Sunday, December 11, 2011

Octavio Dotel - Have Arm Will Travel

Before the gas prices made it prohibitive, RVing was a major retirement goal for people in this country. Every neighborhood had at least one of the mobile fortresses parked in someone's yard. A popular method the merry travelers employed to tell the world where they had been was to put stickers on the back of the RV. These stickers could be states or they could be from major tourist destinations. If Octavio Dotel actually pitches for the Tigers in 2012, he should have those stickers all over his right arm.

The stories that Octavio Dotel has broken a record for franchises played for are premature. Dotel needs to actually pitch for the Tigers before he can make a claim to break the record he shares with Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs and Ron Villone at twelve franchises. It took Stairs and Morgan nineteen and twenty-one years respectively to reach their franchise record. Dotel is more like Villone who only pitched for fourteen years to reach his twelve teams. Dotel has only played for thirteen years, which makes his share of the record somewhat unique. With Dotel being 38 years old, you figure his time is running out. But at least he has a World Series share and ring coming for joining the Cardinals at the end of 2011.

So where has Dotel been? He was signed by the Mets as a twenty year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 1993. It took him six long years to reach the majors with the Mets in 1999. All told, Dotel has pitched for thirteen minor league clubs to go along with his thirteen (IF he pitches for the Tigers) major league clubs. That will be twenty-six teams all told! So back to our time-line: Dotel debuted for the Mets in 1999 on June 24. He pitched nineteen starts for Bobby Valentine that season including fourteen starts. He went 8-3. He also made two short, rather unsuccessful appearances in the Mets' two post season series that season. He wore number 29.

After that season, the Mets traded Dotel along with Kyle Kessel and Roger Cedeno to the Astros for Mike Hampton and Derek Bell. Bell and Hampton helped the Mets to get to the World Series in 2000. Meanwhile, Dotel did a little bit of everything for the 90-loss Astros. Dotel started 16 games that season and made 34 other relief appearances. He even saved sixteen games. But his statistics weren't pretty beyond his high strikeout rate. He wore number 41.

Dotel's Houston experience was the most secure of his career. He would pitch three more full seasons with the Astros and they were terrific seasons. He was able to switch back to uniform number 29 and made four more starts in 2001. They were the last four starts of his career. The Astros relied upon him heavily and he pitched over a hundred innings in 2001, ninety-seven in 2002 and eighty-seven in 2003. The Astros made the playoffs in 2001 and again Dotel was ineffective.

After starting the season with the Astros in 2004 as their closer, he was dealt as part of a three-team swap on June 24. Dotel ended up with the Athletics as their closer. Part of that deal was for the Royals to send Carlos Beltran to the Astros. And it was the year that Beltran became the talk of the nation with his post season exploits that season. So Dotel is in some ways responsible for the financial windfall and notoriety of Beltran the rest of his career. Between the Astros and Athletics, Dotel saved 36 games, the highest of his career. He had to switch to uniform number 28 that season with Oakland.

After six seasons of overwork, Dotel broke down for the Athletics in 2005. He got his uniform number of 29 back but he only pitched 15 times all season. He became a free agent at the end of that season for the first time and signed with the Yankees to start the 2006 season. He got his number 29, but he started off the season terribly. He only pitched ten innings with the Yankees and Dotel gave up twelve runs and the same number of base runners than he had on his back. Things got ugly as you can imagine in New York and Dotel spent most of the rest of that season rehabbing.

After two basically lost seasons, Dotel was a free agent again after 2006 and he signed with the Royals. He was assigned uniform number 28. Dotel still wasn't right physically to start the 2007 season and he only got into thirty-three games that whole season. Twenty-four of them were with the Royals and he accumulated eleven saves before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves on the trade deadline of July 31 for Kyle Davies. He had to switch to uniform number 26 with the Braves.

So yes, Royals fans, it was Dotel that foisted upon you one of the worst starting pitchers ever in Kyle Davies. Dotel has been the Royals' bane. He cost them Carlos Beltran, one of their best ever players, and brought them Kyle Davies, one of the worst ever. Ouch.

Dotel only pitched for the Braves nine times and was a free agent again after the 2007 season. He was signed by the Chicago White Sox and Dotel played for two full seasons for the White Sox and Ozzie Guillen. It was in Chicago that he rebuilt his reputation and his career. He made 134 set up appearances in Ozzie's bullpen and had a combined thirty-seven holds. He wore number 26 for the White Sox and that team made it to the playoffs in 2008 but lost to Tampa in the ALDS. Dotel pitched four times in that series and had a 13.50 ERA.

After that playoff loss, Dotel became a free agent again. He signed with the Pirates who made Dotel their 2010 closer. He saved 21 games for the Pirates in 25 attempts but since that team was going nowhere, they traded him at the trade deadline to the Dodgers for Andrew Lambo and James McDonald. McDonald showed a lot of promise for the Pirates in 2011, so the Pirates seemed for fare much better than the Royals did.

Dotel made nineteen appearances with the Dodgers as one of their set up guys but they too traded him that season to the Rockies who were trying to make a late push to the playoffs in 2010. Dotel did not help the Rockies as he made eight rocky (pun intended) outings there. Dotel wore number 29 in Pittsburgh, 26 in Los Angeles and 35 for the Rockies.

Dotel became a free agent again after the 2010 season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He got his number 29 back and was somewhat effective for the Blue Jays for most of his time there. But the trade deadline loomed again and the Blue Jays pulled the trigger in a huge eight player swap that helped propel the Cardinals to the World Series. With uniform number 28 on the Cardinals, Dotel was terrific for the Cardinals down the stretch and through the first two playoff series. He fared less well in the World Series, but got his ring. Despite hopes from some Cardinal fans that he would re-up with them in 2012, Dotel--again a free agent--signed with the Tigers instead.

So that's the history of the wanderings of Octavio Dotel. His career has produced 34 starts, 661 relief appearances, 108 saves, 116 holds, a 3.74 career ERA and a 3.79 career FIP. He's always found a way to strike batters out and has a 10.9 K/9 ratio for his career. He's a fly ball pitcher that has given up too many homers in his career, too many walks (except for the Cardinals down the stretch - Dave Duncan strikes again). But other than the homers, batters have had trouble squaring up the ball against Dotel (18.1 line drive percentage).

Dotel has had a decent career as a relief pitcher which has earned him $34 million for his career. And if he makes it to the Tigers opening day roster, he'll break a record for his travels. He's had a fascinating career...that is if you like RVing.

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