One Week In, Bullpen A Cause For Concern


The Detroit Tigers have made it through one week and 6 games with what you’d consider the most likely outcome overall: 3-3. If we expect the Tigers to be a 91-win team, that’s closer to winning 3 out of every 6 than it is to winning 4 out of every 6. The two biggest lineup question marks – Victor Martinez (who might be rusty) and Andy Dirks (who might not be as good as he looked last year) – haven’t looked very good. The defense looks better. Early season pitch limits have kept starters outings short.

Apr 3, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher

Brayan Villarreal

(60) delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Twins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The big concern, as far as the media goes, has been that the Tigers lack a closer. We at MCB have been largely dismissive of that idea. The Tigers are only 2 for 3 in save attempts so far this season – which ain’t that great. The concern, at the moment, is that while we have no problem with a “bullpen committee” with less defined roles that really only works if the bullpen is pretty good top to bottom. Through 6 games – admittedly a tiny sample (less than a game in NFL terms) – every Tiger reliever has made at least 2 appearances and the only one without an earned run charged to his name is Al Alburquerque. And it’s far from fair to say that about Alburquerque, since he allowed several runs to score on Saturday but got them all charged to Max Scherzer. So far the ‘pen has thrown 19 1/3 innings and allowed 15 earned runs (not counting Al Al’s failure to bail Mad Max out). They have walked 13 batters, something their 23 strikeouts doesn’t quite compensate for.

The rotation will probably make it to the 7th more often than not, so the Tigers will be a little less exposed to bad relief outings than they have been so far. These guys are also better than they have looked – all relievers have bad outings here and there. Nonetheless, if basically everybody is suspect it’s hard to be comfortable in a situation where – effectively – roles are determined on a day to day basis depending on who has looked the sharpest. Right now that’s Joaquin Benoit and Darin Downs. Will it be by next Sunday? The Tigers don’t need a “bullpen savior” from outside the organization, as some have been calling for for a long time and more may start calling for. It wouldn’t frankly, do much good to bring in a shutdown closer if you’re struggling to make it through the 6th and 7th. The Tigers definitely DO need the guys they have to get things right soon.