Many Detroit Tigers fans balked at Dave Dombrowski’s lack of bullpen moves over the off season and not obtaining a bona fide closer after the Joe Nathan disaster of 2014. Dombrowski obviously saw something in Joakim Soria when he traded for him last year. He saw an ability for Soria to not only serve as a great insurance policy for Joe Nathan but an ability to truly close out games for the Tigers.
Baseball is funny. For the past two seasons we have held our breath every time the game was on the line and the call to the bullpen was made. The bullpen was the Tigers’ weak spot which blew saves that the offense worked hard to create. Ironically, this year it’s the bullpen that is one of the strengths and the offense is the Achilles heel.
The thirty-one year old pitcher from Mexico has a lifetime ERA of 2.51. Soria was one of the premier closers in the game 2008 through 2010 peaking at 43 saves while in Kansas City. A two time all star, Joakim started having some consistency issues in 2011. Then in early 2012 he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season that year Royals declined his option and he left to go to Texas.
The Rangers did not use him as their closer when he returned in 2013 because they had Joe Nathan. When Nathan left in 2014 to go to the Tigers as a free agent, Soria became their closer. Then Rangers gave up on Soria and traded him to the Tigers midyear last year.
Baseball is indeed funny. Here was Joakim Soria getting a closer opportunity in Texas because Nathan left. Then he is traded to the Tigers to be Nathan’s set up man just like in Texas.
But Soria was not the Soria that he was for the Royals or Rangers when he came to Motown last year.
“It was something different”, Soria said about his pitching last year for the Tigers in the Detroit News on December 12, 2014. He suffered an oblique injury and went on the disabled list. He returned in time for the American League Division Series which was an utter disaster in performance.
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Something was different for Soria. No defined role. Traded mid-season. Back up behind Joe Nathan. That was the Joakim Soria we saw last year.
The baseball god’s shone again on Joakim this year when Joe Nathan suffered a season (and possibly career) ending injury forcing Soria to become the Tigers’ closer. Soria has been nothing short of spectacular for the Tigers this year. No more deep sighs for Tiger fans, no more covering our eyes, no more remotes thrown at TV’s.
He is sixteen out of eighteen of save opportunities so far. He is 2-0, ERA of 1.46 and a WHIP of 0.73. Soria has mastered his fastball again this year. He is on fire. And has been a highlight and a savior this year. He might just be having his career year in his free agent year.
Tiger fans are ecstatic that we don’t have Joe Nathan and Papa Grande and we have our savior. Finally. Now we just need the offense to click…..