How To Convince Your Facebook Friend That The Fister Trade Is a Great Deal

Doug Fister

The Nats101 Website was created to introduce new fans to baseball-particularly in a city relatively new to the idea of having a team.  As such, we’ve directed much of our commentary towards trying to make smarter, more inclusive and congenial baseball fans.

A few years later though, and many of you who started this journey with us are kind of “caught up” if you will.  Combined with the folks who already liked baseball, the demand for “explain this to me!” has dwindled a bit.  While we’ll still focus on that plenty (and there is always something to learn) it’s clear we need to up our game a bit.

As such, it’s time to go on the offensive a bit.  Rather than wait for folks to come to us, it’s time we took the message of baseball to them-and what better place than to start in the MASN Comments section on Facebook.  While all of Twitter was rejoicing in the stunningly good trade the Nationals made with the Detroit Tigers for starting pitcher Doug Fister, the relative backwater township (that is probably any comment section, actually) of the Facebook MASN post on the trade was enraged.  Unjustly so.

And so, with the help of MASNCommenter (A genius idea that is only funny because of how truly out there some people are) and some paraphrasing here and there, I am going to explain the trade for Doug Fister in a way even a commenter can understand. (I hope).

Basically, to recap, all of Twitter did this upon the news:

Jas Gif Artie GIF

And all of Facebook went like this:

Glee GIF Dr_-Who GIF

Let’s address their concerns, shall we?

Well, I’ll take this literally.  The Nationals have sent the players Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray (Minor Leaguer) to the Detroit Tigers.  In exchange they’ve received Starting Pitcher Doug Fister.

Well, validity might not be the word you’re looking for here-but I tell you what. I’ll give you three one dollar bills, and you give me one 10 dollar bill. By your standard you’ve made out like a bandit.  You’re plus 2!  Great job.

Seriously, that’s about how I’d rate this trade.  The Nats got a 10 spot for three bucks.  Cyber Monday deal, indeed.

But, hey.  Let’s be honest.  99% of the negative reaction to this trade is about one thing, and one thing only:

Yep, the enduring love for the scrappy little guy that could, Steve Lombardozzi.  I’ve written ad nauseam about Lombo and my thinly veiled disdain for people who make him out to be the best thing since baseball.  But now, once and for all, it’s time to put an end to this nonsense that Steve Lombardozzi was some enduringly important piece of the Washington Nationals puzzle-vital to any and all success they had.

Here, then, is my response to the Lombo Lobby, once and for all:

1. Fangraphs rated Lombo as a -0.7 fWAR.  I know we haven’t covered what WAR is on the “Get To Know a Stat” yet, but let’s just say negative is bad.  It means, at least as far as Fangraphs is concerned, you’d have been better off playing the second baseman from the Syracuse Chiefs over Steve Lombardozzi.

He was also -13.2 on the Offense score (below average) and -3.2 on Defense (below average).  That means take an average IF (not good or great, just average) in the MLB, subtract a bunch of runs for your team and add a bunch more for the other team and you’ve got Steve Lombardozzi.

If you rank all players regardless of number of plate appearances from worst to first, Steve Lombardozzi is in the top 40 worst performers of 2013. (fWAR). The only thing he “killed” last year, was the team.

2. Maybe you’re not a fancy stat kind of person though.  Okay.  His slash line .259/.278/338 is nothing to get worked up over.  A .259 batting average isn’t awful for a bench player by any stretch, but it isn’t starter material-especially when it is combined with a guy who doesn’t draw walks (.278? You kidding me?) and has no power (.338 means he barely could get the ball in the outfield).

Lombo was indeed a jack of all trades (you could put him anywhere and he wouldn’t absolutely wreck the position), but he was also a master of none. seriously?  Clutch Pinch Hitter? 289/341/408 career pinch-hitting is not clutch.  While it might be an OK average if that was how he played all the time (and maybe would start to warrant some of this gushing for a bench player) it’s nothing to write home about.

I guess if your only qualification for clutch is “better than he normally is” then, okay.  But his normal was pretty bad, and his “clutch” doesn’t do anything for me.  You can get a guy to hit like this just about anywhere in the league.

And sorry, but “contact” hitter is code for a guy who hits weakly and gets lucky sometimes.  The fact he didn’t strikeout a lot is only testament to the fact that he swings and makes contact with lots of pitches he shouldn’t be swinging at.  If he was making good decisions in the batter’s box and not striking out, then his OBP would be much higher than 278 because of all the walks he’d be getting.  He’s not, because, he’s just making contact. Not good contact.  Soft grounder to the (SPECIFY WHATEVER INFIELD POSITION YOU LIKE BEST HERE) contact.

This is the last bit on Lombo (though I could go on and on).  The garbage idea that he didn’t get enough playing time, it wasn’t fair to him, all he needed was a chance is willful ignorance of the facts of his career with the Nationals.  Lombo started 149 games with the Nats and was a sub for 108 of them.  So he started more than he subbed (even if he still didn’t start most games he dressed for).

In 2013 alone he got his big chance, 60 starts for Lombo (thanks to injuries out the Wazzoo).   Danny Espinosa was down and out, and Anthony Rendon wasn’t on the radar yet.  His grand accomplishment in those 60 games where he could prove how great he was to the world? 252/271/317.  He had 6 walks and 28 strikeouts  Shockingly, he had 1 HR and 12 Doubles.  He was so great the Nats decided they needed to retrain their future Third Baseman to be a Second baseman immediately.

He is solidly sub-par.  He doesn’t hit hard enough to drive in runs, he doesn’t get on base often enough to lead off the batting order.  He’s exactly what he is-a substitute.  A very good option for a substitute, but  a sub none the less.  In his time with the Nats that’s what he did nothing to dispel the notion he was anything more.

Look-I get it.  He’s “local” (if you consider basically Baltimore local) and he’s always looking like he tries hard and, yeah, he stretches outs into singles, singles into doubles, etc.  When Steven Lombardozzi plays at 110% he can be a really OK second baseman. But that’s just it:  Lombo’s 110% isn’t Danny Espinosa’s 85% (or Anthony Rendon’s 80%, or Robinson Cano’s 4%), and it might never be.

I wish Lombo the best of luck.  I think its amazing what he gets done on the field, I do. And I’m sure he’ll find ways to contribute in Detroit-but it will be from the bench.

In the meantime, when I want to root for local guys, I’ll root for Zim and Span.

OK.  Now.  Given that your Facebook friend is only going to focus on Steve Lombardozzi, you can pretty much skip the Robbie Ray and Ian Krol parts of the trade (which, in a twist of fate, are clearly the more valuable pieces in my opinion).  Krol has a good chance of making appearances in the Detroit Bullpen and Ray, by many accounts, is going to do the same in the next few years.  Still, a starting pitcher in the hand is worth 1 1/2 in the minors (even if you do throw in Lombo).

Okay, now let’s address the other part of this trade.  What the Nats are getting in return.

Without even having to try, you just load up Fangraphs for 2013 pitchers and boom: Doug Fister is on page 1, listed as the 12th best pitcher (by fWAR) in MLB. At 4.6 he is a full Win above Replacement over Nats Jordan Zimmermann (3.6) and the next closest Nat, starter Stephen Strasburg (3.2).

Why are sports writers and fans insistent on looking at a pitcher’s Win-Loss Record?  When a pitcher loses 1-0 with 7 or 8 innings pitched, are you going to hold that against him? Are you going to praise him for giving up 6 runs in a 12-10 win when he went 5 innings in?  STOP!

Doug Fister averages 6+ Strikeouts a game, gives up less than 2 walks a game, and less than 1 HR a game (0.7 HR’s per game, to be exact).  He isn’t particularly lucky (his LOB% is right in that 70% range and his BABIP against is .332) and he still has 3.5 ERA (3.44 FIP).  He throws Fastball, Slider, Curveball and Change-Up and he throws it with… Finesse.

His average FB is 88 MPH, But the Slider/Curve/Change are all in the low 80’s high 70’s.  As we know, the change in velocity is more key than how fast someone is actually throwing-and Fister has owned this in his brief career. Go ask Detroit fans if they are going to miss Fister (or if Cleveland fans are excited to see him go).

(Aside: Gamers are great when all the other big pieces are set.  On the Nats, they are not).

Nats fans feeling burned by Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson are barking up the wrong tree if they are comparing them to Fister.  Both Haren and Jackson were (are) Veterans with known weaknesses and strengths.  Both signed as Free Agents in the middle/end of their careers, and they were both signed by Rizzo knowing they were a bit of a gamble.  The hope was, in both cases, by just spending some money on one year deals, these guys would show more upside than down, and in both cases it didn’t really work out that way (tho not as bad as many think).

Still- that’s just part of the risk/reward of signing players.  You could end up with an All-Star returning to his former glory for a year, or you could get a jumbled mess. It works out both ways.  This isn’t the case with Fister.

If any recent Nats acquisition measure up as who to compare it to, I’d pick Gio Gonzalez.  Both the A’s and Tigers traded their pitcher (these aren’t Free Agent signings like Jackson/Haren) to the Nats for young prospects/bench players for roughly the same reason-these are star pitchers clubs knew they would have to pay a lot of money to keep.  Money these clubs didn’t have (the A’s) or want to spend elsewhere (the Tigers, probably).

Point being, Fister is not some cast-off.  He’s a young arm, and he’s sought after.  He’s David Price good.  His comparable in the NL as to how good he is?  Jordan Zimmermann. The Nats are the beneficiaries of being a team with some young talent to trade back to Detroit, but more importantly the Nats have room on their payroll to grow (Jayson Werth’s contract included, gang).

(Aside: I maintain the Lerners have never shied away for paying big bucks to players that were worth it.  Concepts of “paying too much” for a player and what not are sort of ill-defined at this point because, really, we don’t know what the Lerner’s upper limits are as far as team payroll.)

Fister is under team control through the end of 2015, and like Gio I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nats try to wrap him up for longer relatively soon. The Tigers wanted Lombo, et. al not because they are great players but because they are cheap players (who will, likely, make room for another big signing or two in the weeks to come).  The Nats are moving in the other direction it’s time to stop playing on the cheap, and start investing in players that can help your team today-not years from now, maybe.

Rest assured, Starting Pitcher wasn’t at the top of the to do list for the Nats- the bench (with or without Lombo) needed upgrades, and the Lefties in the bullpen are a need as well.  Lessons learned from last year, the Nats are likely not going to sit pat at these positions.  These, however, are relatively cheap and easy moves that can be made.  And according to Byron Kerr’s report, it’s something that Mike Rizzo has been asked about-and feels confident he can address.

This is fair approach.  You can’t ever really know how a trade went until it is all said and done.  But that’s draft picks, and decisions and to sign your own guys, and decisions NOT to trade too. It’s life, the universe-everything.  The only thing that can be said is that right now, this moment, there is no way to think that Krol/Ray/Lombo could contribute as much as Fister does-and by a “information at the time of the deal” standard, it’s a great move.

As OK as Lombo was (and as good as Krol/Ray might end up being) you can find other guys that fit those bills.  Passing up an All-Star caliber starting pitcher, however, is not so easy to fix. The Nats wanted to get better, and they did.  There is still plenty left to fix, but it was all the same stuff they needed to fix two days ago-letting go of these players really didn’t harm the team nearly as much as getting Doug Fister will help them.

8 thoughts on “How To Convince Your Facebook Friend That The Fister Trade Is a Great Deal

  1. Pingback: Holding Court: Doug Fister, Ted Lerner and the Luxury Tax – A Story of Hope | Nationals 101

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  3. Pingback: Why Did Fans Like Steve Lombardozzi So Much? | Citizens of Natstown

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