Oct 24, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde (46) walks back to the dugout after being relieved in the 7th inning during game one of the 2012 World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT

A Thank You To Jose Valverde

The Detroit Tigers have come out and publicly stated that they are prepared to move on from Jose Valverdeas the closer of their ball club. A huge sigh of relief could be heard all around Detroit when that announcement was made, and I will admit that I was part of that crew. It’s not that I have anything personally against Jose Valverde, I just don’t tend to be in favor of high priced closers. Especially ones that appear to have lost faith in their out pitch, and velocity on their fastball.

His implosion in the playoffs in 2012 was one of the more unsettling things for me to watch. Not because I was a huge fan of Valverde’s in particular, but because this was a guy who seemed to be able to shake off bad innings and games in the past rather easily. It didn’t look that way when the Giants lit him up in game one of the World Series. He looked like a guy that was questioning his own ability, despite what he would say to the media about shrugging off that debacle against the Oakland A’s a couple series earlier. The writing on the wall was pretty clear to everyone at that point that Jose Valverde’s days as a Tiger were pretty much over.

It was a sad end to a Detroit Tigers tenure that had been so good since he became the closer for the Tigers in 2010.

I’ve never completely jumped on the Valverde bandwagon. That’s just a personal thing for me. I’m not a huge fan of antics of any sort by pitchers, or hitters really in baseball. No, I don’t mind players having fun. I’m just talking about the “weirdness” displayed by some of the players out there. Brian Wilson of the Giants comes to mind as well. These antics just seem an effort to draw attention to themselves, when it should be all about getting the job done. And that is where I do have to give Jose Valverde credit. In general he got the job done.

Nobody can dispute that the 2011 season Jose Valverde put together for the Tigers was one of the best relief performances in their clubs storied history. We forget, in part due to Justin Verlander‘s 2011 MVP performance, that Jose Valverde finished 5th in the Cy Young race last year. Was there an element of luck involved in that season? Sure. But we can’t take away from the kind of season he had. Valverde posted an ERA of 2.24 in 2011, was an All-Star and saved a league leading 49 games for the Tigers. In 2011, when he came into a save situation, we all knew the door was closed. After all, he didn’t blow a single save in 2011. His only black marks on his record seemed to come from non-closing opportunities when the adrenaline wasn’t nearly as high.

Valverde isn’t the only closer in baseball that seems to struggle in those situations. Fernando Rodney seemed to be much the same way.

2010 was a real good year for Valverde as well. He saved 26 of 29 games in his first season with the Tigers, and posted an ERA of 3.00. He was an All-Star that season as well.

In 2012, before the playoffs even, Valverde was a little more shaky. For the first time as a Tiger, he failed to save 90% of his games. He recorded 35 saves this past season, but blew five of them, for an 88% save mark. His 3.78 ERA was his highest mark since 2006, and again, the loss of a little velocity and his decreasing confidence in his split finger fastball led some people to wonder if Valverde had some sort of injury he wasn’t disclosing. That doesn’t appear to be the case, and there was a suggestion in the playoffs that it was a mechanical issue. Of course, that was before the Giants hit him around too.

I’m getting off track though.

I don’t know if you noticed from those numbers that I gave you, but Jose Valverde only blew eight saves in three years with the Tigers. That is real good any way you slice it. Jonathan Papelbon has blown 15 saves in that stretch. Mariano Rivera blew 11 in that span, and he didn’t even pitch but a couple weeks in 2012. You probably get the hint. While we all have every right to be ticked off with Jose Valverde’s 2012 performance, and his playoff debacle, let’s not forget that his contract was well worth it.

The truth is Jose Valverde has been one of the best closers in baseball for the Tigers for the past three years. I didn’t want that to get lost in all the joy that Tigers fans have been expressing that he is not going to be a Tiger in 2013. That just isn’t fair to the guy, who has been a great teammate and a stand up individual the whole time he was in Detroit.

I wish Jose Valverde good luck. Sometimes it is necessary to move on, and I agree with the Tigers decision. But I won’t forget his contribution to the Tigers winning the past couple of seasons.

 

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