’t know what level we got in return is going to produce at.
Secondly, this implies that Zduriencik’s barometer of talent evaluation is to be trusted. Pitchers are fickle. Even more fickle than the weather in New York. It’s hard to say that Zduriencik knew that Fister would turn into an ace-quality pitcher as soon as he left Seattle. Maybe Zduriencik thought he would become another Washburn. What we can say, however, is that both of these pitchers pitched well before they were traded. Zduriencik has no control over what happens once they leave the dominion of Seattle. If they go on to be the next Sandy Koufax, good for them, he couldn’t have predicted it. If they go on to be the next Miguel Batista, too bad, he couldn’t have predicted it. The only two things that other teams can be sure of is that Zduriencik is willing to trade a quality player, and that, for the most part, his eye for talent can be trusted.
Cut to: the off-season. As much as it pains me to think about it, no one is safe. Felix Hernandez isn’t safe. Michael Pineda isn’t safe. Dustin Ackley isn’t safe. I tell myself that, if Zduriencik traded away one of the pieces of this puzzle that I had invested so much emotionally into, I would be okay with it. I’d have to trust the decision. It’s too much frustration to worry with the what ifs. What if this player is traded, what if that player is traded. I do find solace in Zduriencik’s ability to wheel and deal. If Doug Fister performs well tonight, it only bodes well for Seattle Mariners fans.
If he pitches well four games from now, then maybe we should start thinking that the Tigers won that trade.
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