Mensching: Lobstein move shows how far Tigers have come
It speaks to the Tigers’ confidence in their depth today that they were able to designate Kyle Lobstein for assignment on Friday to make a spot for utility man Mike Aviles on their 40-man roster.
A year ago at this time a look through the depth chart would have shown Lobstein to be, if not an important part of the team’s future, at least a necessary one.
Detroit teams put together by then-general manager Dave Dombrowski all had the same general flaw year to year: high peaks and low valleys. So if starters were to fall to injury, the replacements were more than a typical drop-off in quality.
In the 2015 season, we saw what can happen when that’s the case. Justin Verlander missed the opening two months of the year after injuring his triceps late in spring training. Anibal Sanchez showed little consistency and also missed a large chunk of the year when a shoulder injury flared.
Others just couldn’t do the job when called upon. In all, 11 pitchers started at least five games during the season. Is it any wonder they struggled to find any momentum all year?
Lobstein ranked sixth among them, making 11 starts and posting an ERA of 5.94 for the season. For his career, which included six starts in 2014, Lobstein carries a 5.33 ERA and 4.64 FIP (fielding independent pitching) at the major league level.
On Monday the Tigers announced that they had traded Lobstein to the Pirates for cash considerations.
His key problems were a rapidly dwindling strikeout rate and an inability to go deeper into games, and injury problems of his own.
His numbers were better in the minors, but even then as he reached the higher levels the numbers took on a more pedestrian look and his strikeouts-to-walks ratio left little to be excited for.
In short: He could fill some innings but there was little to be excited for.
A year ago the Tigers and their fans had to be excited for just that. Thanks to some organization building, they no longer need to be.
Today, we’ve all seen enough. It’s time to look at others. And they finally have some.
There are more than enough players of similar ilk and other options to choose from.
The Tigers’ failure in 2015 may not have been fun to watch or to be a part of, but it helped lead them to being a better organization.
Where Lobstein started at the back of the rotation to begin the year, now they’ve got a starter like Daniel Norris. Waiting in the wings is now highly touted prospect Michael Fulmer.
And there are still the statistical lookalikes, Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer and Matt Boyd, all with major league experience and at least the first two with the possibility of coming out of the bullpen.
That’s one more theme: that Avila appeared to put a little more value in seeing what he has in his relievers already on the 40-man roster and decided to hold onto them, too.
Which is all to say, the Tigers may not have quite the potential peak they had at this time a year ago on the pitching side, but the valley floor has been raised a bit.
If they fall victim to the injury bug to the extent they did in 2015, even better depth isn’t going to be able to save the year. You just can’t lose substantial time from players like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Verlander and Sanchez and expect to still win 90 games.
But even in a division-winning season an injury or two will happen, and the rotation and bullpen will need to have some performances out of players lower down on the roster to make up for it.
Losing Lobstein might make that depth a little shallower, but no longer needing to rely on him shows how far the Tigers have have come.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.