Lindstrom to Houston

Matt Lindstrom was traded to the Houston Astros on Wednesday as part of a three player deal. In the deal, the Marlins acquire two minor leaguers, RHP Robert Bono and SS Luis Bryan.

Lindstrom is an interresting player. He performed quite well in 2007 and 2008, putting up ERAs near 3.00 both year with similar FIPs. 2009 was a very down year, however, as Lindstrom’s ERA ballooned to 5.89 and he also suffered injuries which limited him to 47.1 IP, the lowest of his three year ML career. His FIP didn’t rise as much, coming in at 4.47, but this is still a below-replacement mark for a reliever.

What had made Lindstrom a productive pitcher through 2008 was his ability to suppress the home run. This can be summarized quite succinctly by his career graph.


Even though his HR/9 wasn’t terribly high last season, it was enough to make him unproductive. His K/9 fell quite a bit in 2008 and his BB/9 rose as well, both by over a point. Still, nearly any pitcher who can run a HR/9 of 0.16 can be productive. The other shoe dropped for Lindstrom in ’09, as his HR/FB skyrocketed to a roughly average rate of 9.3%. Thanks to his ground ball tendencies, he still gave up less than 1 HR/9, but with a low K rate and high BB rate, that’s not good enough in the major leagues.

Lindstrom is still an attractive asset despite his down year. His ground ball tendencies are great for a reliever, as it suppresses the home run ball. He has a live fastball, averaging over 96 MPH. The questions for Lindstrom are if he can find his control and lower his BB rate as well as if his crazy home run suppression will return.

The Marlins return comes in the form of two minor leaguers who, according to a tweet from Baseball America’s Ben Badler,

“Neither Robert Bono nor Luis Bryan, the two guys the Marlins got from Houston for Lindstrom, would have made the Astros top 30 ,”

In addition, the Astros farm system is, simply put, not good. Bono had decent numbers (3.62 FIP) in A ball at age 20 and has a very high ground ball rate, but doesn’t seem to be highly acclaimed by scouts. Bryan didn’t walk a single time in 105 ABs in rookie ball, and that lack of plate discipline will not play in the majors.

The Marlins didn’t get much for Lindstrom, and although he was unproductive and is aging, at 30 years old, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to just give up on. Lindstrom is arbitration eligible this year, however, and given the Marlins financial situation, he probably would’ve been non-tendered. The conclusion that I come to given the poor return is that leaguewide interest in Lindstrom just wasn’t there. It that’s the case, this is a better outcome for Florida than a simple non-tender. However, Lindstrom probably won’t cost Houston too much, and as such an intriguing player at such a low cost, this move makes a lot of sense for Houston.

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
13 years ago

Here’s the thing, Jack. 2008/2009 Lindstrom were basically the same in terms of K’s and BB’s (which is to say, not good). 17% K% and 11% BB%. The only value he really brought was the GB/HR. But even at the decent GB rates he posted so far his career, his 2007/2008 HR/FB% were very low.

I suspect relievers can do a better job of suppressing HR/FB, but it seems beyond reasonable to expect rates of around 2.6% to stick long term. Give him 5% and K and BB rates of the last two years and you have maybe a 3.9 FIP (I’m just guessing, didn’t run the numbers necessarily). That’s just an OK reliever if leveraged correctly (at 1.3 index using Rally’s chaining and pythagenpat for WAR, I get around 1 WAR in 70 innings).

He could figure it out and start looking like 2007 Lindstrom. But my guess is that he keeps walking too many people, his BABIP regresses to a better rate (he was getting tons of singles up the middle this season, hence the inflated ERA), and he ends up OK. In my example above, he gives up something like 3 home runs in 70 innings. But since his “skill” is in the least repeatable of the three TTO’s, I would say the expected variation around that projected FIP would be high.