The Detroit Tigers took a bit of a gamble when they signed Octavio Dotel to a one year deal with an option for a second year. Dotel is 38 years old and is guaranteed $3.5M and could make an additional $3M if his club option is exercised. Dotel has always had a problem walking batters and last season marked the 8th consecutive season he posted a HR/9 of 1.00 or higher. Well, the Tigers must have known what they were doing because Dotel is having one of his best seasons ever.
Once upon a time, Octavio Dotel was armed with nothing but a mid-90s four-seam fastball and a slider that had right-handed hitter flailing at it as if they were swinging with a blindfold on. Dotel used to work more than an inning at a time but that is a version of him we have not seen since 2004. He is a new pitcher now and his 2012 season is on the verge of being one of his best ever.
In 2009, while with the Chicago White Sox, Dotel started using his cutter more than 5% of the time for the first time ever and in 2010 he started using it over 80% of the time. It is a pitch that has helped him keep a job in the game of baseball and was worth 7.3 runs in 2011.
In 2012 Dotel has decided to stay with the cutter but he started mixing the old number one in a bit more and his cutter has been worth 4.5 runs while his four-seamer has been worth +0.3 runs while only using it 4% of the time after not using it the past two seasons. He still throws that nasty slider which has also registered a positive run total.
Dotel currently owns the best strikeout rates of his career with a K/9 of 13.36 and a K% of 37.2%. Not only is Dotel striking out more batters but he is walking far less with a career best BB/9 of 2.51 and BB% of 7.0%. Obviously his K/BB ratio is the best of his career at 5.33.
Dotel is also keeping the ball in the park and on the ground much better than in any time in his career. His 50.0% ground ball rate blows his previous high of 38.2% away and his 0.56 HR/9 is the best mark he as posted since 2001, arguably his best season and one of the better seasons by a reliever this millennium.
Dotel’s career best rates have lead to career best marks in FIP (1.74) and xFIP (2.01) and have him already worth 1.1 fWAR in 32.1 innings. The last time he had a full season where he was worth at least 1 full win was back in 2004. And do not credit luck with any of this as his BABIP is at .329 which is more than 50 points above his career rate. If anything, he has been a bit unlucky.
Dotel has had his ups and downs as a reliever in this league but at the age of 38 he is having one of his best seasons ever and is making general manager Dave Dombrowski look like a genius.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt