Jun 14, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Alfredo Simon (31) pitches in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
On December 11, the Detroit Tigers acquired Alfredo Simon from the Cincinnati Reds for Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford. Fans questioned the moved after seeing Simon’s checkered past off the field and his inconsistent play on the field, but he has been a strong acquisition thus far.
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In 2014, Simon was an all-star with the Reds as he posted a 15-10 record with a 3.44 ERA, 1.207 WHIP and 4.33 FIP. His 2014 was a tale of two halves with his first half performance with a 12-3 record, 2.70 ERA and 1.046 WHIP. His second half performance was not good at 3-8, with a 4.52 ERA and 1.444 WHIP. His strikeout rate stayed consistent between the two halves at 5.8 and 5.9 K/9, but was below his career rate of 6.3 K/9.
Simon has worked mostly as a reliever in his career, but he has been the Tigers’ second best starter in 2015. Twelve starts into the season, Simon has a 2.58 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 3.59 FIP, and 6.4 K /9 and 2.22 K /BB rates. He is due for a correction between his ERA and FIP, but not as sharp of a correction as 2014.
One large difference for Simon is his performance at home. Simon has a 1.575 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and 7.2 K /9, and 3.2 K /BB rates at Comerica Park compared to a 3.74 ERA, 1.248 WHIP, 5.7 K/9 and 2.32 K/BB at the Great American Ballpark, a hitter’s park. He also surrendered 13 home runs at home in 2014, compared only 1 at Comerica Park in 2015.
Simon has shown that he has evolved as a starting pitcher from 2014 to 2015, not by his numbers, but by his style of pitching and pitch selection. In 2014, he relied mainly on his fastball at 58.5% with a pitch speed average of 94.0 MPH. In 2015, he has relied much less on his fastball at 46.5% with an average velocity of 92.5 MPH. He has thrown the cutter 13.8% this season as much as he did in 2014 at 13.3%.
The big change Simon has made has been cutting back on the curveball (down 11.2% in 2014 to 5.1% in 2015) while relying on his splitter (up from 17.0% in 2014 to 34.6% in 2015). Although FanGraphs has rated it a negative pitch, Simon’s splitter has made a huge difference. He can throw it in any count, up and down. When it’s up, the splitter acts like a knuckleball. When it’s down, it dives to hitters cannot hit a home run or hard line drive. It also changes the eye level of the hitter, making his fastball and cutter more effective.
If Simon can consistently throw his splitter, it will save stress on his arm from throwing fastballs which could help him strong in the second half of the season. Since he was a reliever for most of his career, he has a harder time pitching as his innings count rises. The Tigers hope his splitter use and another year in the rotation will help Simon stay strong in the second half of the season.