Jason Beck at MLB.com is writing about it, and if it has progressed that far then you know the secret is out: what the Tigers needed most in the ALCS (and didn’t have) was another good right-handed arm in the bullpen. I’m sure they knew it going in too – it’s no secret what lineup the Rangers are going to field – but a hittable Perry, a wild Alburquerque and an unusable Penny were the best options Leyland had to fill out the roster. Oh, and two southpaws against a lineup with two left-handed bats.
Know who would have come in handy? Chance Ruffin.
Now I’m not saying that the deal wasn’t worth it – Fister has earned some respect – and I’m not saying that I’d rather the Tigers had kept Ruffin over Castellanos or Smyly – Castellanos is the only real position prospect we’ve got and Smyly is killing it for Team USA. But… I sure wish that Dombrowski could have swung a Fister deal that took less from the major league roster. And, yes, Chance Ruffin was and is a major league reliever already. In his first season in pro ball Ruffin put up a 2.03 ERA with 60 Ks in 48 2/3 between AA and AAA before getting the coffee call from Detroit. After the trade to Seattle, he never went back to the minors and finished with a 4.08 ERA and averaged over a strikeout an inning.
If that 4.08 ERA doesn’t sound all that impressive – compare it to Ryan Perry’s 5.35 and bear in mind that Ruffin looks to be a righty-killing righty – whether or not he can ultimately develop enough control to be a real relief ace. The vast majority of the damage dealt to him in this small sample was by left-handed bats, who are known to be scarce in the Rangers clubhouse. Maybe just having Ruffin as a middle-innings or extra-innings option (over, say, Brad Penny) is enough to get Detroit to the series… Who would have thought he’d be missed this soon?