Aug 17, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Ross Detwiler (48) throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eleventh inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Texas Rangers acquired Ross Detwiler from the Washington Nationals this week. They did so with little fanfare. It seems more than justified that this move has excited few in the media. Detwiler is a marginal pick up even for a team with the kind of holes in their starting rotation the Rangers have. The Rangers dealt away Chris Bostick and Abel de Los Santos, both of whom were camped out in high A ball. Bostick is an infielder who is at least a fringy prospect while de Los Santos could be a sleeper of a pitching prospect. It certainly was not a high cost trade for the Rangers.
Detwiler served as a relief pitcher for the Nationals in 2014. He amassed only 47 innings and was basically replacement level quality (-0.2 WAR per Fangraphs). Detwiler is a lefty with starting experience. He has been up and down with the Nationals since 2007. He has only started more than 15 games in a season once and that was the 2012 campaign. In 2012, Detwiler had a 3.40 ERA, 4.04 FIP and 1.7 WAR. These numbers would have looked good in last year’s rotation and will be fine as 4th or 5th starter in 2015, if Detwiler can return to that level. The Nationals have had a talented rotation since the 2012 season so whether the organization was down on Detwiler as a starter or whether he simply got pushed out of the rotation by more talented and more experienced pitchers is hard to say. The 2013 Nationals boasted a rotation of; Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and Dan Haren. They simply filled the fifth spot by committee, but Detwiler had the most starts after the above five.
Detwiler is likely to earn a spot in the rotation given the alternatives. He is by no means a middle of the rotation pitcher unless he shows Texas something he never showed Washington. If Detwiler can reproduce 2012 it would a boon for Texas, but even his 2013 and 2014 seasons, which were years split between the pen and rotation, would be improvements over his main competition. Detwiler’s last three FIPs are; 4.04, 3.66 and 4.16, each of which is nearly a full run better than the ones turned in by Nick Martinez and Nick Tepesch’s from 2014.
As of today, the Texas Rangers’ rotation for 2015 looks like;
It is not an inspiring rotation but it is by no means a bad rotation. If Tepesch or Martinez holds down the fort long enough for Martin Perez to come back, if he does, then the rotation could end up being a decent one.
Stan Liu-USA TODAY Sports
Detwiler is a slight groundball pitcher and suffered high BABIPs (batting average on balls in play) in both 2013 and 2014, which is surprising given that the Nationals’ infield defense has been fairly highly regarded the last few seasons. Detwiler will undoubtedly benefit from moving to Texas considering the quality of the infield defense the Rangers should have in 2015. His strikeout rate is a bit on the low side since his walk rate is roughly in line with the league average so it will be interesting to see how Mike Maddux approaches Detwiler’s philosophy.
Detwiler is out of options and, based on how he had been used, the Nationals do not seem to be particularly high on Detwiler. The trade hardly seems like one of much consequence and yet the rotation may well have been improved at a low cost. It seems like a minor move and calling it shrewd would be too strong but it could be worthwhile.