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Thursday, January 21, 2010
Octavio Dotel: Pirates CloserPosted by Satchel Price at 10:32am
Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates and free agent reliever Octavio Dotel agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal, adding a veteran power arm to the team's inexperienced bullpen. Given that the Pirates non-tendered incumbent closer Matt Capps earlier in the offseason, it seems likely that Dotel will be Pittsburgh's closer next season, given the lack of experienced alternatives.
Over the years, Dotel hasn't changed much as a pitcher, in spite of numerous injuries during the middle part of the decade. He's always been a fastball/slider pitcher, using the two pitches to put up monster strikeout rates, but he's had issues over the years with his control and keeping the ball on the ground. After three injury-plagued seasons during which he bounced around with four different teams, Dotel signed a two-year deal with the White Sox before the 2008 season, and managed to stay healthy enough to pitch over 60 innings in each season. His fastball velocity has declined over the years, and while he still gets good movement on it, it's no longer the elite pitch that it was during his prime.
Dotel showed some clear signs of decline in 2009, though, which are certainly worth noting. In 2008, he posted the fourth lowest contact rate among pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched, but last season he fell to 28th among the same group of players. His walk rate, fly ball rate and line drive rate all went up a solid amount in 2009, while he saw drops in his strikeout rate (not surprising given the increase in contact allowed) and fastball run value (according to FanGraphs' pitch values). There weren't any major apparent changes to his stuff, at least according to Pitch F/X data, but realistically the only reason that Dotel's ERA improved from 2008 to 2009 was good luck, as his HR/FB decreased substantially and his strand rate increased by nearly five percent.
Doc Oct isn't exactly one of the best relievers in the game, but his strikeout rate was ninth in the majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched, and there's little reason to expect any regression there, as his 10.83 strikeouts per 9 innings in 2009 was actually below his career mark, and down from the 12+ marks that he posted in 2007 and 2008. Dotel is likely to see some regression in his ERA from last season, his 4.08 LIPS ERA indicates that he was a bit lucky with balls in play last season, but moving from a hitter's park in the AL to a neutral park in the NL should definitely help to offset some that.
Presuming that Dotel gets the closer job, which is almost a certainty at this point, he could very well be capable of providing 30-35 saves, and a healthy number of strikeouts, making him a potential bargain for both fantasy players and the Pirates alike, when you consider that guys like Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon are getting multi-year deals worth $5 million or more annually.
Satchel is a proud Cubs and White Sox fan, and if you squint really hard, it almost looks like his name is Satchel Paige. He also writes for Beyond the Box Score and can be reached for questions or comments via e-mail.
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