Joe Nathan was signed this past offseason to a 2-year $20 million deal to be the Detroit Tigers closer. The Tigers also traded for Joakim Soria before the trade deadline to help sure up the back end of the bullpen. Many believe that Soria will be the closer once October rolls around, but I am one who still believes in Nathan.
Now, why do I believe in a closer who has a 5.45 ERA and 1.462 WHIP? Since June 13th, Nathan has appeared in 17 games. Over those 17 games, Nathan has pitched 16.2 innings and surrendered 16 hits, 5 walks, and 6 earned runs. This is a 3.23 ERA and 1.260 WHIP. While these numbers are not shut down and lights out, these numbers are much better than they were previously. Over that time, Nathan has converted 9 of 10 saves and steadily lowered his ERA from 7.04 to 5.45 which is substantial at this point of the season.
Over that same stretch, Soria has pitched in 15 games. Over the 15 games, Soria has pitched 11.2 innings and surrendered 22 hits, 3 walks, and 10 runs for a 7.71 ERA and a 2.143 WHIP. This stretch has bumped Soria’s ERA to 3.86 and WHIP to 1.14. These numbers are better than Nathan’s for the season, but Nathan is trending in the right direction. Soria’s bump is mostly due to two bad outings with the Tigers, but the bad outings still happened.
The advanced stats also support Nathan’s cause. Nathan’s FIP is 3.87 and xFIP is 3.60 which are much closer to his numbers over this stretch which shoes his progression to the mean instead of the regression to the mean others have had. Nathan’s BABIP is .330 this year which is due both to bad luck and having a poor season, but his career BABIP is .257. Nathan’s percentage of runners LOB this season is 65.4% where his career average is 78.6%.
I am not saying that Joakim Soria is not a good pitcher and that he could not close for the Tigers in 2014. I believe Soria could be the difference in shutting down the late innings for the Tigers bullpen. I am saying that I still believe in Joe Nathan as the closer for the Detroit Tigers in 2014. He has not been good this year, but he is trending in the right direction. Nathan has had his blow ups in 2014, but Soria has too and it is much fresher in the minds of Tigers fans. Believe in Joe Nathan for now, because he is your closer until further notice.