When the Tigers traded Rick Porcello to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson, they picked up two very valuable players who have made big contributions to the team during the 2015 season. While Porcello has struggled with the Red Sox, his replacement in Detroit has been entirely inadequate. I am referring to Alfredo Simon, who the Tigers acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds on the same day Porcello was dealt to Boston.
Simon was moved from the bullpen in Cincinnati to the starting rotation for the 2014 season. For half a season, it looked like a brilliant move, as he posted a 12-3 record with a 2.70 ERA. He held batters to a .217 average and made the All-Star team. In the second half of the season, however, Simon fell apart with a 3-10 record and a 4.52 ERA. Opponents hit .275 with a .345 on-base percentage against him. His second half numbers indicated that he did not belong pitching in a major league rotation. Well, that’s where we are with him today.
Over his last five starts, Simon has given up 28 runs on 47 hits in 22 2/3 innings. That's an ERA of 11.12 and a 2.47 WHIP. Opponents are batting .409 against him in that span. Simon has been getting shelled every time he takes the mound, allowing at least five runs in each of those five outings. If things do not change quickly, he can not be counted on to get the job done in the second half of the season for a team that desperately needs pitching help.
Prior to moving to the rotation in 2014, Simon was a fairly effective relief pitcher. In 158 career appearances totaling 224 2/3 innings as a reliever with the Reds and Baltimore Orioles, he posted a 3.61 ERA with 19 saves. He struck out 171 batters and walked 79. In 2012 and 2013, working strictly in relief for the Reds, Simon allowed a 2.78 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 46 walks in 148 2/3 innings. These numbers aren't exactly dominant, but certainly better than what the Tigers currently have in their bullpen. They are also far better than what Simon has been doing in the rotation lately.
We looked at Simon’s tale of two seasons in 2014, and suggested that his good fortune in the first half of the season may have been just that. Regression was projected, and it came with a vengeance. We were relieved to see that the Tigers were getting first half Simon through June 20. Then, once again, the wheels came off the wagon.
The Tigers certainly did not acquire Simon to be a relief pitcher, and he was not paid like a relief pitcher in his final season of arbitration this past winter. The salary is spent at this point, so the Tigers should consider it a bad cover charge and move on to the next place with Simon. He is a big part of the reason that the Tigers’ rotation has been the worst in the league over the past month of the season. Removing him from the rotation would be an improvement by subtraction, and adding him to the bullpen might kill two birds with one stone.
Simon’s splits do not indicate that he would necessarily be better in a different role. There is no dramatic difference shown in his innings pitched, starter or reliever, or even times through the batting order. The most dramatic splits show a decline in the second half of the season, and we know that his current role is not working. So, it’s time to try something else, before it’s too late for the Tigers this season.