Dave Dombrowski’s bullpen inaction will cost Detroit Tigers 2015 postseason


“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” -Andy Dufresne

My favorite movie of all-time is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Shawshank Redemption is all about hope keeping you going in a lousy situation, believing that when you’ve been through so much bad, things are going to get better at some point.

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Perhaps Dave Dombrowski is also a fan of the movie because over the last few off-seasons he has often take a hopeful approach about the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen–and it has blown up in his face on several occasions.

With news coming out over the past 24 hours that the Tigers are passing on Andrew Miller and did not even contact his representative to gauge interest levels, compensation demands, etc., Dombrowski may not have only damaged prospects of an improved bullpen next year, it may cost the Tigers a spot in the 2015 postseason. If the bullpen is left in the shape it currently stands today, the Tigers WILL miss a chance at their fifth straight playoff berth.

When you look back at the last two playoff runs for the Tigers, the bullpen served a key role in the team’s ouster.

In the 2013 ALCS with the Tigers looking to go up 2-0 on the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Max Scherzer began to tire with a 5-0 lead. Not trusting his bullpen, then manager Jim Leyland tried to ride out Max as much as he could. Then the parade of awful began with no one able to record an out and Joaquin Benoit coming in and allowing a series-changing Grand Slam.

That moment may have clinched the pennant for the Red Sox as it changed the momentum. Had the Tigers been able to close that game down, who knows how those middle games in Detroit would have gone. A 2-0 advantage is much different than 1-1.

Had the Tigers advanced out of that series, I really would have liked their chances against the Cardinals in the World Series–but we never will know thanks to the bullpen.

This past October, when margin for error in the short ALDS is so thin, the bullpen turned what looked like an easy Tigers’ win in Game 2 into a loss. Once again these are moments that, if the bullpen was competent, could have altered the path of the playoffs. Had the Tigers won Game 2 and not had it slip into infamy, they would have come home tied 1-1 with more energy from both players and fans.

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  • A troubling trend is emerging. As the Tigers bullpen has gotten weaker, the team’s postseason has gotten shorter and shorter. When they had a fairly competent bullpen in 2012 (aside from Jose Valverde‘s season-long meltdown) they made it to the World Series. The following year saw the bullpen take a step back and the team couldn’t make it out of the ALCS. Then this past year when the bullpen was one of the worst in baseball, Detroit was out in three games.

    With the bullpen in roughly the same shape in 2015, just with a different set of lackluster characters, it would follow a natural progression that the Tigers will be sitting at home in October for the first time since 2010.

    Last year Dombrowski tinkered with the bullpen. He made a big splash with Joe Nathan, however with his age there was some concern with that deal and sadly worst case scenario played out. He did not, however, address middle relief. Instead DD seemed to “hope” that his bullpen would be better. They’d rely more on Bruce Rondon and “hope” Joba Chamberlain could be a decent middle innings option.

    That hope went south when Rondon went out for the season and Chamberlain, despite a solid two-month stretch mid-year, was a disappointment.

    By not going after Miller, Dombrowski and the Tigers are once again hoping for the best. Hoping that last season was just a hiccup for their 41-year old closer. Hoping that Rondon will be 100% and as solid as he showed down the stretch in 2013 and not as ineffective as he showed earlier in that year. Hoping that Joel Hanrahan can finally come back and be the force he once was. Hoping that someone within the organization can step up and be a shutdown middle innings option.

    That is a lot of hope. As much as I love Shawshank Redemption and the powerful message it imparts, even Andy Dufresne would says, “yikes my hope doesn’t extend that far. Good luck, bro.”