What can you really say about a guy like Ian Krol? That's not a rhetorical question, I need to write several hundred words for this "Tigers Player Review" post, and I really don't know what to tell you about Ian Krol. He was a relief pitcher, he threw left-handed, he was not so great at times, got the job done a few other times, and there you have it. Ian Krol is a piping hot bowl of chicken broth that brings with it all of the promise of a fantastic chicken noodle soup, but where the hell is the chicken, the noodles, the vegetables?
Let's try this again, turning Ian into a bit of headline news:
Ian Kroll: he is very left-handed!
Ian Krol: Did you even notice I spelled his name wrong in the previous headline?
Another thing about Ian Krol, as long as we're exhausting the subject, is that I'm not really a big fan. Probably not a lot of people are, and while some of that may be related to things like his -2.6 RE24 (expected runs saved) -- which is actually a huge improvement over 2014's RE24 of -13.4 -- I'm guessing it also has something to do with the circumstances surrounding his arrival.
Krol basically showed up to spring training in 2014 with a "Kick Me" sign on his back, a sign put there by Dave Dombrowski and visible only to fans, because Ian Krol helped put the "ack" in the "Doug Fister trade package." It wasn't his fault, really, but there was an awful lot of pressure on his 23-year-old shoulders and he was never going to live up to the expectations that would have made it worth losing a solid number four starter.
Did I mention the thing about the chicken-less chicken broth?
Here's something else you can say about Krol: he knows the way from Detroit to Toledo really well. He only threw 28 innings at the major league level in 2015, but he threw 31 innings for the Mud Hens. He made three separate trips to Toledo, in fact, spending all of May and a good chunk of August there.
There's not much sugarcoating you can do for a guy who finished the season with a 5.79 ERA, 5.17 FIP, and 1.714 WHIP. What you can do, though, is recognize that the Tigers like to have a couple of left-handed relief options hanging around. Krol is still young, and he's probably not going anywhere for a few years -- so let's focus on the positives, shall we?
Here, then, are Ian Krol's three best games from the 2015 season, as rated by his RE24 score for each game.
September 16: Tigers 7, Twins 4 (RE24 score 2.50)
The season was over by this point -- over and being eating by rabid squirrels, in fact -- so Brad Ausmus was doing all sorts of experimenting with the bullpen. With the game tied after nine regulation innings, Ausmus sent Jose Valdez out in the bottom of the 10th, and a walk and a single later, the walk-off run was standing on second base with nobody out. Joe Mauer, he of the left-handed type, was coming to bat, so Ausmus followed the playbook and brought Krol in for some hot lefty-on-lefty action.
Krol quickly got behind 3-0 to Mauer, but bounced right back with two called strikes and a 97 mile-per-hour fastball to get Mauer swinging. A groundout and a fly out later, Krol had kept the Twins from walking off, which in itself was worth 1.47 expected runs.
It gets better, though. Krol came back out to pitch the 11th inning and retired the Twins in order. Then Ian Kinsler hit an RBI single and J.D. Martinez hit a two-run dinger to give the Tigers a three-run lead. Because they had already used seven relievers in the game, it was up to Krol to pitch his third straight inning in relief and try to close the game. He retired Eduardo Escobar, walked Aaron Hicks, and got Brian Dozier to ground into a game-ending double play.
Ian Krol: relief ace, Willie Hernandez style.
How's that for a weird headline?
September 13: Indians 7, Tigers 2 (RE24 score 1.20)
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Indians had a 6-2 lead and the game was pretty much over. It got a little closer to being over when Al Alburquerque gave up another run on three consecutive singles. With one out and runners at first and third, Krol came in to face the left-handed hitting Jason Kipnis, and on one pitch, he got Kipnis to ground into the inning-ending double play.
July 27: Rays 5, Tigers 2 (RE24 score 1.16)
The Rays were leading 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, and after Anibal Sanchez struck out the first batter, Al Alburquerque was brought in. Six pitches later, a double and a single put runners on second and third for John Jaso -- a lefty, of course. In this situation where the expected run value sat at about 1.16 runs, Brad Ausmus turned to his LOOGY in Ian Krol. The Rays countered with right-handed pinch-hitter Joey Butler, but platoon splits be damned, Krol struck him out on five pitches.
Brandon Guyer pinch-hit for David DeJesus to maximize the matchup possibilities, but Krol retired Guyer on a fly out to right field.
Krol had this issue where he'd go stretches without giving up a darn thing, then he'd implode fantastically. Then he'd go back to being solid in relief again. Those inconsistencies aren't a new phenomenon, unfortunately. In Sept., Krol did do rather well, giving up just two runs on seven outings of six innings, but the problem he had this year just like last, was that you just never knew when he was going to go off and even during his more solid stretches those instabilities showed. If anything, he needs more time in the minors.
What's that you say? You want me to balance the stories of Krol's success with one of those "then he'd impode fantastically" stories that Catherine alluded to? Alright, then, here's the story of Krol's worst outing (by RE24) in 2015.
June 20: Yankees 14, Tigers 3 (RE24 score -4.04)
You never want to see your bullpen take over in the third inning, but when Alfredo Simon gave up five runs in 2 2/3 innings, what can you do? Krol came into the game with runners at first and third and two outs to face Alex Rodriguez (yeah, I don't know either, ask Ausmus), who went yard on the third pitch of the at-bat. That's worth a lot of RE24 deductions, unfortunately.
Krol came back out for the fourth inning, now down 8-0, and after striking out Brian McCann, gave up a two-pitch solo shot to Carlos Beltran. Three consecutive singles later, another run had scored and it was 10-0. Krol worked Brett Gardner for an inning-ending double play, but the damage was done.
So that's the story of Ian Krol. He gets the job done sometimes, makes you hate baseball at other times, and ultimately leaves you with a very, very certain feeling that can only be articulated as:
Ian Kroll: he is very left-handed!