2015 Player Previews: RHP Alfredo Simon

After years of being a non-descript pitcher bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, at 33 years old, right-hander Alfredo Simon came out of nowhere to emerge as a 15-game winner and All-Star for Cincinnati in 2014. Was Simon’s showing a sign of a revelation, or a blip with a return to Earth in store for the big righty?

2014 In Review – Alfredo Simon

2014 Stats
Cincinnati 196.1 32 15-10 0.9 4.05 4.33 3.44 .265 5.8 2.6 48% 11.8%

Up until he was 30, Alfredo Simon hadn’t done much of anything in his big league career, bouncing around from the rotation to the bullpen with little success. 2012 and 2013 saw Simon put together two solid seasons in the Reds’ bullpen, and with a need and a prior history of starting, they gave him a shot at the rotation. Not even they could have imagined they were going to get out of him, though.

Simon posted a 2.70 ERA in the first half of the season, earning an All-Star appearance, despite that ERA being highly deflated – his FIP and xFIP were 4.33 and 3.91, respectively, and those numbers were more in line with where he finished the season.

Despite pitching nearly 200 innings with an ERA in the mid-3’s, his low strikeout rate, much higher FIP, and abnormally low average on balls in play meant that he was actually only worth about one win for the team, with the rest of his production coming thanks to defense and good fortune.

The Tigers made the move to acquire him from the Reds in the off-season, but despite the top level metrics looking impressive, based on the price they paid (SS Eugenio Suarez and RHP Jonathon Crawford), it was more like they were trading for a number four starter than an All Star. A number four starter of course should be more than capable of eating innings and giving the team nearly 200 innings.

2015 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service G IP WAR ERA FIP BAbip K/9 BB/9
ZiPS 25 152.2 1.0 4.60 4.43 .310 5.5 2.8
Steamer 24 143.0 0.4 4.83 4.76 .294 5.3 2.9

The projections are usually close to being on the same page, and in the case of Simon, things are no different. Both systems believe his 2014 year was an aberration, and that he’s going to revert to the mean with an ERA in the mid-4’s, with a low strikeout rate and a higher walk rate.

Those come together to mean that even with a projection of tossing 150 innings, Simon will be worth only slightly more than a replacement player, with one projection forecasting him to be worth one win (similar to 2014), and the other being barely above replacement with an ERA pushing five.

The TigsTown Take

Simon was an interesting acquisition by the Tigers, as most observers did not think of him as someone that would be a solution to a key need in a rotation, but that’s just where the Tigers are planning on putting him. He’s entered the spring with no competition for the spot in the rotation, assured of his place and job, to start the year.

Despite that confidence, there just doesn’t seem to be much reason to have so much faith in a guy like Simon. He mixes a lot of pitches, has never had sustained success, and up until 2014, was being used in middle and long relief to help keep the Cincinnati bullpen’s late-inning, high-leverage guys fresh.

The Tigers can be hopeful that Simon will be able to serve as a solid starter for the club for the entire season. But it seems more likely that he’ll falter, and a reversion to the mean could result in him being dropped from the team entirely, or possibly being sent to the bullpen to ride out the year.

The Tigers made a number of shrewd acquisitions this off-season to help remake the club for 2015. It’s always wise to reserve judgment, but it’s hard to see this one working out well for the Tigers based on what they needed. There were a number of back-of-the-rotation starters on the free agent market that could have been had for a similar price, and would have allowed the Tigers to keep Suarez and Crawford. Will Simon turn in a stronger showing than Chris Capuano or Gavin Floyd or someone of that ilk? I have my doubts.

2015 Projections come from two different sources; ZiPS, and Steamer, both publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, and Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers.

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