Oct 19, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino (18) reacts after hitting a grand slam against the Detroit Tigers during the seventh inning in game six of the American League Championship Series playoff baseball game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
#1: Bullpen Inaction
In the five seasons since the Detroit Tigers’ began their run of AL Central domination that will end this year, their bullpen ERA has gotten progressively worse.
In 2011 and 2012 it was 3.93 and 3.79 respectively. Not great, but okay–these bullpens actually ranked in the middle of the pack in baseball. The 2013 season began the huge decline in the bullpen, posting a 4.01 ERA. Last year it was 4.29 and this year (through Aug. 9), it is 4.31.
We touched on the 2013 season in our last entry where if the bullpen was better, the Tigers might have been World Champions. That could be debatable, but what is not debatable was that each season Dave Dombrowski did nothing to improve the bullpen.
Adding an aging closer in Joe Nathan, a player on a career downward spiral in Joba Chamberlain and continually turning to minor leaguers like Ian Krol to record outs doomed this franchise to be also-rans throughout the postseason. A team that constantly went back to Phil Coke year after year tells you all you need to know about the inaction on the bullpen annually.
Many teams struggle to cobble together an effective bullpen. After all, if pitchers are really good, they are going to be starters or closers, not middle relief. Still, if you are trying to win now, you can’t blow off the bullpen to trade for another starter (David Price) when that is a strength on your team (at the time).
We’ll always have what could have been during the 2011-2014 playoff runs, especially 2013. The bullpen is probably the biggest reason we don’t have a World Championship to crow about.