Monday, October 15, 2012
Who should Tigers use as their closer?
By David Schoenfield
The Detroit Tigers have allowed 15 runs in seven postseason games. Jose Valverde has allowed seven of those. So, in 62.1 innings the rest of the Detroit staff has allowed eight runs; in 2.1 innings, Valverde has allowed seven. Those seven runs include memorable blow-ups against the A's in Game 4 of the Division Series and then against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Despite those numbers, Jim Leyland says Valverde will remain his closer. "I guess that sounds like I am mud watching, but I am really not," Leyland said. "We will do some work with him."
No, I don't have any idea what "mud watching" means.
The case for: He's been their closer all season, saved 35 of 40 games, allowed just three home runs in the regular season and was perfect in 2011, in case you really want to bring up 2011.
The case against: His 6.3 K's per nine is way below the standards you expect from a closer these days. Had a large platoon split -- .515 OPS against right-handers, .754 against left-handers -- and Yankees roll out a lot of lefties and switch-hitters. He stinks.
The case for: The lefty got the save in Sunday's 3-0 victory by getting the final six outs. Yankees have all those lefties and switch-hitters so Coke is maybe the best matchup out of the pen. He gets the platoon advantage against Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez and flips Nick Swisher to his weaker side.
The case against: He's not really that good. He allowed 71 hits in 58 innings during the regular season and right-handers hit .396 off him. LOOGY? Sure. Closer? Are you kidding?
The case for: The veteran has closer experience and had the best numbers of any Detroit reliever -- allowed a .230 average and .276 OBP and his SO/BB ratio of 5.17 was sixth-best among AL pitchers with at least 50 innings.
The case against: Has historically had big platoon splits. Righties hit .197 off him this year but lefties hit .288. Using him against a string of left-handers is just asking for trouble.
The case for: Maybe the best stuff in the Detroit bullpen but pitched just 13.1 innings after returning from elbow surgery. In 56.2 career innings, opponents are hitting .140 off him with just two extra-base hits and 85 strikeouts. Would be worth it just to see Mike Francesa's reaction.
The case against: His slider is near unhittable but he can also be wild. Has never saved a game. While he's never allowed a regular-season home run, the Yankees touched him up for three runs in one-third of an inning in last year's Division Series.
Update: Obviously, I forgot to mention Joaquin Benoit, which was just stupid of me. I added him to the poll. Of course, he's just as dicey as everyone else, considering the 14 home runs he allowed were the second-most of any reliever in 2012 -- with only ancient Livan Hernandez allowing more. As I write this, the "committee" idea was winning the poll in a landslide anyway. I suspect -- despite what he said -- that is probably what Leyland will end up doing.