The Thing About Andy Oliver


First and foremost, let me get one thing clear; Andy Oliver has the ability to effectively pitch in the majors. This piece isn’t meant to declare Oliver a bust or doubt his ability to contribute to the Tigers in any way, shape or form.

However, the Tigers blueprint of exactly how he can contribute many need to be altered.

Unlike 2010 this was a season to forget for prospect Andrew Oliver. 2011 featured an increase in all the wrong numbers, including BB/9, hits, home runs and ERA. UZR, WAR,  Zips, Flips and whatever other saber oriented statistics are out there, were all less-than stellar this season too. Despite the overall regression, one thing remained constant. Oliver continued to miss bats, striking out nearly a batter an inning which is encouraging. Regardless, the southpaw prospect took a bit of a step back this season.

Next season the soon-to-be 24-year-old  will be entering his third season of professional baseball. When drafted, Oliver was thought to be a prospect that wouldn’t need much seasoning down on the farm. Unfortunately, his time in Toledo hasn’t turned many heads. Both of his brief call-ups were met with the same disappointing results too. His failure to develop an effective third pitch continues to keep him from taking the next step.  Oliver’s inability to pound the strike zone and limit walks probably doesn’t help matters either. In a nutshell, the left-handed version of Jeremy Bonderman is quickly learning how difficult it is to survive without a third pitch.

Plain and simple, the Detroit Tigers are at a crossroads with Andy Oliver.

Oliver’s fastball alone gives him a solid shot at being an effective MLB pitcher. In addition to the fastball, his power slider shows potential. Though it also lacks consistency, his low to mid 80’s slider flashes signs of brilliance a strikeout pitch. On the other hand, Olivers change-up continues to be an inconsistent, undeveloped offering. Sadly, the rare times that hell freezes and it’s on  it remains a mediocre addition to his arsenal.

Awesome! So what the heck do you do with a left-handed two pitch hurler?

Despite the aggressive/insane reliever draft of 2008, the Tigers lack a great deal of relief options. That list thins out even more when it’s sorted from the left side. Perhaps Andy Oliver can help fill that void. After-all, he was in fact widely considered a late inning reliever by scouts when he was drafted. It was mainly the Tigers who spoon-fed us these unrealistic expectations of him as a starter. Again, I’m not knocking Oliver, I’m only suggesting that it may be time to move him to a more appropriate role. Plain and simple, Oliver’s floor as a reliever is far greater than this current pipe dream as a starter. Regardless of his role next season, Oliver simply must learn to throw strikes and limit walks in order to survive. His future as a starter will definitely hinge upon that and his development of a third pitch. Twenty-four isn’t exactly ancient but as far as the Detroit Tigers are concerned it’s knocking on that very door. Historically the Tigers waste very little time developing prospects. They are notorious for dealing them away or granting them their outright release. One thing is certain, next season will be a critical season for Andy Oliver and his role in the Detroit Tigers organization.