The Detroit Tigers went to the World Series last year. This season they lead the American League Central by 4.5 games and have a run differential of +81. So why is Jim Leyland dropping F-bombs all over the place?
That’s easy. The Tigers bullpen has been a sieve. Detroit already has six walk-off losses, worst in baseball. Earlier in the week, reporters asked Leyland about his closing situation, leading to this rant posted by Oakland Press writer Matthew B. Mowery’s Twitter:
“Who do these fans think we should be closing with? I don’t understand this. When I read (stuff) like this … and there’s nothing wrong with the article. I don’t understand who they think we should be closing with.
“So I’m asking that question — who the (bleep) should I be closing with?
“They want some rookie kid? I mean, I don’t understand that.
“Stuff like that boggles my mind. It doesn’t upset me. I was just reading this. Talks about Valverde being the best closing option, and talks about the fans. It has nothing to do with me liking Valverde. Who the (bleep) should I close with? Who do you want me to close with? Ortega? Rondon? Smyly? I mean, who the (bleep) do you want me to close with? When I put Coke in the game, and they say ‘He can’t get a right-hander out.’ You want me to close with Coke? I don’t know what the (bleep) these people want. Sometimes, it boggles my mind.”
Leyland probably needed a long drag on a Marlboro Red to cool out after that and remember these comments came before Jose Valverde blew Wednesday afternoon’s game vs. the Royals.
Joking aside, the Tigers’ pen aside from Drew Smyly (and Joaquin Benoit in spots) has been dreadful. Detroit tried to go into the season without a closer after rookie Bruce Rondon failed to impress in the spring and didn’t make the team. By the end of April, they’d brought back Valverde, who was last seen giving up home run after home run in the 2012 postseason, mainly to Hall of Fame-bound Raul Ibanez.
Papa Grande was okay to start when the Tigers called him up to the big club in May. He only allowed one run in his first 12 innings, until a total meltdown on May, 31 in Baltimore when he served up two homers and four earned runs in a loss to the Orioles. It’s only gotten worse in June for Valverde with three home runs allowed in under five innings of work. Wednesday, with the Tigers up 2-0 on the Royals and two outs in the ninth, he served up a long shot by Lorenzo Cain to tie the game. No lead feels safe when you’re handing the ball off to Valverde at the moment, despite being only two seasons removed from going 49-for-49 in save opportunities.
2012 postseason closer by default Phil Coke is now 0-4 with an ERA over 5 this year after Wednesday’s walk-off loss to the Royals. The less said of the rest of the Tigers’ pen, the better.
What’s irking for fans is the Tigers starting rotation in 2013 would make the Atlanta Braves of the early 1990s blush. Max Scherzer is 9-0. Anibal Sanchez is striking out over 11 batters per nine innings and has no-hit stuff every start. Doug Fister has given up 12 walks in 85 innings and a “down” year for Justin Verlander still means a 3.41 ERA and 10.4 Ks per 9.
When a team is built to win now like the Tigers are a problem like this can’t be ignored. Expect a trade for a closer sooner, rather than later, or at least someone from within the organization to replace the ineffective Valverde.
As it stands the Tigers are the “butter face” of baseball, but it’s their closer that’s the problem.
[H/T Bless You Boys]