As I write this, his elbow likely is spontaneously combusting, but it’s beginning to look like the Detroit Tigers finally have a reliable closer. Joakim Soria has been both busy and successful this season, appearing in twenty-two of the Tigers’ forty-eight games so far, allowing just three runs and one blown save in that span. Eight of his twenty-two appearances have been on no rest, and six more were after just one day of rest. Since Joe Nathan went down with a season-ending injury, the ninth inning has belonged to Soria, and, on a couple recent occasions, part of the eighth inning as well. Soria’s success is quite welcome, and this expanded use of his closer also reflects well on manager Brad Ausmus, who was criticized for what appeared to be inartful handling of his relievers last year.
Whatever the cause of Soria’s rediscovered success this year, along with the positive contributions of his fellow relief pitchers, the Tigers suddenly find themselves with one of the best bullpens in baseball, as measured by ERA. (They were fourth-worst in 2014.) This reversal comes not a moment too soon for Detroit, where, with Victor Martinez back on the DL, the offense has evaporated like a mid-May snow melt. Thanks in no small part to Soria, though, the team was able to win two of three in Oakland while scoring just four runs in the entire series. The closer appeared on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, allowing two hits, one walk, and no runs in 2.1 innings pitched to seal both victories. Below is the final pitch of yesterday’s game, which is not unpleasing to watch.
(Video is available here.) Like the rest of us, all Oakland batter Marcus Semien can do is tip his batting helmet to a pitch well-thrown.
With a functional bullpen and a reliable closer suddenly at his disposal, Ausmus now finds himself with the task of not overusing one of his best arms. On average, Soria has thrown about fifty-five innings per season. So far this year, he’s on pace for seventy-one, which would be a career high.
Snapshot: How good has the Detroit Tigers starting rotation been to date? – 4-29
An audible discussion of current baseball topics – 4/27
The Criminal Mind: Measuring Radical Changes in Base-Thieving Habits – 4/16
Shane Greene Outduels Burnett as Tigers Hurdle Pirates to Avenge Only Loss – 4/15
Detroit Tigers 2015 Season Preview – 3/12