The final installment of grades is in, and this time I am looking at the relievers. As per usual, please do sign and comment on those you like or don’t like. I won’t take offense, it’s all kind of arbitrary anyway.
Without further delay…..
Jose Valverde (A)
I have a feeling I would be skewered by the public if I did any less. Valverde is an interesting discussion. Sabremetrics would tell you that he isn’t anywhere near an A value wise, however, I think when putting a letter grade to Papa Grande, it’s obvious what it is. He is a closer. He came into a save situation 49 times, and he completed the job successfully 49 times. His non-save situations were a little rough, but that isn’t exactly what he is paid for. He is paid to slam the door and he did that. Valverde will no doubt garner a few Cy Young votes, and whether you think that is right or not, it’s because not blowing a save is impressive.
Joaquin Benoit (B+)
After getting off to a rough start early in the season, Benoit started looking more and more like the guy we paid rather largely for in the off-season. Getting 5.5 mil a year for a set-up guy is no small change, but if you believe that 8th inning guys are just as important, Benoit was well worth it. He finished 4-3 on the season with a 2.95 ERA, and in the 2nd half of the year was 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA. He was prime time down the stretch, and that is all you can ask for. He did allow 9 of his 29 inherited runners to score however, which isn’t bad, but could be a little bit better.
Phil Coke (C+)
I am going to take a little artistic license here and essentially throw out Phil Coke’s statistics as a starter. Why? Well, this is a reliever grading article, and secondly, I think most of us knew that Coke fit better as a reliever all along. I originally set out to prove how much better Coke was as a reliever, and he is, but he isn’t that much better. If you want to use a classic statistic, Coke’s ERA in the bullpen at 3.71 isn’t great, but it is a full run less than his ERA as a starter (4.82). But a look at some secondary stats tells you that he allowed an OBP of .345 for both, and he allowed a higher OPS as a reliever. The better ERA as a reliever could be attributed to him getting more strikeouts, being able to throw harder in shorter stints. He is effective against left-handed batters, they only hit .215 against him, however he allowed 41% of inherited runners to score against him.
Daniel Schlereth (C)
Schlereth went 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA on the season. Some might think, what the heck, isn’t that better than Coke? Well, yes to some extent, if you are using just ERA as a measure, but I am taking into account the situations in which the two pitchers pitch. Coke faces all hitters, and usually under more stress than Schlereth, and there is a reason for that. Schlereth is a walk machine. He walked 5.7/9 this past season, and that just isn’t going to get it done, especially if you are mostly a left specialist. He did improve in the 2nd half however after spending some time in Toledo, sporting and ERA of 1.93 after the All-Star break. Until he can throw strikes though, he can’t be completely trusted to throw against more than a batter or two at a time.
Ryan Perry (F)
Ryan Perry should be the poster boy for why teams should never draft a reliever in the 1st round. Well, that may be a little harsh. Perry has actually been okay up until the 2011 season started. 2011 couldn’t have been worse for Perry. He spent a good amount of time in Toledo, and his pro numbers were pretty bad across the board. His ERA of 5.35 was easily the worst of his 3 year career. His k rate has dropped to a dismal 5.8/9. Perry, who was once thought of as a potential closer, can’t even be trusted in the 7th. His WHIP finished the worst in his career as well, sporting a mark of 1.622. For what should have been a step forward, considering this was his 3rd season of baseball, Ryan Perry took a big step back.
David Pauley (F)
Again, I am going to use artistic license as the writer of this article. In the past I have taken the players season as a whole, I am not going to do that for Pauley. Why? His splits and success in Safeco dwarfed his numbers enough that we didn’t get a true feeling of who he is as a pitcher, though in fairness he wasn’t that bad outside of Safeco before the Tigers acquired him. What I can say is that he was pretty terrible in Detroit. Pauley was 0-2 with an ERA of 5.95. While ERA rarely tells the story for a reliever, he was Perry-like in allowing a WHIP in Detroit of 1.627. His 4.6 K/9 stacked up against a 2.7 BB/9 rate doesn’t bode well for a guy who busts the mitt at 85-89 with his fastball. He was bad enough that even though we traded for him, he was left off the playoff roster. That, and Ryan Perry and Brad Penny got spots over him.
Duane Below (C+)
The truth is, we just don’t know much about Below and his role on the Tigers going forward yet. I tend to believe that he looked good enough in the mop-up/long reliever role that he should have the inside track going into next year. But that’s next year. This year, Below sported a 4.19 ERA in relief, increased his K rate to a pedestrian 5.1/9 as a reliever from 2.8 as a starter. Batters hit .236 against Below in a relief role but .282 against him as a starter, suggesting that he is fine once, maybe twice through the order. There is little difference in righty/lefty splits, so I think the long relief role suits him, and he showed well enough to earn a slightly above average grade.
Al Alburquerque (A-)
A.A, as I will call him because he has a long name to type, came on the scene almost out of nowhere. Minor league geeks like myself knew he had an explosive arm, but not a lot of people expected the success he had. A.A. finished the 2011 regular season 6-1 with an ERA of 1.87. His K rate was disgusting at 13.9/9, however, his walk rate of 6/9 is a right handed version of Daniel Schlereth. His absolute wipe out slider is the reason for both, and his success going forward is going to be dependent on his ability to locate his fastball. Hitters have too much trouble laying off the slider. A.A. took a half grade hit because of the injuries which didn’t allow him to pitch as much, and of course the command.
A Collection Of Dudes (F)
In this category, we can list several guys. The first guy that came to mind was the David Purcey disaster. Lester Oliveros, Chance Ruffin, Brayan Villareal, Luis Marte, Charlie Furbush and Brad Thomas also made appearances. None of them were significant enough to get their own grade, or good enough to warrant anything more than failing. Collectively this group was bad……otherwise they probably would’ve stuck around for a while.
*Below are the links to the rest of the grades in case you missed them.