At The (Second) Quarter Pole: The Bullpen


We have reached the halfway point in the Tigers’ season, and it’s time to do our second quarterly review. We’ll kick this off with the bullpen, about which we were more than a little concerned about after the first quarter. 40 games later, a 4.28 bullpen ERA isn’t world-beating, but things do look a little more secure. Despite the above average ERA, the deeper ‘pen has added around a win and a half above average by win expectancy. One thing to clarify: the trade for David Purcey has very little to do with any of this:

Follow me through the jump to see the grades:

Jose Valverde: B [3.52 ERA, 8 Saves, 10/12 K/BB in 15 1/3]
-Valverde hasn’t been quite as sharp in the second quarter as in the first, due to more than a little wildness, but a low BABIP has helped limit the damage.

Joaquin Benoit: A+ [1.23 ERA, 2 Saves, 15/4 K/BB in 14 2/3]
-Benoit is the first big story here, as far as the ‘transformation’ of the Tigers bullpen is concerned. He has the best primary stats, the best peripherals and the highest average leverage index on the team. If Benoit throws paraffin, the Tigers have a bad bullpen – if he throws dry ice they have a good one.

Daniel Schlereth: D- [7.71 ERA, 18/12 K/BB in 11 2/3 innings]
-The only thing that saves Schlereth from a flat F is the fact that he raised his strikeout rate to something near Alburquerque (Santa Fe?). Schlereth has still managed to strand more runners than you might expect, but that’s about it. He’s walking more than a batter an inning AND getting knocked around whenever they manage to make contact. Perhaps part of this is his high BABIP, but then that’s part of the problem too… Despite a fairly low aLI, Schlereth has done by far the most damage (in terms of win expectancy) to the Tigers of any reliever in the second quarter.

Ryan Perry: D- [10.13 ERA, 4/4 K/BB in 8 innings]
-Well, he was good in Toledo… But if you sum up all Perry’s contributions since game 41 you can’t describe it as anything but awful. A big part of that is a ridiculous .450 BABIP, but I’m more inclined to believe he earned that BABIP than otherwise. BABIP aside, his peripherals may look bad, but not nearly as bad as Mr. Schlereth. So what saves Perry from an F? He has been pitching with something closer to adequacy since his return from the minors and his WPA is ever so slightly positive, so he’s been at his worst when it counted the least.

David Purcey: C- [3.55 ERA, 9/11 K/BB in 11 2/3 innings]
-If I had written yesterday that Purcey deserved no better than that, I’m sure some folks would have charged to his defense. After his poor showing last night, maybe not. His ERA was awfully good, hovering near 1, and even after that bad game it’s still not too shabby. Purcey’s peripherals don’t match, unfortunately – the only thing he’s getting right is good luck on balls in play. He didn’t have such good luck last night, and you saw a little of what we might expect from a pitcher who walks nearly a batter an inning without Alburquerque’s Ks. Purcey has a track record (though it’s not all spotless), so I do hope he can get those walks under control – but if he can’t he might just be trading places with Schlereth in a couple of weeks. And in the meantime I’m left wondering ‘what don’t they like about Adam Wilk?’

Enrique Gonzalez: D- [7.36 ERA, 1/1 K/BB in 3 2/3 innings]
-It is mystifying to me how Gonzalez continues to baffle AAA hitters, when he seems to do nothing of the kind against major leaguers. In his second stint with the Tigers this year, Gonzalez has contributed basically nothing.

The Tigers bullpen has been better in the second quarter, don’t let these grades deceive you, but of the Tigers veteran arms the only one to make a major contribution has been Joaquin Benoit. The other two saviors, Al Alburquerque and Charlie Furbush are rookies, so they will be covered later today in their own special chapter. They have been leaned on heavily, Alburquerque has the second highest aLI on the team after Benoit – fitting nicely into the ‘need strikeout NOW‘ role in the ‘pen – and Furbush has thrown more innings than any other reliever in the second quarter, even if many have been in low leverage situations.