Doug Fister thrived in a Tigers uniform with improved run support.
_Each season major league general managers have an opportunity to enhance their reputations with trading deadline deals that can put their clubs over the top and win a division.  Yet many times, a trading deadline deal can fizzle.  It is often difficult to remain disciplined in late July.  Teams in the hunt have fan bases that demand moves to improve playoff chances.  The trap for any GM is to avoid making a trade for the sake of simply making a deal.  Finding value while not gutting your minor league system can be challenge. 

For Dave Dombrowski, trading deadline acquisitions in recent years have fizzled more than sizzled.  Yet, bolstering his pitching staff with Doug Fister this past July proved to be a fantastic move.  Not many in Detroit knew much about the tall righty, other than he was 3-12 with the Seattle Mariners.  On the surface, not very impressive.  Yet, as you looked deeper into the numbers, you found a low 3.33 ERA and a WHIP a little over 1.00. 

So, Dombrowski sent Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and prospect Francisco Martinez to the Mariners for Fister and David Pauley.  Dombrowski hooked up with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik two years earlier in a move that netted the Tigers starter Jarrod Washburn.  Even though that deal fizzled, Dombrowski went back to the same well.  The Fister acquisition more than erased the sour taste of Washburn’s 1-3 record and 7.33 ERA in eight pennant -stretch starts for the Tigers in 2009.

While the Tigers expected Fister to solidify their rotation, it probably was beyond their dreams to get a pitcher that would put up the best September numbers on the staff.  Especially when the staff includes Justin Verlander.  Fister was downright dominant in his 11 stretch-run appearances with Detroit.  His 8-1 record reminded many Tigers fans of Doyle Alexander’s 9-0 run in 1987.  In September alone, Fister was 5-0 with a 0.53 ERA.

So, while the Indians garnered most of the headlines with the acquisition of Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies, the Tigers were rolling toward a division title with a pitching staff led by Fister ‘s gaudy September numbers.  Of the other starting pitchers acquired at the deadline, Dombrowski clearly made the most impactful move.  Here is a comparison of some other deadline deals for starters versus the numbers Doug Fister compiled.

Ubaldo Jimenez – Indians (4-4  5.10  11 starts)
Erik Bedard- Red Sox (1-2  4.03  8 starts)
Jason Marquis- Diamondbacks  (0-3  9.53  3 starts)
Doug Fister- Tigers  (8-1  1.79  11 appearances  10 starts)

While the Tigers continue to look for a fifth starter this off season, the rotation going forward looks as solid as any in the AL Central, if not the league.  One trading deadline move not only helped the Tigers win their first division title since 1987, but it also added a strong piece to a rotation that looks formidable for the next few years.  The other key component to the deal is that Fister figures to dazzle Tigers fans for at least the next few seasons.  He is not eligible for arbitration until after next season and won’t be a free agent until after the 2015 campaign. 

When Justin Verlander put the finishing touches on his second career no-hitter against Toronto in May, his reaction to the final out was curious.  A mild fist pump and wry smile.  When Verlander received the call informing him that he had won the MVP award, I'm betting the reaction was much more animated.

Verlander capped one of the more dominating season by a Tigers pitcher in a long time by securing the A.L. Cy Young and MVP awards. I must admit, I thought JV lost his chance at the MVP when he allowed five runs in seven innings against the Orioles in his final start of the regular season.  The loss pushed his ERA from 2.29 before the start, to it's final resting spot of 2.40.  Still very impressive in the American League, but was it good enough to win an MVP?  The voters thought so.

Verlander's season has helped fuel the debate between traditionalists (I'm one of them) and out-of-the-box thinkers as to whether or not a pitcher should be considered for the award.  I have always felt that the MVP should go to an everyday player.  Part of me still feels that way, but this season has helped me think more outside the box and loosen the sometimes stubborn traditionalist views (as much as I love sushi, it's still not ballpark food) that rule my thinking.  In fact, I'm just now accepting stats such as VORP and WHIP.  While there were many deserving offensive players that could have easily staked their claim as the the league's most valuable player, none in my opinion, created the buzz that Verlander did.  Admit it, how many times did you rearrange your schedule to catch the Verlander Show?  Many compared it to the days of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych.  Personally, I wouldn't go that far, but JV's starts were an event.  You know you're kind of a big deal when people simply refer to you by your initials.

So does " buzz creating ability" become a new criteria on the list of considerations voters must follow for the award.  Probably not, but how many times this season did you hear someone say, "Is Adrian Gonzalez playing tonight?"  "Is Jacoby Ellsbury in the line-up?"  No disrespect to either of those players, in fact I had both of them winning he award at some point this year.  But, maybe it's time to look just a little beyond just the pure numbers.  I can promise you this, wherever we were this season, at home or on the road, people wanted to know when Verlander was pitching next.

One of the major arguments used against pitchers is the number of games played, one of the criteria that voters are expected to consider.  In my opinion, the spirit of that consideration is to guard against players that may have missed considerable time due to injury (see Josh Hamilton in 2010).  In Verlander's case, "games played" should be viewed as a positive.  The Tigers ace made 34 starts, tied for the most in baseball.  Verlander pitched 251 innings, more than anyone in baseball.

There is also the matter of the triple crown.  Verlander led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.  If an offensive player were to win the triple crown, he would be a shoe-in for the award.

Many still feel that a pitcher should not win the award.  In fact, Jim Ingraham who covers the Indians for The News-Herald did not even have Verlander on his ballot.  Wow.  Ok.  That debate will always rage.  But, maybe this year opened the door a little bit for pitchers to be more involved in the conversation.

In the meantime, I can't wait for opening day next year.  I think Verlander is pitching.
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