The Tigers And Joe Saunders
By John Verburg
Yesterday, in an article about Tiger killer Luke Scott, I alluded to another non-tendered player being a possibility for the Tigers. That guy, if you read the headline of this article, must be Joe Saunders. What I also mentioned yesterday is the distinct possibility that I may have some form of a stomach virus by the time I am finished writing this article. Joe Saunders potentially being on the Tigers does not thrill me to say the least. Well, I have stocked up on the Pepto, and got myself a vomit bucket nearby, so I can trudge ahead here.
Let’s take a look at Joe Saunders as a potential Tiger.
Saunders is the very reason if I ever have a kid, and that kid is a boy, I plan on placing a baseball in his left hand from the start. If you can throw 85+ mph left-handed, chances are, you might just get a shot playing professional baseball. The hope is I could retire early on my sons’ salary. My personal dream aside for my yet-to-be born offspring, the point remains valid. Left-handed pitching is a valuable commodity, regardless of velocity, because of its rarity relative to right handers. Say those last few words five times fast. Alliteration is abound here.
The Tigers, while they might not be diving head first into pitching market, given their youthful top 4 starters, they have been dabbling around guys like Gio Gonzalez. Specifically, they are looking for a left-handed pitcher to help balance out their 4 right-handed starters. With the cost of guys like Gonzalez being off the charts right now, the Tigers could be looking for a lower cost version, and that should be Saunders. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks have appeared to give up on re-signing Saunders because it looks like he is looking for too much.
So what if Saunders demands come back down to earth when he finds there isn’t a big market for him?
The Tigers should at least kick the tires on this one, given that Saunders isn’t nearly as bad as I am trying to make him out to be. In fact, he is a perfect 5th starter. Saunders will give his new team 180 to 200 innings in all likelihood, and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of an ERA of 4.50 to 4.75. For those that think he is just a lefty version of Brad Penny, Saunders numbers are pretty significantly better over his career in the American League than Penny’s.
Last season, at the age of 30, Saunders had his best season in quite some time for the Diamondbacks. It’s no wonder he is trying to cash in. He went 12-13 for Arizona with a 3.69 ERA. Now, I am not living in the dark ages, so I am not going to let the ERA fool me. His FIP and his xFIP for his career are in the mid 4’s. Saunders is what he is, a guy that has a poor K rate, a guy who gives up the home run, and a guy whose stuff is flat out hittable. He also takes the ball every 5th day, and he also battles despite not being the most overpowering pitcher to say the least.
I will say this. Saunders can break a pane of glass with his fastball. Last season, Fangraphs has him averaging 89.6 mph on his fastball. That isn’t a soft tossing lefty. That is pretty average velocity. He couples that with a solid change and a pretty pedestrian curve ball. Watching Saunders in a Tigers uniform would be like watching a slightly better version of NatE. Robertson.
I know how you feel. There are probably tons (hopefully) of Tigers fans reading this thinking I have gone off the deep end. I haven’t. I am just trying to relay some information here. Information that is undoubtedly tough to swallow. While I immediately would like to say no to bring Saunders to Detroit, there is somewhat of a fit here if Saunders lowers his demands. He fits the Tigers needs rather well. And……oh……by the way, Saunders pitches really well at Comerica Park. It is just 4 starts and 26 innings, but he does own an ERA of 3.04. Maybe his home run rate gets cut down in Detroit?
He also pitches well against the A.L Central too, with really solid to good performances against all but Minnesota, and even then his career ERA against the Twins is 4.88.
I must say that even though, there is some fit, and some positives to Saunders wearing a Tigers uniform, I wouldn’t do this at more than a year with a club option, and only at a reasonable price of 4M dollars or so. I don’t think Saunders is going to go for that after the year he had last year. I see him landing on a pitching staff that isn’t very good, and he will likely be a stop gap option at the top of their rotation. Pittsburgh or Kansas City maybe?
What do you all think? Let the comments fly. If I don’t answer, you know where I will be, I got a…uh..stomach issue to take care of.