Bullpen Questions Abound For Tigers


In the wake of yesterday’s come-from-ahead defeat at the hands of the Chicago White Sox, we are reminded once again that the Tigers second half issues have been more a case of pitching than offense.

The Tigers got a solid, if not spectacular, effort from Max Scherzer. It’s become expected of the Tigers right hander and he delivered another very strong outing yesterday. He wasn’t perfect, but he held the White Sox to three runs through 7.1 innings, exiting with a runner on base and one out. Unfortuantely, Scherzer’s final line will show four runs allowed thanks to a hanging slider thrown by Ryan Perry.

That slider resulted in the game-tying RBI single by Alexei Ramirez and Chicago went on to beat the Tigers in 10 innings after yet another shaky outing by Jose Valverde.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way, but it has. The Tigers started the year with one of the best bullpens in baseball and they leaned on those relievers hard. No bullpen had a lower ERA through the season’s first month, but no bullpen had thrown as many innings, either. All the tax placed on those arms have resulted in a corps of relievers now overworked and ineffective.

To better illustrate the point, consider that while the Tigers rotation struggled to a 4.81 ERA in the first half, the bullpen wound up bailing them out time and again, posting an 18-6 record and 3.30 ERA. Since the all-star break, Tigers starters have an ERA nearly a run lower at 3.92, but the bullpen has gone just 6-13 with an ERA of 5.30, two full runs higher than in the first half.

When the Tigers went to Spring Training back in February, they had an embarrassment of riches in terms of relief help. Detroit figured to have as many as five left handers fighting for jobs in the bullpen and had a very talented group of right handers as well. In a perfect world, Detroit would have opened the season with Valverde, Perry, Phil Coke, Joel Zumaya, Zach Miner, Bobby Seay, and Eddie Bonine in the bullpen.

Seay and Miner were lost for the year without making it out of Lakeland and Zumaya was done in June. The Tigers have brought in no fewer than eight arms from the minor leagues to try to stop the bleeding to varying degrees of success.

When the offseason begins, General Manager Dave Dombrowski will have a heaping pile of cash to use to rectify the ails of his team. he’ll also have an alarming number of holes to fill. The Tigers will have to prioritize the needs of the team, but Dombrowski and company should make sure they don’t overlook the need for experienced relievers. If this season has taught us anything, it’s that you truly can never have too much pitching.