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Thursday, June 13, 2013
Tigers hitters are to blame as well

By David Schoenfield

One more quick note on the Tigers and their bullpen. After Jose Valverde blew the save in the ninth yesterday and then Phil Coke got the loss in the 10th, the Tigers have now lost four games they led heading into the ninth inning.

That is a high total for this early in the season; the average team lost 3.7 such games last year. Heck, even the Braves with arguably the game's best closer in Craig Kimbrel have lost three such games and the best-record-in-baseball Cardinals have dropped two so far. What's really hurt the Tigers, however, is their 2-7 record in extra innings.

Again, blame the bullpen, right?

Well, sort of. The bullpen hasn't been great in extra innings, allowing 11 runs in 21 innings for a 4.71 ERA. But the hitters have been even worse -- they've scored just five runs while hitting .198. Tigers relievers have allowed five home runs in extra innings but Tigers hitters have hit none. Miguel Cabrera has been at his worst in the tightest situations -- he's 1-for-8 with two walks in extra innings and 5-for-37 (.135, all singles) in "late and close" situations. Prince Fielder is 9-for-41 (.220) in late and close situations and 1-for-10 in extra innings.

Valverde isn't a good closer and the Tigers' bullpen is mediocre. But it's still a team game. The Tigers have been a great team for the first eight innings of games, not so great after, and that's the key reason they've underperformed their Pythagorean record (projected win total based on runs scored and allowed) by four wins so far.