1. Jeff Jones Works His Magic On The Bullpen
Jeff Jones might not be an actual magician, but what we’ve learned so far in his tenure as the pitching coach of the Detroit Tigers is that he’s certainly not NOT a magician. It’s impossible to say what exactly he should get credit for, but under his tutelage Max Scherzer turned into a Cy Young Award pitcher, Rick Porcello was finally able to ratchet up his strikeout rate, Anibal Sanchez was able to lead the league in ERA, and Doug Fister went from an unknown to a household name. All of those pitchers possessed certain skills and potential before Jones laid hands on them, but what actually happened was real, measurable improvement for each of them.
Maybe that was all coincidence, but maybe it wasn’t.
If it wasn’t all one giant coincidence, the Tigers need some of that very same Jeff Jones magic to be sprinkled around the bullpen, the only real question mark on the team. Besides Joe Nathan, the Tigers don’t really have a single sure-fire reliable bullpen arm on the roster, but they do have several players with potential. Joba Chamberlain still apparently throws hard. Al Alburquerque has one of the most devastating sliders you’ve ever seen. Phil Coke has flashed plus stuff from the left side. Bruce Rondon throw pure gas.
But what the Tigers need is for two or three of those pitchers to turn into solid, reliable seventh and eighth inning options in front of Nathan. What they need is for all the potential to turn into real, measurable improvement. If Chamberlain can return to pre-2011 form, if Alburquerque can find some semblance of command, if Phil Coke can even just get lefties out, and if Bruce Rondon can take one small step forward, then the bullpen could actually turn into a relative strength.
That’s a lot of ifs to hope for, but if Jones can mold to middle relief corps into even reasonable options, then the Tigers would transform into a team without an exploitable weakness.