It’s a rare thing when I let my emotions get the best of me. Rarer still that I decide to let my disgust be known in an article on our site. I don’t know if disgust is the right word though, maybe dissatisfaction or frustration. I’m going to just come out and say it. I’m tired of watching Phil Coke right now.
There are things to like about Phil Coke for sure. He seems like a good teammate, has good stuff for a lefty, and has had some really good stints for the Tigers out of the bullpen over the past couple of years. He also seems like a stand up guy, not ducking responsibility when he has a bad outing. I like the mentality he brings to the ball park, but mentality and being a good teammate doesn’t equal getting outs. And that’s what is really missing from Phil Coke’s game right now.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of Coke’s recent struggles, let me first say I don’t blame him for the loss tonight, despite me being tired of seeing him on the mound. Brayan Villarreal throwing 8 straight balls to two consecutive batters didn’t help. Neither did an offense that mustered very little against a struggling young starter, albeit a talented one. Still, what should be fairly obvious to anyone who follows the Tigers regularly, and most of all manager Jim Leyland, Phil Coke doesn’t belong pitching in close game situations right now.
Let’s look at some of those recent numbers.
Since the 2nd half of the season has started, Phil Coke has made it into 9 games, which has covered 8.1 innings. In those 8.1 innings, Coke has given up 15 hits and 5 walks, for a WHIP of 2.4, and allowed 7 runs. Hitters are batting .395 against him with an OPS of 1.149.Clearly, he isn’t fooling anyone in the past month or so. Saturday night marked the 5th straight game he either gave up a run himself, or an inherited run. Right handed batters are hitting a healthy, if not staggering, .393 against Coke this season, and the Rangers of course made sure they put 3 right handed hitters against Coke.
It’s easy for me to say Coke shouldn’t have been in there, given that hindsight is 20/20 after Coke gave up a game losing hit. Jim Leyland’s job isn’t an easy one. Often he is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. I get why he went with Coke even if it does make my stomach churn right now. Leyland feels comfortable with him because he is somewhat of a veteran and doesn’t have the same level of trust in some of the other guys. Plus, Octavio Dotel pitched 2 innings in last night’s game. Jose Valverde pitched two consecutive days, although he likely could’ve went tonight in a save situation given low pitch counts. Joaquin Benoit has a gopher ball problem right now, but ultimately he is a better pitcher than Coke. There was also Darrin Downs and Duane Below, but tossing those guys into a role they haven’t been in could be a dangerous proposition. At this point though, I don’t particularly care.
I would especially be okay rolling the dice with Duane Below. Below has been solid in pretty much any capacity he has been used in this season. But what really interests me is his split against right handers. They are only hitting .250 against him on the season with an OPS of just .667. It’s a stark contrast to the .393 and 1.034 numbers that Coke has against righties this season. Overall, it’s not like Coke has been that good either.
In 2012 Coke has allowed opponents to hit .326 against him with a WHIP of 1.632. These aren’t the numbers of a guy that should be in high leverage situations. Certainly not facing many right handed batters in these situations anyway. In fairness, Coke hasn’t been especially lucky with a .383 BABIP this season, but the bottom line is he isn’t getting the job done as of late.
Jim Leyland has never been a guy that I believe thinks outside of the box that often, or does things that are outside of his comfort zone. But in this case, he may have to soon. His reliance on Phil Coke to be that high leverage lefty is hurting this club. The Tigers are going to need a left handed reliever that they can count on down the stretch, and I’m not sure that Phil Coke is that guy. At the very least, giving Below or even Darin Downs a look next time could be worth it.
Phil Coke may be one of the most likeable Tigers, but he is also one of the more perplexing. I have always looked at Phil Coke’s mentality and his stuff thinking…his numbers should be better than this.
Now I am just thinking he should be put into a different role.