Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Prior to the start of Saturday’s game with the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers led the AL Central with a record of 12-8. In seven of the 20 games the Tigers have played so far, the bullpen has given up runs late in the game to give the opposing team a chance at a come from behind victory. In six of those contests, the Tigers were able to either hold or reestablish a lost lead to notch the victory. One time the opposing team prevailed after a bullpen blow up. It doesn’t sound so bad when you look at it like that, now does it? One loss resulting from seven different bullpen miscues is not a lot, and it could be much worse. But it does raise a question, are nearly blown wins as valuable as games that are cleanly won? Are all wins created equal?
The short answer is YES. There are no asterisks next to the numbers in the W column. There is no “almost” in statistics. A blow out that turns into a nail biter has just as much value when calculating a team’s win percentage as a blow out that stays a blow out. There is no doubting this. The only thing that really matters is that the Tigers have more runs on the board than the other team when the final out is recorded, right?
It’s true that a win is a win is a win. It’s true that wins are not graded based on how many runs a team is beaten by or how many relievers it takes to finish the final three innings. On a very basic level, it truly doesn’t matter HOW the team gets the W, only that the W is obtained.
For fans, it sure gets scary. And it certainly raises questions, the biggest one being: How many more leads can the bullpen blow before the offense isn’t there to bail them out? How many more times can Phil Coke or Ian Krol or Joba Chamberlain or Evan Reed or Joe Nathan give up big runs late in games and have it really not matter? My guess is not too many. Eventually the Tigers’ luck on this front will run out and a bullpen disaster will lead to a heartbreaking loss that should have been a win.
But it hasn’t really happened yet. As big of a mess as some games this season have become, the Tigers have been able to hold on. Maybe Dave Dombrowski will make a move to try and stabalize the pen, maybe he won’t. I’m not holding my breath, but I do have my fingers crossed that, regardless of any trades or moves, the Tigers’ bullpen will gel and find a rhythm, and if nothing else, continue to at LEAST preserve the leads that they’re given.
So yeah, there are more questions than answers. This is baseball, the most complex and deep “simple” game around. What I do know is that, as hard as it can be, we should celebrate every win, even if it’s ugly. Because at the end of the season, it’ll be just another number in the W column. And a W is never bad, right?