Despite the fact that Al Avila announced that the next signing for the Detroit Tigers would be a utility player, the signing of Mike Aviles came as a bit of a surprise. Then, the release of Kyle Lobstein came as an even bigger surprise. Prior to Aviles joining the team, the 40-man roster was already full, so someone had to go. Why of all people was it Kyle Lobstein?
Apr 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians third baseman Mike Aviles (4) hits a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The fact that Lobstein is a left-handed pitcher in a system that has been a bit low on the lefties is one reason why so many fans were surprised by the deal. In actuality, the Tigers are not as light on lefties at they once were, so Lobstein was expendable. The deal ended up working out in the end for the Tigers because the Pittsburgh Pirates snapped him up just a few days after he was designated for assignment. The Tigers will get cash considerations for the deal.
Why did the Tigers let him go? The best answer is that he just is not that good of a pitcher. He threw a handful of innings in both 2014 and 2015, but did not show enough to make an impression that he needed to stay. In a total of 103 innings pitched, he managed a less-than-inspiring ERA of 5.33 and a WHIP of 1.456. His combined WAR for both years was -0.2.
One of his worst showings was one of his last with the Tigers.
On September 14, 2015, he pitched 1.1 innings against the Minnesota Twins, but faced 13 batters, giving up 7 hits and 6 runs. This was not the only time that he completely fell apart on the mound. Another shocker was on May 13, 2015 (ironically, also against the Twins), when he pitched 2.1 innings and faced 14 batters. Between these displays of mediocrity, he was on the disabled list with shoulder issues.
Another possible reason he was let go is that his fastball just isn’t fast enough and his other pitches are a bit too slow. His fastball averages around 87 mph. His change-up averages around 79.8 mph. The difference between the two is not quite enough to cause the swings and misses that changes are meant to do. His other two pitches don’t have the velocity that discombobulates the batters.
Aug 7, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris (44) underhands the ball to first to get Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan (not pictured) out in the fourth inning at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
When compared to the newest additions to the bullpen and the starting rotation, Lobstein is not needed. Daniel Norris fills the left-handed need in the rotation and his fastball velocity is faster, reaching into the 90s. In the bullpen, lefty Blaine Hardy has been reliable in nearly every game he has pitched. The newest addition, who happens to be another left-handed pitcher, Justin Wilson hits the mid-90s with his fastball and he has a record of getting outs when needed. And, with Francisco Rodriguez available to close, the pitching staff seems rather complete.
It is easy to picture Al Avila drawing a name out of a hat that contained Lobstein, Kyle Ryan, and Matt Boyd. Ryan and Boyd are question marks in the bullpen and could have gone in place of Lobstein. These two could be sent back and forth to the Toledo Mud Hens if needed. Ryan enjoys being a relief pitcher and the Tigers must see something in Boyd. Or, Avila really did just pull a name out of a hat.
And then there is Bruce Rondon. Remember, he can throw faster than all of them. So, he continues to stay.
It seems that Lobstein was a victim of his own doing. He was mediocre with the Tigers and had some trade value. The Tigers roster was just too full, so they had to get rid of someone. Case closed.