Flying Tigers: Closing Time?

Detroit sought The Answer once before, late in his life, but he brought only questions. Now, Joe Nathan is supposed to be Detroit’s answer to the clown show that was 2013 Jose Valverde. Through one third of the season, though, Joe is looking a lot like Jose.

Before Detroit canned him for the last time, Papa Grande pitched 19.1 innings for the 2013 Tigers. To date, Nathan has pitched 20.2 innings for the 2014 Tigers. Their numbers are eerily similar:

josenathan

(Click to enlarge. Numbers from BaseballReference.)

Last year, the team cut Valverde loose in the middle of the season, handing the closer job to the very capable former eighth-inning man, Joaquin Benoit. Could something similar happen this season? Joba Chamberlain has firmly grasped the eighth-inning reins at this point, and he could shift into the closer, perhaps once Joel Hanrahan is ready for big-league action. If Brad Ausmus doesn’t at least start to experiment with his approach to the ninth inning, though, Anibal Sanchez, who has lost two gems in one week due in large part to Nathan’s mistakes, may take matters into his own hands.

[Cross-posted at Bless You Boys. -Ed.]

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Previously
Flying Tigers: Closing the Book on 2013 – 6/2
Flying Tigers: Victor Martinez, Professional Hitter
 – 5/7
Flying Tigers: Actually Mad Max
 – 4/29
Flying Tigers: Waiting for Takeoff – 4/28

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Flying Tigers: Waiting for Takeoff

A month into the season, the Detroit Tigers sit atop the tightly bunched AL Central with a tenuous 12-9 record. The team, guided by first-time manager Brad Ausmus, looks and feels much different than it did over the last two years. Whether due to the change at the helm or a not-quite-coherent set of offseason moves, the 2014 Tigers appear to have traded identity for tactics and strategy. Thus begins Flying Tigers,* our third Detroit baseball series.

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When Jim Leyland announced his retirement following the end of the 2013 season, we knew Motor City baseball would be different in 2014, but we didn’t realize just how different it would be.     Continue reading

Bay of Cigs: Trader Jose(s)

With the non-waiver trade deadline set for 4:00 pm today, the Tigers got in on the action earlier this week by adding two major-league-ready players who should address the team’s short-term needs as they prepare for a postseason run.

On Monday, Detroit acquired bullpen help in the form of Houston closer Jose Veras. Continue reading

ALDLAND Podcast

A very special edition of the ALDLAND podcast this week as blog founder AD joins us to talk NBA free agency and the MLB all-star game. Marcus and I revisit some of our MLB picks from the start of the season and AD makes his own.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Bay of Cigs: Forget what you know

This year’s Detroit Tigers are far from perfect, but they’re off to a good start on the strength of their starting pitching and the bats of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Torii Hunter, Omar Infante, (increasingly) Victor Martinez, and (once again) Austin Jackson.

The weak link– the bullpen– has been both very obvious and very weak. Hoping for some addition by subtraction, the club sent onetime-closer Jose Valverde down to the minors, and a more focused “closer-by-committee” approach has emerged, centering around Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly, with an emphasis on not misusing Phil Coke.

One of the criticisms of manager Jim Leyland is that he likes to have go-to players to fill defined roles, and nowhere is this more applicable than in his handling of relief pitching. In short, Leyland wants to have one guy be his guy when it comes to closing out games in the ninth inning. His unwillingness to deviate from that approach has had exceedingly frustrating consequences when The Closer is someone less effective than the likes of a Craig Kimbrel or, say, a 2011-vintage Valverde. (This is especially true because the Tigers have trouble scoring late in games. If the bullpen blows a lead late, this team is unlikely to mount a comeback.) Even though fans would like to see Leyland be a bit more nimble with the way he utilizes his personnel, some of his attitude surely has rubbed off on them. The fans want to have someone who can be The Closer too.

Buster Olney launched a thousand blog posts with his suggestion that current Philadelphia Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon might make a good fit in Detroit. Papelbon has a great reputation as a closer, and, as Buster writes, “there are no questions about whether he could handle October,” which is where the Tigers’ expectations reside.

Team owner Mike Ilitch has shown little resistance to spending money on this iteration of the team, which means that the large contract that’s scaring other teams away from Papelbon is unlikely to be an issue in Detroit.

My opinion is that, if the Phillies are willing to part with Papelbon without demanding much beyond the absorption of his contract, the Tigers should get him. If his steady hand can turn these cardiac kitties into some cool cats come playoff time, it’ll be worth it.

That said, it probably is worth taking a look at how Papelbon would stack up with his new teammates if he were to catch a ride to Motor City this season.  Continue reading

Bay of Cigs: Tigers beat Braves 7-4 as part of series sweep of visiting Atlanta

When the top team in the National League and all of baseball traveled to Motown for a three-game series against one of the American League’s best, I promised ALDLAND would be on site as the Tigers closed out April in the D. The following is my report from the weekend.

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