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

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

[UPDATED] Fistered: Tigers lose starting pitcher to the Nationals

News broke last night that the Detroit Tigers traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals, the team’s second major move of this young offseason. (They traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler last month.)

In exchange for Fister, the Nationals sent Detroit Steve Lombardozzi Jr., a utility player; Ian Krol, a left-handed reliever; and Robbie Ray, a left-handed starting pitcher in the minor leagues. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said that Krol “can step right into our bullpen and has the potential to be a No. 1 lefthanded reliever,” and he called Lombardozzi “one of the best utilitymen in baseball.”

It’s tough for me to evaluate this trade, because I’ve never heard of Lombardozzi, Krol, or Ray. I’m far from a league-wide expert on players, but that may be an evaluative statement, however. I know Dombrowski has committed to moving Drew Smyly into a starting role, but I thought it would be Rick Porcello, or perhaps Max Scherzer, who departed to make room for Smyly. The decision to move Fister surprised me, and although I don’t know anything about Lombardozzi, Krol, or Ray, I can’t help feeling like Detroit got too little in return for the very solid Fister.   Continue reading