Given that the Tigers pen in the playoffs didn’t match up well with the Texas Rangers, it is one area in which there could be some improvement. I would think the Tigers won’t go crazy in the free agent market, simply because they are locked in to two guys in Jose Valverde and Jaoquin Benoit, and have young guys like Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth under financial control. Phil Coke will undoubtedly be on this team as well as one of the lefties. Al Alburquerque showed well enough before he battled elbow soreness and concussion, so he will more than likely be the 6th guy. So, six spots of a seven man bullpen appear to be spoken for.
That leaves David Pauley, who was acquired along with Doug Fister in a trade with the Mariners. Pauley pitched poorly down the stretch for the Tigers, so much so, that he was left of the playoff rosters in favor of Brad Penny. Pauley, who went 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA for the Tigers, had a real good season going before the trade. That, however, was due in large part to a tremendous season at home with the Seattle Mariners. Pauley had an ERA of 0.67 at SafeCo Field. He did alright in Comerica Park with an ERA of 3.38 as well, but everywhere else, he had a rough go of it.
Here is the deal with Pauley. His stuff doesn’t play over the long haul in the major leagues. Guys like him; who don’t break the 90mph mark with their fastball, have to live off of exceptional command, movement, and ability to change speeds. It’s not that it can’t be done, it just is way more difficult than a guy that can throw it by hitters, and teams don’t know what they are going to get from year to year with guys like this. While relief is definitely a better role for Pauley, pitchers like him tend to get hit around eventually.
Pauley will no doubt be in the mix for the Tigers in the bullpen come 2012, if he isn’t included in an off-season deal of some sort. I just don’t think he deserves a spot, and more than likely will have to be a guy that competes for a role on the team against Duane Below, Brayan Villareal, Luis Marte, and other random guys that show up in spring training.
I’m plenty okay with that. He hasn’t shown in a Tigers uniform that he should be guaranteed a roster spot, or not be looked at as possible position upgrade. If the Tigers feel they can add a reasonable bullpen arm, they should probably do so. As we could see from the playoffs, the lack of reliable bullpen arms had as much to do with that loss to the Rangers as anything.