Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has explained that the team will keep Daniel Norris stretched out as a starter, despite his move to the bullpen. Is that the right move?
When the Detroit Tigers acquired Daniel Norris from the Blue Jays for David Price, the expectation is that he would become the team’s next ace pitcher. While that still could happen, it has certainly not come to fruition yet. Norris has struggled, posting a 4.29 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 226.1 innings as a big league starter.
After watching Norris struggle to a 5.31 ERA last season, the Tigers signed a pair of veteran pitchers in Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano to round out their starting rotation. Norris ultimately lost out on a starting rotation spot, even with Fiers starting the season on the DL. An unfortunately timed rainout cost Norris his one chance to spot-start, and with Fiers back the rotation is at capacity.
However, instead of sending the 24-year-old Norris down to Triple-A Toledo, the Tigers opted to keep him on the roster as a bullpen option.
Even though he will be pitching out of the bullpen, manager Ron Gardenhire does not consider Norris a reliever.
“The one thing I know for sure is we need starters in this organization and (Norris) is going to be one of them.”
At just 24, it’s easy to see why the team is keeping Norris as a starter. He has shown plenty of promise, he has an outstanding slider, and he has a hard fastball.
However, all of those are attributes that could make Daniel Norris an outstanding, maybe even elite, reliever.
Daniel Norris as a closer?
Here’s a fun chart for y’all:
Player A: 226.1 innings, 4.29 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.91 K/9, 3.26 BB/9 (as a starter)
Player B: 250 innings, 4.86 ERA, 1.52 ERA, 5.94 K/9, 4.00 BB/9 (as a starter)
Norris is obviously Player A, for those of you who read his stats at the top of the page.
Player B is Zach Britton, who like Norris struggled as a big league starting pitcher. The Orioles wisely decided to try Britton out in the bullpen, and he flourished. In 251 innings as a reliever, Britton has posted a 1.58 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a 8.86 K/9. He led the league in games finished in 2015 and 2016, finishing fourth in Cy Young voting in 2016. Britton gave up four earned runs in 67 innings that year, good for a 0.54 ERA.
A huge chunk of Britton’s success was an increase of his fastball velocity, which averaged roughly 92 miles per hour as a starter and over 96 as a reliever.
Norris has demonstrated an ability to reach back and bring his heater into the mid-90’s. Norris also sports a wicked high-80’s slider, far and away his best pitch. In late-inning situations, Norris could easily sport a mid-90’s fastball and a 90ish mile per hour slider.
Norris has found limited success with his change-up and curveball at the major league level. A permanent move to the bullpen would allow him to focus on his two plus pitches, while eliminating the ones that are giving him the most trouble.
Giving up on Daniel Norris as a starter is not necessarily in the Detroit Tigers best interest, especially while they are rebuilding. However, Norris has the makings of a future high-leverage reliever, should his role as a starter not work out.