Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tigers Bullpen Will Cost Them Games

By Sean Gagnier

It's now five games into the Detroit Tigers 2012 regular season and their starting rotation does not have a single win among them, all of the wins reside with bullpen pitchers - and usually because of the incompetence of pitchers in the pen.

 Detroit's bullpen is made up of; Duane Below, Octavio Dotel, Brayan Villarreal, Collin Balester, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. Only Below, Dotel and Villarreal still have a 0.00 ERA, Villarreal only because he has tossed just 0.1 innings.

As much as Justin Verlander attempted to take the blame for the Tigers ninth inning collapse on Wednesday, the true culprits came from the pen in left field. Verlander did lose control in the ninth, he did allow an earned run and then turn over the baseball to the bullpen with the bases loaded, but the bullpen failed at it's one job - throwing strikes.

Manager Jim Leyland gave the ball to lefty "specialist" Schlereth with one out in the ninth to face a lefty at the plate. A relievers only job is to throw strikes, especially when the lead is on the line in the ninth and more than ever when the bases are loaded. Schlereth failed abysmally at his one job, walking in the only batter he was going to face and tying the game at two.

Then Valverde was called to the mound, coming off an outing where he bounced back from an opening day blown save to get the Tampa Bay Rays out in the ninth on Tuesday. However, it was not a save situation, and as many Tigers fans know, that is not the time you want Valverde anywhere near the ball. With the bases loaded Valverde surrendered a single that got through the infield and into the outfield, scoring two runs.

The Verlander's win gone and now the Tigers lead, Valverde was finally able to get the final two outs of the inning. However, Detroit was unable to claw their way back for a win against former Tiger Fernando Rodney, who retired them in order to save the game for the Rays.

This is not the first game that the bullpen has blown, and it definitely won't be the last unless something is done - and soon. On opening day; the bullpen blew Verlander's win and in the series finale with the Boston Red Sox the bullpen minimized the damage the Red Sox would do but frequently surrendered runs.

The Tigers offense is potent, but the extent to which the bullpen is leaning on them scoring runs late is inexcusable. When a pitcher is in the bullpen and the phone rings, he has one job. It's pretty easy, throw strikes. If a pitcher can't throw strikes, they shouldn't be on the team.

A look at the numbers that Detroit's bullpen has posted so far this season are quite alarming. The eight pitchers have combined for a 3.15 ERA, .316 opponent batting average, 1.36 WHIP and have surrendered 19 hits in just 15 innings pitched. Those numbers are beyond acceptable.

To have all four of your teams wins belong to the bullpen is ridiculous and to have your bullpen pitchers allowing almost one and a half walks and hits per each inning they pitch is simply baffling. How are these people still allowed near the mound? Opponents are hitting over .300 against them! Leyland would be better to simply let his starters go the full nine or give the ball to the only two relievers who haven't proved their incompetence thus far this season.

While it is early, the numbers that this bullpen is posting are very indicative of problems that will remain with them throughout the season and this bullpen will cost the Tigers game this season.

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