Sep 21, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Joakim Soria (38) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, I talked about how well the bullpen was performing recently. I am an eternal optimist and I seriously believed that things were getting better. I believed that if the bullpen took steps backwards that Ausmus would step up and make the changes necessary to get the bullpen in order.
I believed that Joe Nathan would remain the closer for the Tigers even with the arrival of Joakim Soria. Nathan was slowly improving and his numbers were showing it. The best arm in the Detroit Tigers bullpen is Joakim Soria and I’m not sure if there is much of a question about it.
Brad Ausmus is terribly mismanaging Soria’s role in the bullpen. There is a lot of stubbornness when it comes to the late innings. Joba Chamberlain pitches the 8th inning and Joe Nathan pitches the 9th. Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke see more time late in games than Soria. Soria’s role is to basically mop up Nathan’s mess if he blows a save, or pitch in the 7th if the situation is right. Sunday’s situation was the perfect example. Soria was used in mop-up duty after Coke gave up a double to Alex Gordon.
Joakim Soria should be the closer on this team. If Ausmus really want to stick with Nathan in the 9th, he has to use Soria in the 8th at the very least. Joba has been awful in the 2nd half. He has given up 14 earned runs in 22.2 innings of work since the All-Star Break for a 5.56 ERA and 1.676 WHIP compared to his 2.63 ERA in the first half of the season. Joba seems to struggle about every time out, but he hasn’t got the kick back that Nathan has received because he works the 8th inning and if the Tigers are up by 2 runs, they still have the lead if he gives up 1 which was the case on Saturday before Nathan’s rollercoaster ride.
What is ridiculous I the Soria was acquired to be the best arm in the bullpen. Since returning from the DL on September 10, he has pitched 4 times in 12 days. Before he pitched yesterday, his last appearance was last Monday. Soria had one bad outing as a Tiger just after he was acquired when he gave up 4 runs in one-third of an inning. Since then, Nathan has pitched 7.1 innings and surrendered 2 runs and 5 overall base runners.
The complete misuse of Soria by Ausmus makes me worried about the return about Anibal Sanchez. If Sanchez is healthy, he is the best arm in the bullpen. If we continue to see the same thing from the Tigers, we will not see Sanchez unless there is mop-up duty or in long relief. If Sanchez could perform, he and Soria should make up the back end of the bullpen. My fear is if Sanchez returns and is healthy, Soria could completely disappear from the bullpen instead of being used more.
The ultimate goal for this team is to win the World Series. If the Tigers are going to win the World Series, the bullpen needs to be reliable. Soria is key to locking down the bullpen. The Tigers cannot afford to lose leads late in games. We saw what happens when you blow late leads in Boston last year. I’m not saying we are going to see Torii Hunter feet up in the bullpen, but losing leads at the end of the game leads to losses.