Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's Wrong With Jose Valverde?

By Sean Gagnier

Jose Valverde blew his second save of the season on Saturday afternoon when he allowed a two-run home run to the White Sox' Adam Dunn that put the Sox ahead 3-2 in the ninth inning. The Tigers had not trailed all day, after scoring two in the second inning and taking a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning.

In 2011, Valverde was perfect in save situations, leading the Tigers to pick up his club option for the 2012 season. They expected him to continue his perfect ways this season, but that has not been the case. He has looked shaky in almost all of his outings this season and has blown two saves while winning two games so for this year.

When your closer has two wins in the first week of May, things are not good. It shows signs that the closer isn't on top of his game and has to rely on ninth inning heroics to propel the team to the victory instead of counting on the arm of the man put out there to secure the win.

Because ERA's and closers don't usually agree due to the low number of innings they pitch a look at the WHIP is more showing of how they are throwing. Valverde has a 1.78 WHIP, meaning that for every inning that he pitches, he is allowing almost two base runners. That is not a good number to have.

An even more telling statistic of how off Valverde has been this season is is H/9, which is a measure of the number of hits given up per nine innings of work. Valverde is allowing 10.1 hits per nine innings, which is well off of his career average of 6.8 H/9.

His BB/9 and SO/9 have both also seen drastic changes over the past year, in 2011 Valverde's BB/9 was 4.2 but that has ballooned to 5.9 in 2012. Meaning that per every nine innings pitched Valverde is walking nearly six batters, up nearly two from last season. Over the same period, Valverde has seen his SO/9 drop from 8.6 in 2011 to 5.9 in 2012. While he is walking two more batters a game, he is also striking out about 1.5 less batters per nine innings.

While these numbers do not justify relieving Valverde of the closers role at this time, they do indicate that he should be watched carefully over his next several outings in order to try to identify what is going wrong with the usually perfect Papa Grande. 

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