With 20 days until the Tigers' pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland, our preview series shifts back to a boring member of the bullpen. Though, in the case of Octavio Dotel, "boring" is a good thing.
What happened last season?
The same thing that he has done for the past decade: strike a lot of guys out and keep runs from scoring. Dotel's strikeout rate declined from his 2011 stats, but he still struck out 26.5% of the batters he faced. The huge decline in his walk rate -- he walked just 5.1% of batters faced last season -- more than offset his lower strikeout numbers. Add in the fact that Dotel only allowed 3 runs all season and I'm starting to wonder how exactly he still allowed enough runs to have an ERA of 3.57 in 58 innings. A couple of ideas: his BABIP of .301 is about 25 points higher than his career average, and he only stranded 68% of runners* (down from a career mark of 75%).
*Fangraphs calculated their strand rates (listed as LOB%) based on hits, walks, and runs allowed, not based on actually counting the numbers that each individual pitcher strands. Because of this, the numbers can be a bit skewed for relievers, especially ones like Dotel that may only pitch to a batter or two before being pulled. The 7% difference we see above with Dotel could be coincidental because of this reason, or it could actually mean that he sucked at stranding runners last season. It's anyone's guess.
What needs to happen in 2013?
Pretty much the exact same thing. The decline in strikeout rate isn't concerning, especially considering that Dotel is 39 years old and still averaging more than one strikeout per inning. Dotel's walk rate will likely increase, but he needs to keep the free passes closer to 2011 levels (he walked 2.83 batters per 9 innings) than 2009 or 2010 (where his walk rate was over 4 batters per 9 innings).
Long story short, Dotel needs to keep doing the same stuff he did last season. This is why "boring" is good.
Also, more of this (click for .gif if it doesn't gif):
2012 stats and 2013 projections
The part where I predict pretty much the same thing Bill James does
I referred to picking up Dotel's option as a "no-brainer" on the Tigers' part earlier this offseason and I have no reason to expect why he won't repay them with another excellent year in the Tigers' bullpen. Having a guy like Dotel with closer experience to both mentor and provide insurance for the young Bruce Rondon is a huge luxury. Bringing that guy out of the bullpen in the 6th or 7th inning because you already have another excellent setup man in Joaquin Benoit is an embarrassment of riches.