The Detroit Tigers moved pitcher Drew Smyly from the bullpen to the starting rotation this offseason, leaving a hole in the bullpen.
Smyly was the top left-handed reliever in the pen for the Tigers last year and he was great in that role. Over the course of 76 innings, Smyly was 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA, striking out 81 batters while walking just 17.
To fill Smyly’s old role, the Tigers acquired Ian Krol from the Washington Nationals in the trade the sent Doug Fister to the nation’s capitol.
Krol fits the same profile as Smyly, as he was a starter in the minors before becoming a reliever, and had early success in his new role. The Nationals turned Krol into a full-time reliever after acquiring him from the Oakland Athletics and he responded by going 1-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 26 games between Double and Triple-A. Krol also posted the lowest WHIP of his career, .809, and a 4.50 strikeout to base-on-ball ratio between the two levels.
Krol’s pitching earned him a call-up to the majors, where he went 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA over the course of 27.1 innings. Krol also saw his WHIP rise to 1.317 and his SO/BB ratio drop to 2.75.
To fill the role that Smyly had last year, Krol will have to improve some of those numbers. Expecting Krol to match Smyly’s numbers from last season is unreasonable, but if he can put up similar numbers, he should fill the role well.
For Krol to do that, he will have to do better against right-handed batters. He held left-handed batters to a .220 batting average, allowing just 11 hits and one HR, but righties hit .304 against him, getting 17 hits and four HRs. If Krol can limit the hits and home runs against the right handers, his WHIP and ERA will both improve.
Phil Coke could also help Krol replace Smyly. If Coke can rebound from a subpar 2013 season, he could take some of the pressure off of Krol as a second lefty out of the pen.
So far this spring, Krol is 1-0 in two appearances, holding batters to a .143 average while allowing just one hit and one walk, which is good news for the Tigers.